On political responsibility in post-revolutionary times: Kant and Constant's debate on lying

Journal Article (Journal Article)

In “On a Supposed Right to Lie from Philanthropy,” Kant holds the seemingly untenable position that lying is always prohibited, even if the lie is addressed to a murderer in an attempt to save the life of an innocent man. This article argues that Kant's position on lying should be placed back in its original context, namely a response to Benjamin Constant about the responsibility of individual agents toward political principles in post-revolutionary times. I show that Constant's theory of political responsibility, which sanctions the lie, is not based on expediency, but on principled realism, whereas Kant endorses a position that I describe as ‘political juridicism.’ This analysis enables us to uncover two plausible Republican theories of political responsibility in post-revolutionary times behind an apparently strictly ethical debate.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Rousselière, G

Published Date

  • April 1, 2018

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 17 / 2

Start / End Page

  • 214 - 232

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1741-2730

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1474-8851

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1177/1474885115588100

Citation Source

  • Scopus