The embodiment of the categorical imperative: Kafka, Foucault, Benjamin, Adorno and Levinas

David Michael Levin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Am I enjoined and moved by a sense of moral responsibility that, prior to consciousness, prior to volition, has always already informed and predisposed the very nature of my flesh? How could we account for this experience without recognizing that it is the flesh that first bears the order of the moral law? This study undertakes a hermeneutical reading of some texts in which the question of the embodiment of the categorical imperative, the responsibility enjoined by the procedural form of the moral law, is introduced. It is hoped that this reading will contribute to our understanding of the body of experience, the so-called body-subject, showing the body to be not only an object-body, not only, as in the work of Foucault, a material substratum for the application of power, but also, as Levinas thought, the primordial bearer of a certain rudimentary moral compass, at the very heart of which there lies, if only deeply encrypted, the categorical assignment of the moral law. Thus, the human body is not, as some postmodern writers contend, a totally unruly, uncivilized nature without any implicit order of its own, but is a first nature always already disposed, if only in a preliminary and rudimentary way, to bear the moral development that society requires us to undertake.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
JournalPhilosophy & Social Criticism
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2001


  • Adorno
  • Benjamin
  • Foucault
  • Kafka
  • Levinas
  • body
  • categorical imperative
  • moral law

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • Sociology and Political Science


Dive into the research topics of 'The embodiment of the categorical imperative: Kafka, Foucault, Benjamin, Adorno and Levinas'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this