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E457 WILLIAM GODWIN QUESTIONS


Assigned: Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, online selection from Book 4, Ch. 2: "Of Revolutions." (Paragraphs in the online text have been numbered for the sake of reference. The first edition was published in 1794.)

1. In paragraphs 1-10, Godwin speaks up for the perfectibility of human beings. What does he apparently mean by "perfectibility," and what underlies his faith in our capacity to improve? How is perfectibility an argument, according to Godwin, against sudden political revolutions?

2. In paragraphs 11-17, Godwin explains the negative consequences of revolutions — what are those consequences, and what evidence does Godwin provide for them?

3. In paragraphs 18-20, Godwin addresses the possibility of political reaction against any revolutionary movement — why, in his view, is it almost inevitable that revolution should provoke counter-revolution?

4. In paragraphs 21-33, Godwin sets forth his faith in Reason as a vehicle of practical progress, and defends political gradualism (i.e. change over long periods of time) as anything but airy or naive idealism. How much strength do you find in Godwin's advocacy of progress through the patient application of Reason? Is that advocacy naively idealistic, or do you credit Godwin with more savvy than that? Explain your rationale.

Electronic Edition: Godwin, William. From Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, online selection from Book 4, Ch. 2: "Of Revolutions."


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