Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) is arguably the greatest ethical theorist philosophy has produced. However, his writings on ethics are difficult to understand, and his ethical theory has been subject to multiple interpretations and to considerable criticism. Kant’s ethics is the central theory in a branch of ethical theory known as deontology (duty-based ethics). Indeed Kant’s ethics is so prominent in deontology that “Kantian ethics” and “deontology” are often treated as synonymous terms.

Good Will

Kant begins the Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals by asking what is intrinsically good, that is, what is good in and of itself rather than being good for something else. Kant considers a number of possibilities—obvious ones such as wealth and power and less obvious ones such as intelligence, wit, and other talents. ...

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