Immanuel Kant's Approach To Relation To Lying In Society

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Consider the following situations. In the first, you are an educator at the local university. You hear there is a crazed man demanding to see one of your students. Upon hiding the student in the room, you tell the man that the student did not attend class today and you don’t know where he is. Conversely, you work for a large company in New York, and it is your secretary is leaving in a few days for maternity leave. You lie to her about a company-wide meeting to disguise her baby shower. In both situations, the commonly accepted action is to lie, despite the common knowledge that lying is wrong. This contradiction in society can present a moral problem. Famous philosophers Immanuel Kant and John Stuart Mill both present alternatives views concerning …show more content…
In relation to lying, Kant is concerned that the action cannot be universalized. Kant believes actions should be universal because those actions are assisting in the function of society. An immoral action does not help the action function well. In the case of lying, the trust necessary to form a society is eroded and the society cannot function. Thus, lying is an action that cannot be morally permissible. Mill agrees with Kant that lying is immoral and does not benefit society. Despite this, Mill states that there are exceptions to the rule. It is up to the actor to determine if lying will create more happiness than telling the truth. In looking at the examples provided in the beginning of this essay, a utilitarian would lie in both situations. For the educator, lying can keep a student out of harm. Moreover, the happiness the man would experience is not beneficial to society. Therefore, it would be morally right for the utilitarian to lie. In the case of the work celebration, the secretary would experience great happiness knowing her co-workers planned a celebration, making it right to lie. A utilitarian stance can become more practical for an individual, as it allows different situations to be considered instead of taking the same action no matter what. For a Kantian, lying would not be permissible in either situation. A Kantian who …show more content…
Both Kant and Mill created systems of philosophy that can guide the actions of an individual. Although neither system is perfect and they differ greatly, both have redeeming characteristics that attract believers. It can be seen that Mill’s utilitarianism attempts to remedy the problems brought up through practicing Kantian ethics. Although his propositions have strong merits, they can still be disputed by a Kantian. The example of lying can help one see the differences and problems with both systems. Nevertheless, no matter what philosophy you choose to follow, you must be able to understand and support your actions when confronted with an issue, such as

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