This comprehensive study of Godwin's philosophy establishes the central importance of his ideas to modern social and political thought, correcting in the process certain widespread misinterpretations. Professor Clark reassesses Godwin's determinism, his doctrine of perfectibility, his utilitarianism, his theory of rights, his view of political action, and other important topics.
The book begins with a discussion of the metaphysical and epistemological bases of Godwin's philosophy and then analyzes the nature of his ethical theory and the application of his philosophical principles to social and political issues. In a concluding section, his place in the history of anarchist theory is clarified. The author draws on all of Godwin's writings, including both strictly philosophical works and literary and historical essays, taking an approach to them that is expository, analytical, and critical.
Originally published in 1977.
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