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Journal of Philosophical Research

Volume 38, 2013

Chris Bessemans
Pages 203-232
DOI: 10.5840/jpr20133811

A Short Introduction to Aurel Kolnai’s Moral Philosophy

Aurel Kolnai, born in Hungary and mainly influenced by realist phenomenology, completed his dissertation in Vienna in 1926. After fleeing throughout Europe and living in the United States and Canada for some years, he eventually left for the United Kingdom. While Kolnai’s early philosophical work (and his dissertation) mainly concentrated on ethics, he dedicated most of his time and work during the 30s and 40s to political-philosophical writings. But once in England, Kolnai became interested in the British moralists of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and, in general, in ethics again. His exile-existence meant that Kolnai would remain relatively unknown, although he developed a somewhat eclectic moral philosophy and held political-philosophical views that certainly made him into a distinguished philosopher. This paper offers a short introduction to Kolnai’s main ethical views and shows the relevance of Kolnai’s views to certain contemporary controversies in ethics.

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