Published online by Cambridge University Press: 09 August 2019
Kant’s essay ‘On a Supposed Right to Lie from Philanthropy’ claims that everyone has an unconditional duty of right not to lie under any circumstances. This claim creates a conflict within the doctrine of right because Kant also claims that each of us is under an unconditional duty of right to obey the positive law in force in the civil condition in all circumstances. In Kant’s specific example, truthfulness would violate the positive law because it would make the speaker an accomplice to a crime. Since both duties flow from the requirement that we not act inconsistently with the possibility of rightful relations among humans, a juridical solution to the conflict must be possible. That solution is to recognize that lying in appropriate circumstances is akin to the use of force in self-defence or defence of a third party.