I recently posed a puzzle about Kant's moral philosophy. The puzzle was this: if lying is always wrong, would it be wrong (according to Kant’s theory) to lie to a robot with speech technology who came to your door trying to locate innocent people who were hiding from a tyrannical government?
Many of you know by now that I’ve committed to presenting philosophical puzzles for the duration of the Corona crisis. This month's puzzle is somewhat sci-fi in nature, but not totally farfetched, as we’ll see. The motivating question is this: What should Kant say about lying to robots?
Mission Impossible: Fallout is an intensely escapist movie, but it's also a deeply philosophical one. It explores the question: should you be the kind of person who saves his friends and risks millions of lives, or the kind of person for whom saving the millions matters to the exclusion of all else?
Scott Pruit offers you a job at the EPA. His agenda is to roll back regulations that help protect the environment. So what should you do? Take the job and try to change the EPA from the inside? Or would it be more productive to work for an environmental agency whose efforts you support?
In these polarized times, it's hard to convince anyone of anything that they didn't already believe in. This consistent inability to reach any real mutual understanding can lead some to "agree to disagree," but when it comes to serious moral questions where lives are at stake, we need better tools of persuasion.