If Kant doesn't believe that kids are completely rational then would he say that it is okay to tell them a white lie?

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    "In several works, Kant claims that lying is always wrong, no matter what. He is probably the most well‐known defender of an absolute prohibition against lying in the history of Western philosophy." Lying and Deception: Theory and Practice
    – Conifold
    Dec 18, 2018 at 0:08
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    But, writing as a non-specialist, I think any such blanket prohibitions by Kant implicitly (or explicitly) refer to lying to persons, and I don’t think he thinks young children are persons, right? Dec 18, 2018 at 0:39
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    @ChristopherE From The Science of Right (1790):"children, as persons, have, at the same time, an original congenital right-distinguished from mere hereditary right- to be reared by the care of their parents till they are capable of maintaining themselves... parents cannot regard their child as, in a manner, a thing of their own making; for a being endowed with freedom cannot be so regarded... From the fact of personality in the children, it further follows that they can never be regarded as the property of the parents".
    – Conifold
    Dec 19, 2018 at 18:27

2 Answers 2


Probably not, because the concept reinforces the “lying to the murderer at the door”. If lying to a murderer at a door to assume you are protecting the person who is to be murdered instead of following a moral obligation that sets in motion a foundation of what is right and what is wrong, universally, then lying to children is a perfect example. That if one lies at all, the basis of morality has an imperfect foundation and leaves every concept of law open to be interpreted as hypocritical.

And even though lying to children may be some type of social hierarchy about society and it’s hidden logic, and that most people seem to find lying the only entertainment they have (my jaded opinion), lying is the same as violence, where it is not supposed to be accepted, but is accepted and disguised by our environment and can be used against us all, persuasively.

The argument against this Kantian philosophy is really just an argument that logic can be based on illogical foundations, which leaves the question open and almost paradoxical. To replace nazis with a murderer only helps Kant’s argument, that the world is open to tyrannical rule when this universal law is left to be interpreted abstractly.


In a letter to a pupil Kant argues that it is always wrong to lie. However, this makes his Imperative unworkable and I doubt he really meant to make it a blanket-ban. His Imperative suggests that it is okay to lie where you would wish everyone to do the the same under the same circumstances. In this case we can tell children about Father Christmas without worrying about Kant.

  • Would you have a reference to this letter? I know very little about Kant. Jan 5, 2019 at 15:01
  • @FrankHubeny - I've just had a look but not found it yet. It's a letter to female pupil, possibly a princess. I'll come back if I find it. It'll be online somewhere. ,
    – user20253
    Jan 5, 2019 at 15:09
  • @PeterJ, I've never entertained the myth of Santa Claus with my children. I told them he is based on Saint Nicholas and his good deed. I further explained that as a tradition, we buy or make gifts for others to celebrate him and his actions. And the gift I request from them every year is a loving hug. I saw no need to lie, to perpetuate a myth, or show them later that I've lied to them for years but it is ok - we all do it. I believe wholeheartedly that lying is wrong in all situations. I also believe it is ok not to answer (the murderer) or put off answering (my kids) until they are older.
    – CramerTV
    Nov 18, 2019 at 18:14
  • @FrankHubeny - Pardon the delay. I may have been thinking of this. quirkality.com/index.php/the-stories/…
    – user20253
    Nov 20, 2019 at 14:31

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