“Man is in truth a miracle. The human mind is a creature of celestial origin, shut up and confined in a wall of flesh.”
“When we look at human society…we [can] imagine that men might subsist very well in clusters and congregated bodies without the coercion of law…”
“What an empire does the man of leisure possess in each single day of his life! He disposes of his hours much…as the commander [does his soldiers].”
“The mind is in a state of turbulence and tempest in one instant, and in another subsides into the deepest imbecility.”
Godwin compares the rather charmed life of a school boy with the difficult, tedious, taxing drudgery experienced by average Britons.
Godwin believed that most human beings are brute and imitative, making those precious few liberated individual minds all the more important.
If methodological individualists in the social sciences say literally every action is motivated by self-interest, is there no room for self-sacrifice?
If we don’t have free will, could we know it? William Godwin offers some speculative answers and discusses the implications of free will.
Godwin’s next “thought on man” examines the origins of mental atrophy and urges readers to exercise their minds with steady and vigorous Socratic discussion.
Godwin expands his theories of education and intellectual development into a theory of youth and age.
Our author puts forth a romanticized, mythologized version of history to defend the claim that love is the result of imagination, inequality, and difference.
Godwin takes a linguistic turn to discuss the ethical implications “Of Frankness and Reserve” in our speech and interpersonal dealings.
Godwin recognizes the “obviousness” of voting and representation in the modern era, but carefully notes that democracy is no solution to the problem of coercion.
Godwin casts himself—and the ideal social reform advocate—as a constant missionary for reason, truth, and justice.
Advancing his own sort of self-esteem theory, Godwin concludes that healthy societies require healthy individuals who love and respect themselves.
Godwin investigates the convincing truths and falsehoods behind one of modernity’s more pernicious pseudosciences: phrenology.
Godwin embraces Enlightenment skepticism and chastises modern astronomers for pretending to be a new oracular class.
Godwin argues that philosophers and scientists should discover themselves and their own immediate world before casting about the galaxy.