Friday, January 16, 2009

Lying but not Lying

So I have a question about the whole Kantian ethics. I have studied it before, but I have never resolved this question. Anyone with any input to ease my troubled mind is welcome.

Kant emphasizes duty, not lying and keeping promises. But what about this scenario:
While I can't remember the name of the movie, it stars Shirley Temple during the civil war. She lives in the South, and her father is a spy for the Confederates. One day he tells his daughter, Shirley, to promise him she would never tell a Yankee if one came looking for him where he is. Of course a little kid would promise their dad they wouldn't tell. Not far in the future, the father comes racing home from a spy mission to hide in his home. The Yankees knock on the door and Shirley answers. They ask where her father is, and she says she doesn't know. So, Shirley kept her promise to her dad, and was honest by keeping it, to her father. But she lied to the Yankees. But if she had not lied to the Yankees, she would have broken her promise and essentially have lied to her father. So, my thinking is, either its a lose-lose situation, or there is a 'higher' and 'nobler' truth of the two options. I think that ratting out her dad would be treason, which is defined in the dictionary as "the betrayal of a trust or confidence." I think that by not honoring someone's trust of you is basically a lie. But anybody's interpretation is welcome.....what would Kant say I wonder.....?

1 comment:

  1. In general I assume that to Kant, promising to lie would not be an especially ethical thing to do. If you really believe that lying is a bad thing, then working yourself into a situation like that would essentially be against everything you believe in. I think is also illogical that you force a child to take upon them such a responsibility. Lying is one thing, but making a child do it would be even worse in my mind. But that's just me.