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Digital Subscriptions > Quill & Quire > July/August 2018 > Higher Learning

Higher Learning

Maureen Medved invokes Immanuel Kant as a lynchpin in her second novel BY EUGENIA ZUROSKI


Black Star

Maureen Medved

Anvil Press

IN HIS 1797 ESSAY, “On a Supposed Right to Lie from Altruistic Motives,” Immanuel Kant famously argued that people are strictly bound by moral principle to tell the truth in all situations, even when that truth might bring harm to themselves or others. His test case was the “murderer at the door” scenario: he maintained that if a murderer showed up at your door and asked whether his intended victim was inside, you were morally obligated to say “yes” if that was the case, even knowing that this information would facilitate homicide. Kant’s point is that lying, like murder, is deeply harmful and not just to an individual victim but to “mankind generally,” because if we allow truth-telling to be morally contingent based on individual circumstances, then we have no foundation for collective moral laws at all. We can’t say how we should treat one another if we are not speaking to the same basic reality.

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