Godwin Revisited: Anarchism for the Real World

by Christopher Joseph Roberson

A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
in The University of Michigan

Doctoral Committee:

Associate Professor Elizabeth Anderson, Chair
Professor Stephen Darwall
Professor Allan Gibbard
Associate Professor Don Herzog

They do not long continue to buy commodities,
before they begin to buy men.

William Godwin
Enquiry Concerning Political Justice

c Christopher Joseph Roberson 1996
All Rights Reserved

For Tania


My first thanks must go to Tania, my wife. Her support and love were absolutely indispensable; her kindness, caring, and patience are truly above and beyond the call of duty. I am immensely grateful and deeply indebted to her: she knows better than anyone else just how much I owe her.

My parents, Herman and Jeannette Roberson, have also given me a great deal of support. I thank them very deeply for their advice and encouragement, and also for their financial support during 1992-93. My brother, Matthew Roberson, was a great source of encouragement and perspective during my time in graduate school. I hope that I can be as big a help now that he knows from his own experience what it is like to write a dissertation.

I am particularly indebted to the members of my dissertation committee, models of philosophical acumen and dedication to teaching: Elizabeth Anderson, Stephen Darwall, Allan Gibbard, Don Herzog, and David Hills. This dissertation owes a great deal to the time and attention they have given to it: so much, in fact, that really thorough acknowledgement of their help would take up several pages by itself. Although they have all given considerable and knowledgeable commentary on the entire project, I would like to single out some of the particular ways in which their expertise has been indispensable. Elizabeth Anderson was tremendously supportive as my primary adviser; her comprehensive knowledge of political and social philosophy helped me avoid too superficial an examination of this view's political and social implications. Steve Darwall helped me put Godwin's work in historical perspective, particularly with respect to Richard Price's influence. He also proposed the most intriguing objection so far to the theory of the state as rational authority. Thanks to Allan Gibbard for his profound expertise in ethics and meta-ethics, particularly early in my time as a candidate; and for making sure this topic stayed grounded in philosophy. Don Herzog provided acute observations on Godwin and anarchism in general. Thanks finally to David Hills, for his voluminous knowledge of Godwin, among many other topics; for his suggestions about how to interpret private judgment as a form of autonomy; and especially for his indispensable encouragement during the difficult birth of this project.

This dissertation has also been considerably improved because of comments from and discussion with John Doris, Nadeem Hussain, Mika Manty, Michael Weber, David Velleman, Darryl Wright, and especially Ted Hinchman. I am very grateful for their help and friendship.

Thanks to Jeff Kasser for an offhand remark that helped me complete my copy of the University of Toronto edition of the Enquiry.

As should go without saying, but seldom does, I am of course responsible for any errors to be found herein.

Writing this dissertation has given vivid meaning to the acknowledgements I have seen in other dissertations and books. Phrases like "immensely grateful" and "deeply indebted" have real resonance now, however perfunctory they may have seemed to me in my previous state of ignorance. I am confident that the people mentioned in these acknowledgements, who know just how tremendous their help has been, will also know just how heartfelt and sincere is my gratitude.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. An introduction to anarchism

Chapter 2. Interpreting Godwin

Chapter 3. Interpreting Godwin, continued

Chapter 4. The inevitability of the state

Chapter 5. Anarchism within the state: Quasi-anarchism

Chapter 6. The ideal community

Appendix. Note on editions of the Enquiry


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