I read in Williams' book on truth that during the inquisition priests were eager to apply Kantian ethics under torture, and that this proved difficult because lies - and arguably secrets - were immoral.

Prima facie or indeed according to the literature may we keep a secret if we disagree with the methods of someone obtaining it? If so, may we promise to keep it, and would that mean we are obliged to? Finally, is that independent of any consequences of telling it?

  • ha. I have decided that Kant is insane.
    – user56815
    Nov 24 '21 at 7:53
  • ??? Early Modern Inquisition around 1400-1600. Kant published Kritik der praktischen Vernunft in 1788.. Nov 24 '21 at 8:24
  • wow, I guess I may have misremember @MauroALLEGRANZA ?
    – user56815
    Nov 24 '21 at 8:39
  • Having said that, the issue is about lying. The discussion maybe is about laying and truth... Nov 24 '21 at 8:43
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    The issue raised by the author seems to be: "[is it correct] the account of assertion [such that] there is a sense in which assertions are “meant to be true” ? The author describes a purported counterexample: the speaker in front of Inquisition that is lying (making a "false" assertion) in front of a deceptive question by the Inquisitors". Nov 24 '21 at 9:44

If we promised to keep a secret we ought not to break it. This is another example of the categorical imperative.

Therefore, we should not lie to the torturer but explain to the torturer that 'I vowed to keep a secret and this is a promise I cannot break'.

In terms of the universalizability test (using hypothetical imperative), it would be 'to imagine a society in which everyone keeps the secrets as promised'. Can you imagine such a working society? Yes, without a doubt.

  • see e.g. academia.edu/221402/Kant_on_Keeping_a_Secret_2009_ for further elaboration on the problem
    – user56815
    Nov 24 '21 at 14:41
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    @anon Those are common arguments against Kant. Without reading the paper, I presume that the secret situation with the secret is similar to that of lying. But, by all means, read C. Korsgaard 'The Right to Lie: Kant on Dealing with Evil'. Korsgaard is one of the biggest Kant scholars. TLDR: you can hold a maxim in which you can avoid the absurdity of not lying. Nov 24 '21 at 15:03

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