Kant's Axe

published 6 years ago by BBC Radio

Is it ever morally acceptable to tell a lie?

Nqcs. If a sinister looking man carrying an axe knocked on your door and ask you where your best friend was. Would be morally acceptable to tell a lie. Immanuel Kant surprisingly thought it wouldn't. The example of the would be murderer is his. Tell the truth if it can't called a categorical imperative an absolute duty. One without exceptions it applies to everyone whatever the consequences. In fact Kant argued that if you told a lie which by chance led to the axe man finding your friend. That would be on your. So if you tell the axe man that your friend is not in the house when he is. Your friend then sneaks out the back door and bumps in the axe man. Anything that then happens is to some extent. Your responsibility. But if you told the truth. Then the consequences for your friend no matter how grisly. Should ...

more episodes from A History of Ideas animations