'To a rational being there can be but one rule of conduct, justice, and one mode of ascertaining that rule, the exercise of his understanding.' Godwin's Political Justice is the founding text of philosophical anarchism. Written in the immediate aftermath of the French Revolution, it exemplifies the political optimism felt by many writers and intellectuals. Godwin drew on enlightenment ideas and his background in religious dissent for the principles of justice, utility, and the sanctity of individual judgement that drove his powerful critique of all forms of secular and religious authority. He predicts the triumph of justice and equality over injustice, and of mind over matter, and the eventual vanquishing of human frailty and mortality. He also foresees the gradual elimination of practices governing property, punishment, law, and marriage and the displacement of politics by an expanded personal morality resulting from reasoned argument and candid discussion. Political Justice raises deep philosophical questions about the nature of our duty to others that remain central to modern debates on ethics and politics.
This edition reprints the first-edition text of 1793, and examines Godwin's evolving philosophy in the context of his life and work. ABOUT THE SERIES: For over 100 years Oxford World's Classics has made available the widest range of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford's commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, helpful notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more.
Mark Philp is the General Editor of the Collected Novels and Memoirs of William Godwin, 8 vols (1992), the Political and Philosophical Writings of William Godwin, 7 vols (1993), and has also co-edited The Diary of William Godwin (2010). His books include Godwin's Political Justice (1986), Thomas Paine (2007), Political Conduct (2007), and, with Joanna Innes, Re-Imagining Democracy in the Age of Revolutions (Oxford, 2013).