Thou Shalt Not Lie Analysis

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“Thou shalt not lie” (Kant, 2009, p.389). Enumerated in the Ten Commandments, this concept has been commonly upheld for centuries. Immanuel Kant provided this as his primary example of moral law in Groundwork of Metaphysics of Morals. He maintained the view that lying is always morally wrong and utilized the Formula of Universal Law and the Formula of Humanity as an End in Itself to justify this viewpoint. In accordance with these laws, a hypothetical has been posed: If a Gentile provided refuge to Anne Frank and her family during the reign of Hitler, and the Gestapo came to their house and questioned if the Gentile were sheltering Jews, what would Kantian ethics permit? Kant would assert that they would be morally obligated to tell the Gestapo …show more content…
This law prescribes that rational, autonomous agents should only perform actions that would maintain their function if adopted universally. If one were to tell a lie, they would be conforming to the rule that “Lying is acceptable.” Such a rule would prove to be self-defeating in the context of universality; lying would lose its purpose since everyone would expect deceit and be cynical of one another. As a result, Kant argues, lying should never be acceptable. One may be inclined to argue that rules should have exceptions and specific circumstances of forgiveness. A rule that states, “Lying is acceptable when one is lying in order to save a life,” may pass the universality test without contradiction. However, laws with anomalies make the universal application much more confusing and ambiguous. The Formula of Universal law, as previously stated, asks that we “Act only on that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law” (Kant, 2009, p.421). The maxim is the subjective principle of volition upon which an individual acts. In this instance, the better maxim would be formulated as, “One may deceive, or make a person believe a falsity, in the event that the person does not possess a “right,” or an expectation justified with reason, to be told the truth.” Saying that lying is justified in certain situations is …show more content…
The Nazi could then start to reason, “This Gentile is aware of the severe risks that their lie about the whereabouts of Jews would bring; they could subsequently be put in jail or put to death. They also must be cognizant of the risk that their home will be checked regardless of their admission or omission of the truth. Therefore, if the Gentile were a rational thinker, they would decide that the most sensible choice is to tell the truth outright.” In this instance, the Nazi appears to have a logical expectation for the upcoming transaction; “the Gentile provides me the truth in exchange for their lives and freedom.” Since the Gestapo is its own moral agent, the Gentile is not responsible for the Gestapo’s choices or maxims. The Gentile is simply responsible for their own choices and maxims. “Act in such a way that you always treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of another, never simply as a means, but always at the same time as an end” (Kant, 2009, p.429). Kant summarizes his second formulation of the Categorical Imperative, the Formula of Humanity as an End in Itself, in which he asserts that the use of someone as solely the means to an end, without their consent, is to deny them of their own individual will. To address someone as an end, one has a duty to further the other’s maxims and share compatible ends as well. It can be argued that the Gentile and the Gestapo are so vastly incompatible

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