[lit-ideas] Re: When Did You Last See Your Father?

  • From: John Wager <jwager@xxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 17 May 2010 13:09:55 -0500

Veronica Caley wrote:
<I would answer in such a way that I didn't lie and the Gestapo left

Could you write what you would say? I really want to know and don't want to trap you. I just agree with Kant that lying is a bad thing. And I really don't want to do it, have done it, for a less serious reason, in order to spare someone's feelings and not shatter their illusions about themselves.

For me, any "weight" that Kant has on why lying is always wrong touches on what you said here. To lie to someone is to prevent them from coming to the truth, to control them, to manipulate their thoughts in a way that prevents them from thinking clearly. If done to "protect" them, it's still treating them as less than rational, even if one is trying to prevent their dis-illusionment. It's a logical contradiction to want to know, and to will something that prevents one from knowing, regardless of the specific consequences.

Having said that, though, I would also agree that often we humans are NOT rational. We stick our noses in other people's business where we shouldn't; we want to know the truth so we can perpetrate monstrous evils; we want to use truth to manipulate other people. When this happens, I'm not sure we deserve the truth.

Against Kant, there seem to be higher and lower duties that sometimes conflict, and the duty to tell the truth, while still a duty, can be overridden by a duty to preserve innocent life.

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