Philosophical Studies

, Volume 158, Issue 1, pp 83–107 | Cite as

A Hobbesian derivation of the principle of universalization

  • Michael Moehler


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 



I am grateful to Richard Bradley, Oliver Sensen, and an anonymous reviewer for very helpful discussions and comments on earlier versions of this article.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyVirginia TechBlacksburgUSA

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