Ethics Kantian Ethics

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Ethics essay – Kantian ethics
a.) Explain Kant’s concept of duty
Immanuel Kant was a German philosopher who was concerned with producing an ethical theory that was logical and absolute, and did not change depending on the situation, countering the views of John Locke and other empiricists of the time. His ethics are based on duty, rather than looking at the end product of an action. He thought that his theory was so important that it could be rivalled with the Copernican revolution, in that it would utterly change everyone’s concept of morality in the same profound manner. There are two main dictionary definitions of duty, obeying a superior, and obeying the moral law in doing the right thing, and Kant was concerned with the latter.
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He himself uses the example of a good shopkeeper, in which a small child gives a shopkeeper a large amount of money for a cheap product, unaware of its value. Firstly, the shopkeeper could give the child the wrong amount of money, which would of course be immoral, or they could give the correct amount of change, but with the intention of improving their reputation, and business with it. They should give the correct change, with only the good will in mind, not with the intention of good business. It is the shopkeeper’s duty to act with integrity, as to not treat people as means to ends, and it is our duty as well.
Kant believed that there must be some reason, some reward for our doing good actions. This he described as the `summum bonum`, or the greatest good. We are not able to gain the summum bonum in this life – as Kant observed people who were not living morally, but living happily, and vice versa – so we must be able to get there in the afterlife. He postulated the existence of heaven because of this, and it’s in heaven that we achieve this in the afterlife.
Finally, the three postulates of reason are three things that are needed for this theory to work. These include freedom, immortality, and the existence of God. He realised that we must be able to make our own decisions freely, that we have the ability to make wrong decisions as well the correct ones. There must an afterlife for us to able to reach the summum

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