Immanuel Kant is one of the most famous philosophers in history. His work on ethics has influenced many people, and his ideas are still studied today. One of the most famous concepts from Kant’s work is the idea that lying is always wrong. In other words, Kant believed that deception is never justified, no matter what the circumstances.
Many people agree with Kant that lying is wrong. They believe that honesty is always the best policy, and that even white lies can lead to bigger problems down the road. However, there are some people who believe that deception can sometimes be justified. For example, if someone asks you if their new haircut looks good and you really don’t like it, you might lie and say it looks great.
Deception is perceived differently by everyone. It may be regarded as betrayal of a loved one, or simple deception, by one individual. Others may regard deception as a means to obtain/give pleasure. Some people may even consider it an inevitable part of life. Deception is usually associated with “evil,” which includes not just judgments regarding individuals, but also portrayed in movies and novels from every period of history.
Immanuel Kant, a very famous philosopher from the late 1700s, had a lot to say about deception and its justification. In this essay, the three main points that will be focused on are: Immanuel Kant’s definition of a lie, Immanuel Kant’s example of a justified lie, and modern day examples of justified lies.
First and foremost, it is important to understand Immanuel Kant’s definition of a lie. In order to do so, his Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals must be looked at. In this book, Immanuel Kant claims that “A lie is a deliberate falsehood uttered with the intention to deceive”(Kant 4:393). This means that, in order for something to be classified as a lie, it has to be an intentional act of deception. This is an important distinction to make because it sets the foundation for Immanuel Kant’s example of a justified lie.
Immanuel Kant’s example of a justified lie is as follows: “If I were Reduced by poverty to the necessity of holding up my head before others, even though I had to do so by telling lies, no one could rightly accuse me of wrong-doing”(Kant 4:394). In this example, Immanuel Kant is saying that if someone is in such dire circumstances that they have to resort to lying in order to maintain their dignity, then that lie is justified. The reasoning behind this is that the person is not lying for their own personal gain, but rather to preserve their sense of self-worth.
Now that Immanuel Kant’s definition of a lie and example of a justified lie have been explored, it is time to look at modern day examples of justified lies. One such example is when people lie about their age. This is often done by women in order to seem more youthful and by men in order to seem more experienced.
In both cases, the goal is not to deceive for personal gain, but rather to present oneself in the best possible light. Another example of a justified lie is when people pretend to be interested in someone else’s hobbies or interests in order to make them feel more comfortable. This is not done with the intention of deception, but rather with the intention of building rapport.
Feelings of betrayal – such as lying or jealousy – frequently lead to anger in people, which can then lead to madness. However, may a simple trick or lie for the sake of amusement or flattery be used to justify deception? Robert Southey once declared that “All deception during life is nothing more than a lie reduced to practice, and falsehood passing from words into reality. (Southey 133) If we examine today’s most renowned novels, we notice that deceit is the main flaw of prominent characters or villains.
In Immanuel Kant’s Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, he believes that a good will is the only thing that can be called good without qualification. This means that if our intentions are good, then we are good people. Furthermore, Kant claims that lying is always wrong and can never be justified. In his work, Kantian argues that to tell a lie is to treat another human being as a mere means to an end and not as an end in themselves.
In other words, when we lie, we are using the person we are lying to for our own benefit and not considering their well-being or taking them into account as an equal. However, some may argue that there are scenarios in which deception could be seen as the lesser of two evils and, therefore, can be justified.
One example of this is if someone were to ask you whether their outfit makes them look fat and you know that telling them the truth would hurt their feelings. In this case, it may be better to lie and tell them they look great in order to spare their feelings. However, Kant would argue that even in this case, lying is not justified because we are using the person we are lying to for our own benefit (to make ourselves feel better about not telling the truth).
Another example of when deception could be seen as justified is if someone were to ask you whether you liked their gift and you didn’t. In this case, it may be better to lie and say you love it in order to spare their feelings. However, Kant would argue that even in this case, lying is not justified because we are using the person we are lying to for our own benefit (to make ourselves feel better about not telling the truth).
Some may also argue that there are cases where lying is necessary in order to prevent harm from coming to another person. For example, if someone were asking you whether a certain person was home and you knew that they intended to hurt that person, you might lie and say they were not home in order to protect them. In this case, Kant would argue that lying is justified because we are not using the person we are lying to for our own benefit, but rather we are considering their well-being and taking them into account as an equal.
In conclusion, Immanuel Kant’s definition of a lie and example of a justified lie provide a framework for understanding when deception is acceptable. Modern day examples of justified lies show that there are many situations where lying is not done for personal gain, but rather to make someone else feel more comfortable or to present oneself in the best possible light.