Explain why we have a perfect duty not to lie or make lying promises (say, for money), according to the Universal Law and the Humanity formulations of the categorical imperative, according to Kant.

Humans have a perfect duty not to lie under the categorical imperative for two reasons, according to Kant. First, a person cannot do something they would not will into universal law, and second, they must always treat other human beings as ends in themselves and not means to an end.

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As this question suggests, Kant's categorical imperative has multiple dimensions, each of which must be satisfied for an act to be morally permissible. The first is known as the Universal Law formulation. Kant wrote that an act was only moral if a rational person would will it into becoming a...

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As this question suggests, Kant's categorical imperative has multiple dimensions, each of which must be satisfied for an act to be morally permissible. The first is known as the Universal Law formulation. Kant wrote that an act was only moral if a rational person would will it into becoming a universal law. He used the example of a person who lies in order to get money that they needed.

It is easy to see how this might be a moral quandary—for example, the money might be used to fulfill one's duty as a parent and provider. But such an action fails Kant's "universal law" test, because we would want not lying when it benefits us to become a universal law—that is, something that a rational person would always do when faced with the same scenario. As philosopher Michael Sandel observes, this principle could never withstand rational examination, because if everyone lied about repaying money, eventually lenders would never loan it out. But on a much deeper level than that, Kant argues that by lying, one is doing something they would not will for other human beings to do. They are putting their own needs above everyone else's.

Kant offers a second test for the categorical imperative. In short, he wrote that people should always treat other people as an end, never as a means. If one lies to another person for money, however badly they may need it, they are not respecting the fundamental humanity of the person, but rather using them (in a sort of utilitarian way) to get what they want. Our humanity insists that we all have a duty to treat each other with respect in all cases, and lying under these circumstances does not live up to this standard. Therefore, lying is not ethically or morally permissible.

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