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Philosophical anarchism

Philosophical anarchism emerged during the 18th century Enlightenment, a wide-ranging intellectual movement that stressed the importance of human reason and the need to examine critically existing ideas, institutions and traditions.

During this period, William Godwin (1756-1836), was the key figure in the development of philosophical anarchism. He produced the first statement of anarchist principles in his Enquiry Concerning Political Justice (1793). Godwin argued that humans were rational social creatures, moulded by their environment, and the state was tyrannical and corrupting. A better stateless society could be achieved if individuals could attain moral perfection, chiefly through education. Under such circumstances, morally perfect humans would use their private judgement for unselfish and benevolent ends and thus would not require guidance from the law or state. Godwin was convinced that this process would be ongoing until its inevitable completion. He is viewed as a philosophical anarchist because he is chiefly concerned with principles rather than practice.

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