In this paper, I postulate that Immanuel Kant has a kind of tension between his ethical and political philosophies that, once properly analyzed, proves to be problematic to his philosophy as a whole. In the first chapter, I analyze and explain Kant’s claims in The Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals in an effort to understand his ethical philosophy. In the second chapter, I analyze the major ideas Kant presents in Metaphysics of Morals in relation to the major works of the social contract theorists, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Within both the second and third chapters, I examine Kant’s political writings, focusing on what he has to say on the nature of the state, the duties it possesses in relation to its subjects, and the nature of legitimacy.

After examining and analyzing Kant’s theories on the state and legitimacy in the third chapter, I conclude that discussion by analyzing contemporary writings concerning Kant’s work in an effort to aid me in proving that Kant does, in fact, have a tension present between his ethical and political philosophies. After examining and analyzing Kant’s theories on the state and legitimacy, I shall critique his work using contemporary critics, as well as contemporary Kantians in an attempt to show what could be considered a strong rebuttal to these criticisms. In the fourth chapter, I conclude the paper by attempting to understand whether or not this tension can be resolved, which I eventually conclude to be impossible from a Kantian perspective.


Weaver, Mark

Second Advisor

Rudisill, John


Philosophy; Political Science


Ethics and Political Philosophy | Political Theory


Kant, Ethics, Political Philosophy, Tension

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



© Copyright 2016 Michael J. Gyeszat