I'm not saying they're acts. I'm saying they're possible maxims by which to act.
For Kant, a "maxim" is any rule by which one may act. So there are lots of maxims out there. An athlete, for instance, might have the maxim "always keep your eye on the ball" or a doctor might have the maxim "first, do no harm." That doesn't mean, however, that all maxims are ethical
maxims. According to Kant, there's only one of those.
That's not the way I would frame it, but no matter; I'll play along with your way for now. Even so, however, I claim that our accidental liar is home-free under the Categorical Imperative because his act is to execute on a generalizeable maxim. And that's all the Categorical Imperative demands of the act.
Since Kant explicitly said that lying is contrary to the categorical imperative, I'm not sure how you can say that your hypothetical liar is acting on a generalizable maxim.
Thomas wrote: joefromchicago wrote:
You're still trying to turn Kant into a utilitarian.
Because you want him to be a consequentialist. You want, in other words, the ends to justify the means. If the end is "save lives," then that justifies lying, even though Kant specifically singled out lying as being contrary to the categorical imperative. For Kant, it doesn't really matter if the ends are good, bad, or indifferent: the consequences of an act are morally insignificant.
Now, I'll just add here that Kant never says that a person cannot violate the categorical imperative -- that's an important point that most people who engage in these kinds of discussions seem to forget. He just says that a person cannot violate the categorical imperative without acting immorally
. In the story of the murderer who inquires as to the whereabouts of his intended victim, the person at the doorway is free to lie and say that the victim isn't there. It's just that, if he does lie, then he has acted immorally and must suffer whatever consequences arise therefrom. It matters not if he lies to save his friend, he has still acted immorally. And if he values his friend's life over his conscience, then he will probably not regret lying. That still doesn't mean, however, that he didn't act immorally by doing so.
Most disagreements come about when an attempt is made to whitewash an otherwise immoral act moral by adverting to the consequences of that act. In other words, you want the person at the doorway to be free to lie without breaching any moral rules
. That can't be done. The liar commits an immoral act regardless of its consequences, even if he (or any objective spectator) values the consequences over the ethical breach. He may, in the end, be praised for his quick-thinking lie, but, according to Kant, he cannot be morally blameless.
At which step in this argument am I introducing logical errors or non-Kantian concepts?
In the third step. As I noted before, just because a maxim is generalizable doesn't make it an ethical maxim.