Kai Nielsen (philosopher)

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Kai Nielsen
Kai nielsen 1926.jpg
Born(1926-05-15)May 15, 1926
DiedApril 7, 2021(2021-04-07) (aged 94)
Alma materUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Duke University
OccupationPhilosophy professor, author

Kai Nielsen (May 15, 1926 – April 7, 2021) was an American professor, latterly emeritus, of philosophy at the University of Calgary. He specialized in naturalism, metaphilosophy, ethics, analytic philosophy, social and political philosophy. Nielsen also wrote about philosophy of religion, and was an advocate of contemporary atheism. He was also known for his defense of utilitarianism, writing in response to Bernard Williams's criticism of it.


Born on May 15, 1926 in Marshall, Michigan, Kai Edward Nielsen was raised in Moline, Illinois.[1]

Nielsen achieved his A.B. honors[2] at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and, in 1959, his Ph.D. at Duke University.[3]

Before moving to the University of Calgary, Nielsen held appointments at Amherst College and New York University.[4]

Nielsen was a member of the Royal Society of Canada[3] and a past president (in 1983) of the Canadian Philosophical Association.[5]

Nielsen was also one of the founding members of the Canadian Journal of Philosophy.[6]

In 1973 Nielsen was one of the signers of the Humanist Manifesto II.[7]

He wrote or edited over 40 books on topics such as Marxism, metaphilosophy and ethical and political theory.[3]

Nielsen died in April 2021 at the age of 94.[4][8]



  • Pessimism of the Intellect, Optimism of the Will: The Political Philosophy of Kai Nielsen, Edited by David Rondel and Alex Sager, 2012, ISBN 978-1-55238-530-2
  • Wittgensteinian Fideism?, 2006, ISBN 0-334-04005-1 (with D. Z. Philips)
  • Atheism And Philosophy, 2005, ISBN 1-59102-298-3
  • Globalization And Justice, 2002, ISBN 1-59102-054-9
  • Naturalism and Religion, 2001, ISBN 1-57392-853-4
  • Exploitation, 2001, ISBN 0-391-04000-6
  • Why Be Moral?, 1997, ISBN 0-87975-519-9
  • Naturalism Without Foundations, 1996, ISBN 1-57392-076-24
  • On Transforming Philosophy: A Metaphilosophical Inquiry, 1995, ISBN 0-8133-0666-3
  • (with J. P. Moreland) Does God Exist?: The Debate Between Theists and Atheists, 1993, ISBN 978-0879758233
  • God and the Grounding Of Morality, 1991, ISBN 0-7766-0328-0
  • After the Demise of the Tradition: Rorty, Critical Theory, and the Fate of Philosophy, 1991, ISBN 0-8133-8044-8
  • Ethics without God, 1990, ISBN 0-87975-552-0
  • God, Skepticism and Modernity, 1989, ISBN 0-7766-0241-1
  • Marxism and the Moral Point of View: Morality, Ideology, and Historical Materialism, 1989, ISBN 0-8133-0653-1
  • Equality and Liberty: A Defense of Radical Egalitarianism, 1986, ISBN 0-8476-7516-5
  • Philosophy and Atheism, 1985, ISBN 0-87975-289-0
  • An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion, 1983, ISBN 0-312-43310-7
  • Marx and Morality, 1981, ISBN 0-919491-01-4
  • Scepticism, 1973, ISBN 0-333-10263-0

Articles and book chapters[edit]

see listings at Nielsen's personal home page, Calgary home page, and details at Philpapers.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Kai Edward Nielsen". Oxford Reference. Retrieved 2021-04-08.
  2. ^ KAI NIELSEN Curriculum Vitae (Abbreviated)
  3. ^ a b c "Nielsen, Kai 1926- | Encyclopedia.com". www.encyclopedia.com. Retrieved 2021-04-09.
  4. ^ a b "Department of Philosophy | University of Calgary". phil.ucalgary.ca. Retrieved 2021-04-09.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  5. ^ "Presidents". CPA-ACP. Retrieved 2021-04-09.
  6. ^ "Canadian Journal of Philosophy". Cambridge Core. Retrieved 2021-04-09.
  7. ^ "Humanist Manifesto II". American Humanist Association. Archived from the original on October 20, 2012. Retrieved October 14, 2012.
  8. ^ "In Memoriam: Kai Nielsen". News. 2021-04-09. Retrieved 2021-04-12.


External links[edit]