"If the truth shall kill them, let them die" - Immanuel Kant

I have the happy fortune to be rather well-versed in the writings and other teachings of Immanuel Kant (1724 - 1804). So when I came across the above quoted material I felt compelled to do a search. My search revealed that the quote is commonly found on social media (e.g., Facebook), although I don't recall having run across it during my years there. Mostly you will find quotes attributed to Einstein such as



In the case of the quote above, Ayn Rand can lick my balls, except she died of lung cancer after trying to convince the world that smoking cigarettes is the sign of a thinking person.

Although her beloved Nathaniel Branden attributed the quote to Rand as paraphrasing Kant, I cannot prove it. But it sounds like something she would say.

I believe the origin of the paraphrasing is Kant's infamously famous essay "ON A SUPPOSED RIGHT TO LIE BECAUSE OF
PHILANTHROPIC CONCERNS," in which he argues that one should never tell a lie even in the case that one's motives are good ("philanthropic"). It involves the example of an innkeeper who, upon hearing a knock at his door, opens it to find a murderous lunatic demanding to know if such-and-such man had gone into the inn. In fact, the person had gone into the inn. Should the innkeeper tell the lunatic the truth, thus endangering the man's life, or tell a lie, thus sparing his life?

Most people might claim that the innkeeper has the moral right (or duty) to tell a lie. But Kant argues that this is only because people do not understand the principle involved, that there is more to the story than the innkeeper vs. the lunatic at the door. And that, in fact, our social systems are built on such principles and are thus not to be violated in any way for any reason.

Practically speaking, Kant argues, the innkeeper doesn't know if the man is in the house. It is possible (Kant explains) that the man, upon over-hearing the conversation at the door, has snuck out the side door. If the innkeeper tells a lie, and the lunatic goes his own way, he may encounter the man outside and murder him. If the innkeeper tells the truth (as he knows it), and the lunatic enters the house to search for the man, this act will give him time to make a getaway. At any rate, the innkeeper literally doesn't know the truth, only the truth as he perceived it. He can truthfully say that the man has entered the house. After that, his knowledge is limited since he doesn't precisely know the man's whereabouts at the second the lunatic asked him. You can read all about it here: http://bgillette.com/wp-content/uplo...RightToLie.pdf

And yet some would laughingly claim that Kant is making a case for murder.