After last weeks discussion, I wanted to investigate the Kantian response to the Gestapo argument. It may be, perhaps, that Dr. Furman's and Dr. Thomason's moral views are radically different than mine, that our intuitions are so far off, there is nothing really to discuss. That in and of itself raises some interesting questions about how philosophy works: what are the conditions under which discussion is fruitful? When does it descend into two ships passing in the night?
On the other hand, my colleagues could suffering from what my professors at Penn called "being caught in the gripes of a philosophical position." This means that someone has been working so long with a view that they stick to the implications of the view in the face of obvious counter intuitive results. They either bite the bullet, and accept the absurdity, or pretend to bite the bullet, and maintain what they no longer really believe. They remain consistent, but consistency is easy. Truth? Not so much.
So here we have the argument: it is 1941, Eastern Galicia. Jews in Jewish neighborhoods are routinely rounded up and shot. People who talk to them are shot. People who help them are shot. People in Germany may not have known yet what is happening. But no one in any community with a substantial number of Jews in the former state of Poland, or the newly conquered territory in the Ukraine, Russia, Belorussia, the Latvian states, etc., can have any doubts.
And here are two real examples, not made up for phil 201: "Not far from Trembowla, in a small town of Budzananow, a Roman Catholic Priest, Father Ufryjewicz, saved a whole Jewish family by baptizing them and giving them baptismal certificates, and forging his parish records in such a way that he created for them a complete set of Christian forebears. With false identities that he had created they were able to move from place to place, away from those who might know their real identities, and thus to survive.
In Turka, on the eve of deportation of the Jews in August 19442, sister Jadwiga, a nun who was also the head nurse of the local hospital, hid 12 year old Lidia Klieman in the cubicles of the men's bathroom, which was used as a broom closet. Lidia stayed hidden in the hospital for several weeks. Sister Jedwiga put her in a Catholic orphanage under the care of Sister Blanka Piglowska, who knew she was Jewish. When a suspicion arose in the orphanage that Lidia might be Jewish, it was Sister Blanka who obtained new false papers for her with a new name, Maria Wolosyznska. She then transferred the girl to another orphanage where the mother superior was hiding many Jewish girls. ... Lidia's mother had been denounced to the Gestapo while traveling on false papers, arrested and killed."
I use both of these examples, there are many others, because it is clear the people doing the rescuing had to lie, lie often and frequently, to save the lives of these girls, whose only 'crimes' were that they were Jewish.
On my own intution, these people, called the righteous among the nations, a title bestowed on Non-Jewish people who act righteously, and used now to designate people who put there lives on the line to save Jews with benefit to themselves, are heroes. They have 'moral courage,' the courage to do the right thing even if it may mean, and frequently did mean, very bad things will happen if discovered. I regard these actions as truly morally good and praiseworthy. Indeed, I wish I possessed that sort of courage, and hope never to be placed in a situation where the limits of my own moral courage are tested.
Now on Dr. Furman's account, because these people had to lie to save the lives of the innocent, they are not righteous at all, but are doing something wrong. To lie is always wrong. Our duty to save lives is 'imperfect' meaning it does not always apply. Only when the means are moral ought we do our imperfect duty. Since lying is against a perfect duty, it is wrong. These people, therefore, are not doing something praiseworthy and admirable, but morally wrong. they ought to have told the truth, that the girls and families in question were Jewish. It is true that they will all most likely perish, but that changes nothing. Bad things can happen when you cat morally.
I have no idea why he insists that lying is always bad, unless he sticks to it because lying fails the categorical imperative, that is, the maxim 'If I want x, I ought to lie' cannot be consistently universalized. That is, it is wrong because Kant says so. But I simply refuse to believe that TMF really believes the priest and the Sisters ought to have told the truth, that they would be doing the right thing if they had told the truth, but have in fact done something bad.
On my view if there is a day of judgment, it is the Righteous among the Nations who will have good things happened to them, not the truth tellers. If you really disagree, then our intuitions are so far from each other, there is little to discuss.
Next Week: Dr. Thomason: Kant's State of Nature Defense.