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Comment by Sam on January 18th, 2012 at 11:53 pm

I take issue with much of this article, but of paramount concern is its treatment of Kant’s views on lying. The writer would do well to better inform himself or herself regarding this matter; I recommend (an easy and short read) Allen Wood’s “Kant and the Right to Lie” – he or she may find it here: http://cas.uchicago.edu/workshops/earlymodphil/files/2008/11/wood_workshop.pdf.

In short, understand that Kant’s prohibition on lying is a legal rather than ethical duty; insofar as this is the case, it is 1) dubious (and a bit slanderous in this case) to justify a claim regarding Kant’s “moral absolutism” with a doctrine of his that was not in fact grounded in his moral philosophy, 2) Kant’s prohibition is not on lying sans phrase but on lying to a political authority, and 3) the prohibition on lying remains in place, for Kant, only so long as there is a political system in place that protects the external freedom of persons (rather than, say, diminishes it). Thus, given (3), it cannot even be said that Kant prohibited lying to a political authority sans phrase, as it is perfectly conceivable that a political system would be in place which diminishes rather than protects external freedoms (though you’d have a difficult time justifying an attribution of moral absolutism to Kant based on his prohibition of “lying to a political authority” anyway, for what I imagine are obvious reasons).

Kant was not a moral absolutist as you take him to be; there is no *action* for Kant that is prohibited sans phrase, only *ways* of acting (i.e., acting not in accordance with the categorical imperative, but this is no different from, e.g., the utilitarian’s prohibition on acting not in the way that would maximize utility/minimize pain). If you have a counterpoint, I would be glad to entertain it. But if you do not, I truly implore you to remove this false information from your website; I am sympathetic to your misunderstanding, as this horrid misinterpretation of Kant’s “On the Right to Lie from Philanthropic Concerns” is a popular myth, but your proliferation of this myth is nevertheless a great disservice both to Kant and to your readers.

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