Philosophical Studies

, Volume 158, Issue 1, pp 83-107

First online:

A Hobbesian derivation of the principle of universalization

  • Michael MoehlerAffiliated withDepartment of Philosophy, Virginia Tech Email author 

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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 prudens Game theory Empathy Veil of uncertainty Weak principle of universalization Categorical imperative