Philosophical Studies

, Volume 158, Issue 1, pp 83–107

A Hobbesian derivation of the principle of universalization


DOI: 10.1007/s11098-010-9673-2

Cite this article as:
Moehler, M. Philos Stud (2012) 158: 83. doi:10.1007/s11098-010-9673-2


In this article, I derive a weak version of Kant’s categorical imperative within an informal game-theoretic framework. More specifically, I argue that Hobbesian agents would choose what I call the weak principle of universalization, if they had to decide on a rule of conflict resolution in an idealized but empirically defensible hypothetical decision situation. The discussion clarifies (i) the rationality requirements imposed on agents, (ii) the empirical conditions assumed to warrant the conclusion, and (iii) the political institutions that are necessary to implement the derived principle. The analysis demonstrates the moral significance of the weak principle of universalization and its epistemic advantage over the categorical imperative.


Homo prudensGame theoryEmpathyVeil of uncertaintyWeak principle of universalizationCategorical imperative

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyVirginia TechBlacksburgUSA