Kant’s position on lying according to what he said about lying
Kant talks about lying in his essay titled a supposed right to lie from Benevolent Motives, which
was a political reaction to the text that was written by Benjamin Constant. Kant is an absolutist
when it comes to lying because he claims that lying is wrong, no matter the circumstances. He is
a well-known defender of an absolute position against any form of lying as far as western
philosophy is concerned (Shelley, 2012).
This section talks about what Kant says about lying in his writings. Analyzing the arguments
made by Benjamin Constant is important when it comes to understanding Kant’s perspective
about lying since the latter argued in reaction to the comments made by the former. Constant
argues that the moral principle that telling the truth is a duty may make any society to be
impossible. He notes that telling the truth is a duty to the people that have the right to be told the
truth, but no person has the right to the truth that could hurt the other people (Weinrib, 2008).
Kant argues against arguments that were made by constant with regards to lying. Kant argues
that lying is always wrong no matter the circumstances, and he brings out various arguments
concerning the issue. He says, “Because the night always lies to others: even if it does not harm
another man, it hurts humanity in general and it makes vain the source of law.” He also notes that
every human being has a formal duty towards each other to tell the truth. According to him,
failure to tell the truth no matter the situation equals failing in duty towards fellow human
beings. He is against falsehood being used in the place of the truth. He terms the act of replacing
the truth with falsehood and error Cholbi, 2009).
It is important to understand the meaning of philosophy if one wants to know the reason why
Kant held the position above with regards to what the truth is in the society. Philosophy is the
quest for wisdom that is an activity of thought. Kant’s thought process made him have an
absolutist view with regard to lying. In his wisdom, he thinks that lying is wrong no matter what,
and it is the duty of human beings to say the truth no matter the circumstances that they face in
society. It should be noted that the position held by an individual may not be acceptable to the
other people in society. I think that Kant is right by coming up with his philosophy because
everyone in the society is entitled to his or her thoughts that may help in coming up with
solutions to the problems that people face in the society. For instance, lying is bad for society
due to the impression that it creates in society (Cholbi, 2009).
Kant is not wrong by coming up with a philosophy that outlines his philosophy on lying.
However, Kant needs to consider the situations where telling the truth may cause more problems
than the solutions that are required. The belief that lying is wrong regardless of the
circumstances may lead to some problems in society. One notable thing is that one’s thoughts are
affected by the environment that the person interacts with on a day to day basis, and it affects
their day to day activities. Despite the environment that an individual interacts with a given
environment does not change the fact that there are some ethics in the society that are supposed
to be respected at all costs (Hill, 2002).
I sincerely believe that lying is a bad thing, and it infringes on the rights of the people in the
society that are entitled to be told the truth. I also believe that lying corrupts the moral capacity
of humans because it makes them live in deception. I also believe in the fact that that lying
undermined the dignity of the other people in the society. However, there are cases where being
truthful may cause more harm than good. For instance, armed murderers may be looking for a
spouse or a close relative with the aim of killing them. In such a case, I believe that one is
allowed to lie to protect the life of the person who could be killed. In such a situation, being
truthful may mean that one is an accessory to the murder that has been committed.
If one being truthful may make him or her to be an accessory to a crime, then it would be better
to lie. The other ethical principles will then come into play in such situations. For instance, the
principle of utilitarianism may be used as a way of deciding on whether to tell a lie or to stick to
the truth. If a lie will bring a greater good compared to the truth, then it is better to consider a lie
in this case for the benefit of society. For instance, the right to life supersedes the right to being
told the truth; hence, the former should be preferred to the latter.
It is also important to note that the idea of whether there are circumstances where lying should be
accepted or not is very controversial because of many issues that are associated with society
today. There are times when the decision to lie or not creates an ethical dilemma and in such a
case, an individual is supposed to take up the option that will ensure a greater good in the society
for the benefit of the society. Kant's position on lying may not be acceptable to many people but
it is important to respect it because everyone in the society is entitled to his or her own opinion
so long as it does not violate the rights of the people in the society.
Cholbi, M. (2009). The murderer at the door: what Kant should have said. Philosophy and
Phenomenological Research, 79(1), 17-46.
Hill, T. E. (2002). Human welfare and moral worth: Kantian perspectives. Oxford University
Shelley, C. (2012). On the Impermissibility of Telling Misleading Truths in Kantian Sorensen, R.
(2007). Bald‐faced lies! Lying without the intent to deceive. Pacific Philosophical
Quarterly, 88(2), 251-264.
Ethics. Open Journal of Philosophy, 2(02), 89.
Weinrib, J. (2008). The juridical significance of Kant's ‘Supposed Right to Lie’. Kantian
Review, 13(1), 141-170.