The Morality of Lying and the Murderer at the Door

Law and Philosophy 38 (5-6):439-452 (2019)
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The article engages with some of the main claims in chapter 1 of Seana Shiffrin’s book Speech Matters. There, Shiffrin sets out a case for a general moral prohibition on lying, based on the conditions required for reliable speech, and circumscribes the permissible falsehoods that could be uttered to would-be moral criminals, such as Kant’s familiar murderer at the door. I raise a few questions about the case for the general moral prohibition on lying and about Shiffrin’s basis for distinguishing between the sorts of lies that, on her view, one is and is not permitted to tell would-be moral criminals so as to avert harm.



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Kate Greasley
University College London

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