First Advisor

Craig Carr

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Political Science


Political Science




Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831)



Physical Description

1 online resource. Digitized computer-produced typeface


The philosophies of Kant and Hegel have experienced a renaissance for the past thirty years, and a debate continues as to whether Hegel's objections to Kant's moral philosophy are sound, and/or whether Hegel's ethics are an improvement on Kant's. This debate takes many forms, and most recently, theorists have been interested in measuring Hegel's objections against contemporary theories following in the Kantian tradition. 'Critics,' (theorists defending Hegel's moral point of view) suggests such reconstructed theories leave themselves open to identical criticisms Hegel wielded at Kant almost 200 years ago. 'Defenders,' (theorists supporting Kant's moral philosophy, or a revised version) reply in one of two ways. They either suggest that Hegel's criticisms of Kant are unwarranted, meaning Hegel misinterprets Kant's ideas and/or purposes; or, they maintain that Kant's ethics are vulnerable to Hegel's objections, however some newer version of Kant's ethics is not because it has been purged of those Kantian elements which Hegel attacks. Clearly, both views render Hegel's critique of Kant obsolete. So, why are we witnessing such an aggressive resurgence of Hegelian-styled arguments in the contemporary literature?

In seeking to answer this question, this thesis reconsiders Hegel's actual critique of Kant. In this way, the thesis falls into a specific category of political philosophy. It is a study in the 'history of ideas.' Rather than considering the question of whether contemporary Critics or Defenders have the better argument concerning the merit of reconstructed Kantian theories, I intend to re-evaluate the soundness of Hegel's objections to Kantian ethics.

Kant's moral and political thought on the proper ordering of society is deeply embedded in the pluralist democracies of the western world. As such, those Kantian ideas/elements should be defendable against Hegelian criticisms.

Following an in-depth consideration of Hegel's critique of Kant, I argue that whereas Hegel accurately identifies weaknesses in the system of Kant's moral philosophy, his critique does not successfully achieve its goal. It does not show that Kant's ethical theory is an inadequate prescription for the rational agent seeking to act morally. Rather, it serves as a warning of the dangers inherent in democratic liberal theory.


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