Kant versus Skyrms on Universal Deception
11 Pages Posted: 4 Nov 2012
Date Written: November 3, 2012
Immanuel Kant famously argued that it would be self-defeating for everyone to follow a maxim of lying whenever it is to her advantage. In his recent book Signals, Brian Skyrms claims that Kant was wrong. First, he argues that there are Lewisian signaling games in which, whenever it would be beneficial to deceive the receiver, the sender sends a signal that deceives. Second, Skyrms argues that there are even signaling games in which the sender always sends a signal that deceives. I argue here that, while Skyrms is right on the first count, he is wrong on the second. While it is not always self-defeating for everyone to follow a maxim of lying whenever it is to her advantage, this is only because it is not always beneficial to mislead. If it were, then universal deception would be futile. Thus, there is sense in which Kant was right after all.
Keywords: deception, signaling games, Kant, lying
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