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The Morality of Lying in Contrast to the Philosophies of Kant Essay

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The young girl gazes at you helplessly from within the tangled wreckage. You witnessed the crash – a massive truck careened into a minivan as it passed on the highway, killing the driver on impact, and virtually tearing the girl in half. Now she hangs from the car, held together by the seatbelt. Her nervous system critically damaged, she can’t feel much pain, but she knows that her situation is not optimal, to say the least. She is six years old – she probably doesn’t understand the concept of death. As you stare equally helplessly into her fear stricken eyes, the only words that you can muster are: “Don’t worry, everything will be okay.”
This is obviously a lie – there is absolutely no chance that the dying girl will indeed survive and have no cause for worry – but this lie contains ideas to sooth her fear, allowing a comparatively peaceful passage out of this life. Surely few would argue that the little girl did not deserve to be comforted, as the alternative seems somewhat heartless – “Why should I help you? You’re not worth my time, you’ll be dead in a minute.” Indeed, telling the truth, in this case, appears even less moral than the lie. There is, however, at least one who would disagree with this scenario: a certain Immanuel Kant, whose philosophy insists that lying is wrong in every circumstance. But despite Kant’s fervent belief, it is not hard to see how lying can be a beneficial, mutually advantageous, and in fact moral act that still consistently complies with Kant’s own moral imperatives.
Because Kant’s philosophy does not specifically define what a “lie” is, we are led to believe that speaking an untruth, no matter what the context, is strictly immoral. But speaking untruth does not necessitate the negative conno...


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...lf to a degree, allowing room for leniency. Lies can be perfectly acceptable, selfless, and moral in the face of a greater evil, or when no harm is being done on any side.



Bibliography


Gass, R. H., & Seiter, J. S. (1999). Persuasion, Social Influence, and Compliance Gaining. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Henningsen, D. D., Cruz, M. G., & Morr, M. C. (2000). “Pattern Violations and Perception of Deception.” Communication Reports. Vol. 13, No. 1, pp. 1-9.

http://www.allwords.com/word-white%20lie.html

Kant, Immanuel. "The Foundations of Ethics." Moral Philosophy: a Reader. Ed. Louis P. Pojman. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Company, 1993. 194-213.

Pruss, Alexander R. "Lying, Deception and Kant." Alexander R. Pruss Ethics Blog. 30 Aug. 2001. Baylor U. 8 Mar. 2008 .



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