Access to the full content is only available to members of institutions that have purchased access. If you belong to such an institution, please log in or find out more about how to order.



Godwin, William (1756–1836)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-DB034-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved April 12, 2024, from

Article Summary

William Godwin is considered the founder of philosophical anarchism. His An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice (1793) contends that although government is a corrupt force in society, perpetuating dependence and ignorance, it will increasingly be rendered impotent by the gradual spread of knowledge. Politics will be displaced by an enlarged morality as truth conquers error and mind subordinates matter. He predicts the end to cooperative activities (which restrain individual freedom), the abandonment of marriage and private property, and increasing longevity and ultimate immortality.

Godwin’s moral theory is often described as utilitarian, but he understands pleasure to be inseparable from the development of truth and wisdom through the full and free exercise of private judgment and public discussion. As such, his position is better understood as perfectionist.

Citing this article:
Philp, Mark. Godwin, William (1756–1836), 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-DB034-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

Related Searches


Related Articles