Is there a paradox in Kant’s ethics? Must we tell the truth?
Another possibility is to answer without lying, which would be fully in line with Kant’s ethical theory. One can imagine the following conversation:
Murderous axe-man: “Hey, buddy. Sorry to bother you so late at night, but eh…. where are your kids?”
You: “Excuse me?”
Murderous axe-man: “Well, you know…. I’d like to kill them. I’ve just cleaned my axe, it’s nice and shiny, see?” The axe-man grins. “They won’t feel a thing, promise. So where are they?”
You: “I’d rather not answer to you, if it’s all the same to you. I love my kids, and I would miss them if you’d kill them.”
Murderous axe-man: “Oh, common. Please, tell me.”
You: “I am sorry, it is against my moral principles.”
Murderous axe-man: “Well, if you are moral man, you ought not to lie and tell the truth. Also, if you are a Christian man, you ought to tell the truth – it’s one of the commandments, you know. Right there in Leviticus 19:11.”
You: “It also says, you shouldn’t kill.”
Partner/kids call 911 in the meantime. (Or 999, or 112, depends where you are living really.)
Murderous axe-man: “Well, yeah, but I am not a Christian.”
You: “For ‘not a Christian’, you seem to know your Bible very well, how did you know where it says so exactly.”
Murderous axe-man: “I’ve been to your neighbours yesterday, and they didn’t let me kill their kids. So I had to go look it up. I mixed the houses today, so I am standing in front of you now.”
You: “So if I don’t tell you where my kids are, you will just go away and mix houses again tomorrow and bother one of the other neighbours?”
Murderous axe-man: “No man, I am for real this time, I am going to kill you if you do not tell me.”
You: “Wow, chill man. All I am saying is that you are using double standards here. And it is you who mixed up the houses.”
Murderous axe-man: “You are making me angry. Either tell me where your kids are, or I am going to kill you!”
You: “Relax dude. It’s just a little weird that you would want to kill my neighbours’ kids, then my kids and now me. At least, there was that ‘killing kids’ pattern before. How do I fit into this?”
Murderous axe-man: “You are in the way, that’s how.”
You: “Look behind you.”
Someone fires a gun at the murderous axe-man.
Murderous axe-man: “I’m dead.” (in the sound of the game Worms).
(This very well might be the worst script ever written.)
Last option would be to slam the door in his face.