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Toward a Critical Ethic: Hobbes, Kant, and Nietzsche on Feelings and Foundations

William W Sokoloff, University of Massachusetts Amherst


The texts that play a major role in my dissertation include Hobbes's Leviathan, Kant's Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals and Critique of Practical Reason, and Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil and Toward a Genealogy of Morals. My research is situated on the border between ethics and politics because I challenge the belief that ethical conduct always requires universal laws. The articulation of an ethical sensibility that is not grounded on a universal law has been one of the thorniest issues in political theory. Ethical reflection has been unnecessarily trapped between the poles of moral universalism and/or relativism. Through readings of Hobbes, Kant, and Nietzsche in reference to foundations and specific human feelings, I demonstrate that the absence of moral universals does not put an end to ethics but is the condition for a new ethical sensibility that overcomes the this opposition. A critical ethic confronts the difficulty of articulating the relationship between ethics and politics in an age of disenchantment.

Subject Area

Political science|Philosophy

Recommended Citation

Sokoloff, William W, "Toward a Critical Ethic: Hobbes, Kant, and Nietzsche on Feelings and Foundations" (2002). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3056280.