Linda Cooper On The Nazis
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The case I will be presenting is the Nazi at the door case. This takes place during the World War II in Europe. During this era, Jews were being hunted and killed. You are currently letting Jewish people hide out in your home. Suddenly, a Nazi knocks on your door. The question is “should you lie”? This presents a moral problem because in general, we are torn between lying is okay in some situations or wrong altogether. Most importantly do we have a moral obligation to always tell the truth. In this case if we tell the truth a person will be harmed. How do we solve what the morally right action is? In philosophy we often compare different moral theories and see which one has the best argument. The two moral theories we will be comparing today is Kantian and Ubuntu.
Kant’s moral philosophy is the categorical imperative. The categorical imperative applies to every individual. It states we all have moral obligations that are unconditional and always binding. Stealing, killing, and lying is never okay. The formula of universal law states “act only in accordance with a maxim through which you can at the same time will it become a universal law. This means every action you take will become a universal law for everyone to follow. If you were to never help someone in need everyone would do the same. That means that if you needed help no one would help you. Another part of his philosophy is the formula of humanity which states never use people to get what you want. You must respect your humanity and others.
Kant is a deontologist. Deontology states that actions are labeled right or wrong based on your intention. If you have a good intention or will then your action will be right. It doesn’t consider the consequences. Kant’s philosophy would say you should never lie. He would say tell the truth to the Nazi at the door. Kantians believe we have a moral obligation not to lie. Kant will argue that you could never universalize lying. If everyone lied to protect someone that means everyone would be lying to you as well. Kant felt that morals are should be based on the categorical imperative. You might not be happy with your action but that’s irrelevant for him.
Our next moral theory is Ubuntu. Ubuntu roughly translates to humanity. Ubuntu places a great value on personhood and your community. Ubuntu’s definition of a person is a “human that is alive with a conscious mind”. This individual must have social relationships with other people for you to become truly human. It’s your obligation to connect with other people. Ubuntu says an action is good if it makes the community stronger. Ubuntu’s main goal is to become a full person For Ubuntu the greatest good is social harmony. A consequence of this is that when you help yourself, you help others. However, when you harm other individuals, you harm yourself. Ubuntu would say that we should lie to protect the Jews hiding with us because it will make the community stronger. You are judged based on your relationship with others. Your relationship to the Jews will become stronger. Lying to the Nazi will prevent him from making the community weaker. If you let him kill the Jews, you are also harming yourself. The theory that provides the best argument for the case is Ubuntu.
Kant is always universalizing something versus Ubuntu where actions are right or wrong if they make the community stronger. I do agree that actions should be based on if they promote social harmony because you should consider other people and not just yourself. Ubuntu is trying to make sure everyone benefits. From Ubuntu’s perspective you will lie for the benefit of the community You have to do what’s best for everyone and not just yourself. If anyone was in the Jews position, they would want someone to lie from them too. Kant’s moral theory is more focused on the individual rather than society as a whole. Social harmony is more important than the formula of universal law because the formula isn’t realistic. We must consider the consequences. In this case if we lie, we aren’t respecting the humanity of the Jews. Kant says an action is good if it comes from a good will. How is lying to the Nazi a good will. It doesn’t make any sense. It seems that he only considering the Nazis humanity. Lying would be the best option since it came from good will to save the Jews, but his theory breaks down since you can’t universalize this.
Therefore, we would be breaking Kant’s formula of humanity if we let the Nazi kill them and the formula of universal law if we lie. In theory, the idea sounds great but realistically it would fail because every situation is not the same. In this case lying would save innocent lives. In my opinion we have a moral obligation to each other. This means we would have to look out for each other and treat others with respect. Our main goal should be to make our relationships stronger to other people. If we did this then we would not have to try to universalize any action because everything we do is would help everybody. In conclusion Ubuntu makes the best argument because it considers everyone, and this is best solution with the least amount deaths. This makes every in the community happy.