Contra Kant: Experimental ethics in Guyau and Kant

Keith Ansell-Pearson, Michael Vincent Ure

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (Book)Researchpeer-review


Powerful critiques of Kantian ethics are mounted towards the end of the nineteenth century by naturalistic-minded philosophers such as Jean-Marie Guyau (1854-88) and Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900). This chapter examines the basis of these critiques and what, if anything, they have in common. The aim of such critiques is to challenge the universalist assumptions of Kantian ethics and favour instead a genuinely experimental ethics, one that is premised on a commitment to moral variability and that seeks to promote heterodox forms of living. As Nietzsche puts it in his text of 1881, Dawn, the idea of'the human being' is a 'bloodless abstraction' and 'fiction' (D 105, KSA 3.93). But on what precise grounds do figures such as Guyau and Nietzsche challenge universalism in ethics? And what kind of future for ethical life do they envisage? Here we are not so much concerned with whether these figures get Kant right, but with exploring the nature of their experimentalism and its grounds.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNietzsche’s Engagements with Kant and the Kantian Legacy; Volume II
Subtitle of host publicationNietzsche and Kantian Ethics
EditorsJoao Constancio, Tom Bailey
Place of PublicationLondon UK
PublisherBloomsbury Academic
Number of pages33
ISBN (Electronic)9781350035577, 9781350035584
ISBN (Print)9781474275958
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Publication series

NameNietzsche’s Engagements with Kant and the Kantian Legacy
PublisherBloomsbury Academic


  • Ethics
  • Kant
  • Nietzsche
  • Guyau

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