Immanuel Kant – Prohibition against Lying

Question 1. Why Kant believed there cannot be any exceptions to the duty not to lie, regardless of the consequences: 

Two fundamental reasons made Kant believe that “there cannot be any exceptions to the duty not to lie.” Kant believed in the “dignity and intrinsic value” of human beings (Meltzer, 2003). With these values, Kant considered men and women to have the ability to act ethically and according to their free will. This, according to Kant means that regardless of the consequences, people should always stand by the truth because: (1) “lies affect one’s self” and (1) “lies affect others.” For the first reason, Kant held the perception that anytime people lie they tend to corrupt their “dignity and intrinsic value” (Meltzer, 2003). In other words, Kant viewed lying as a contraction to “people’s morals,” “ethical duty,” and “intrinsic worth.” Moreover, lying prevents the ability of a person to make rational decisions since it affects their “free will” (Meltzer, 2003). For the second reason, Kant indicates that lying affects other people’s capacity to make rational decisions because it affects their “free will.” Lying according to Kant represents the highest level of manipulation because it involves giving out wrong information even at the time when truth is required. Perhaps these people would have made the most appropriate choices if they had known the truth.

Question 2. Why, according to the general moral principle of the Categorical Imperative, lying could not be a universal law:

According to the “general moral principle of Categorical Imperative”, lying could not be a universal law because: (1) individuals were expected to act in ways that would motivate other sensible individuals to develop moral values, and (2) people would always treat others with respect and not as a means to an end (Peterson, 2013). According to Kant, the “principle of universality” is significant because it represents: (1) the “law of nature” (2) “autonomy” (3) “an end itself” and (3) “kingdom of ends” (Peterson, 2013). With these principles, Kant believed that rational human beings are guided by intrinsic moral values and their actions guided by the “universal law of nature.” If people are guided by their free will in all the choices they make, there would be no need to consider lying a universal law because no circumstance would compel people to lie.

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Question 3. Do you agree with Kant about not lying? 

When it comes to the issue of intrinsic moral value, I agree with Kant and maintains that lying is ethically wrong (Nelson, 1994). It is true according to Kant that every person has an “intrinsic value” known as “human dignity” that makes people rational agents and capable of making a choice. However, lying denies oneself and other people the free will to think, set goals, and make decisions. It is also true that those who lie lack the ability to guide their conducts by reason. One can only be considered human if he or she has the rational power to make a choice based on free will.

Question 4. Under what circumstances, if any, do you believe it would be personally ethical for you to lie? 

Although the reasoning presented by Kant is logical, I believe it would be personally ethical to lie if the information given maximizes benefits or reduces harm (Revel, 1991). In everyday life, people tend to lie in order to meet certain goals, and as long as the decision serves a “greater good,” it may be moral to lie (Revel, 1991). For example, if my brother was to be killed for not practicing the same faith and I am presented to testify, it would be immoral not to lie.



Revel, J. F. (1991). The flight from truth: the reign of deceit in the age of information. Random House (NY).

Nelson, R. A. (1994). Issues communication and advocacy: Contemporary ethical challenges. Public Relations Review, 20(3), 225-231.

Meltzer, B. M. (2003). Lying: Deception in human affairs. International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, 23(6/7), 61-79.

Peterson, C. (2013). The lies that bind: Heteronormative constructions of “family” in social work discourse. Journal of Gay & Lesbian Social Services, 25(4), 486-508.