Political Philosophy

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By William Godwin

'To a rational being there may be yet one rule of behavior, justice, and one mode of ascertaining that rule, the workout of his understanding.'

Godwin's Political Justice is the founding textual content of philosophical anarchism. Written within the rapid aftermath of the French Revolution, it exemplifies the political optimism felt by means of many writers and intellectuals. Godwin drew on enlightenment principles and his historical past in spiritual dissent for the rules of justice, software, and the sanctity of person judgement that drove his robust critique of all types of secular and non secular authority. He predicts the triumph of justice
and equality over injustice, and of brain over topic, and the eventual vanquishing of human frailty and mortality. He additionally foresees the sluggish removing of practices governing estate, punishment, legislations, and marriage and the displacement of politics through an multiplied own morality caused by reasoned
argument and candid dialogue. Political Justice increases deep philosophical questions about the character of our responsibility to others that stay imperative to trendy debates on ethics and politics.

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Extra resources for An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice (Oxford World's Classics)

Example text

The trouble has always been the same: those who went into the school of revolution learned and knew beforehand the course a revolution must take. It was the course of events, not the men of the Revolution, which they imitated.

The perplexity consisted. in the task of founda· tion, the setting of a new beginning, which as such seemed to demand violence and violation, the repetition, as it were, of the old legendary crime (Romulus slew Remus, Cain slew Abel) at the beginning of all history. This task of foundation, morever, was coupled with the task of lawgiving, of devising and imposing upon men a new authority, which, however, had to be designed in such a way that it would fit and step into the shoes The Meaning of Revolution 39 of the old absolute that derived from a God-given authority, thus superseding an earthly order whose ultimate sanction had been the commands of an omnipotent God and whose final source of legitimacy had been the notion of an incarnation of God on earth.

41 The magic spell which historical necessity has cast over the minds of men since the beginning of the nineteenth century gained in potency by the October Revolution, which for our century has had the same profound meaningfulness of first crystallizing the best of men's hopes and then realizing the full measure of their despair that the French Revolution had far its contemporaries. \lpon the experiences of a bygone age and event. To be sure, only the two-edged compulsion of ideology and terror, one compelling men from within and the other compelling them from without, can fully explain the meekness with which revolutionists in all countries which fell under the influence of the Boishevik Revolution have gone to their doom; but there the lesson presumably learned from the French Revolution has become an integral part of the selfimposed compulsion of ideological thinking today.

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