Kant and the king: lying promises, conventional implicature, and hypocrisy

Roy Sorensen, Ian Proops

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Immanuel Kant promised, ‘as Your Majesty's loyal subject’, to abstain from all public lectures about religion. All past commentators agree this phrase permitted Kant to return to the topic after the King died. But it is not part of the ‘at-issue content’. Consequently, ‘as Your Majesty's loyal subject’ is no more an escape clause than the corresponding phrase in ‘I guarantee, as your devoted fan, that these guitar strings will not break’. Just as the guarantee stands regardless of whether the guarantor ceases to be your devoted fan, the compliance conditions of Kant's promise are not affected by Kant's ceasing to be the king's loyal subject. For good or ill, Kant made a lying promise to King Friedrich Wilhelm II in 1794.
Original languageEnglish
VolumeEarly View
Early online date21 Aug 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 21 Aug 2023


  • Conventional implicature
  • Grice
  • Hypocrisy
  • Lying promise
  • Mental reservation
  • Posthumous harm


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