Frases de William Godwin

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William Godwin

Fecha de nacimiento: 3. Marzo 1756
Fecha de muerte: 7. Abril 1836

William Godwin fue un político y escritor británico, considerado uno de los más importantes precursores liberales del pensamiento anarquista y del utilitarismo. Es también famoso por las mujeres con las cuales estuvo vinculado durante su vida: se casó con la escritora feminista Mary Wollstonecraft en 1797 y junto a ella tuvo una hija, también llamada Mary, que ha pasado a la posteridad como la compañera del poeta Shelley y autora de la novela gótica Frankenstein.


„Terrible mal es la anarquía; el despotismo lo es mayor. La anarquía ha matado a centenares de hombres; el despotismo ha sacrificado millones y millones, y por eso mismo, no ha hecho más que perpetuar la ignorancia, el vicio, la miseria. La anarquía es un mal efímero, y el despotismo es poco menos que inmortal. Evidentemente, terrible prueba es para un pueblo dar rienda suelta a sus pasiones todas, hasta que la vista de sus estragos de nuevas fuerzas a la razón, pero este remedio es a menudo más eficaz que terrible.“

„El que me coacciona pretende hacerlo porque sus razones son fuertes; pero realmente lo hace porque son débiles.“


„En verdad, no hay tiempo más perdido que el que se gasta leyendo compendios.“

„He that loves reading has everything within his reach.“

„Strange that men, from age to age, should consent to hold their lives at the breath of another, merely that each in his turn may have a power of acting the tyrant according to the law! Oh, God! give me poverty! Shower upon me all the imaginary hardships of human life! I will receive them with all thankfulness. Turn me a prey to the wild beasts of the desert, so I be never again the victim of man, dressed in the gore-dripping robes of authority! Suffer me at least to call life, the pursuits of life, my own! Let me hold it at the mercy of the elements, of the hunger of the beasts, or the revenge of barbarians, but not of the cold-blooded prudence of monopolists and kings!“ Caleb Williams

„It is absurd to expect the inclinations and wishes of two human beings to coincide, through any long period of time. To oblige them to act and live together is to subject them to some inevitable potion of thwarting, bickering, and unhappiness.“

„It has an unhappy effect upon the human understanding and temper, for a man to be compelled in his gravest investigation of an argument, to consider, not what is true, but what is convenient.“ Life of Geoffrey Chaucer; The Early English Poet: Including Memoirs of His Near Friend and Kinsman, John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster: With Sketches of the Manners, Opinions, Arts and Literature of England in the Fourteenth Century Volume 1

„A book is a dead man, a sort of mummy, embowelled and embalmed, but that once had flesh, and motion, and a boundless variety of determinations and actions.“ Fleetwood or the New Man of Feeling


„Godwin on Fenelon and his Valet *


Following is an excerpt from William Godwin's Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, Book II, Chapter II: “Of Justice”:


In a loose and general view I and my neighbour are both of us men; and of consequence entitled to equal attention. But, in reality, it is probable that one of us is a being of more worth and importance than the other. A man is of more worth than a beast; because, being possessed of higher faculties, he is capable of a more refined and genuine happiness. In the same manner the illustrious archbishop of Cambray was of more worth than his valet, and there are few of us that would hesitate to pronounce, if his palace were in flames, and the life of only one of them could be preserved, which of the two ought to be preferred.

But there is another ground of preference, beside the private consideration of one of them being further removed from the state of a mere animal. We are not connected with one or two percipient beings, but with a society, a nation, and in some sense with the whole family of mankind. Of consequence that life ought to be preferred which will be most conducive to the general good. In saving the life of Fenelon, suppose at the moment he conceived the project of his immortal Telemachus, should have been promoting the benefit of thousands, who have been cured by the perusal of that work of some error, vice and consequent unhappiness. Nay, my benefit would extend further than this; for every individual, thus cured, has become a better member of society, and has contributed in his turn to the happiness, information, and improvement of others.

Suppose I had been myself the valet; I ought to have chosen to die, rather than Fenelon should have died. The life of Fenelon was really preferable to that of the valet. But understanding is the faculty that perceives the truth of this and similar propositions; and justice is the principle that regulates my conduct accordingly. It would have been just in the valet to have preferred the archbishop to himself. To have done otherwise would have been a breach of justice.

Suppose the valet had been my brother, my father, or my benefactor. This would not alter the truth of the proposition. The life of Fenelon would still be more valuable than that of the valet; and justice, pure, unadulterated justice, would still have preferred that which was most valuable. Justice would have taught me to save the life of Fenelon at the expense of the other. What magic is there in the pronoun “my,” that should justify us in overturning the decisions of impartial truth? My brother or my father may be a fool or a profligate, malicious, lying or dishonest. If they be, of what consequence is it that they are mine?“

„Whenever government assumes to deliver us from the trouble of thinking for ourselves, the only consequences it produces are those of torpor and imbecility.“ Enquiry Concerning Political Justice and Its Influence on Modern Morals and Happiness

„if admiration were not generally deemed the exclusive property of the rich, and contempt the constant lackey of poverty, the love of gain would cease to be an universal problem.“ Enquiry Concerning Political Justice and Its Influence on Modern Morals and Happiness

„Add to this the species of government which prevails over nine tenths of the globe, which is despotism: a government, as Locke justly observes, altogether "vile and miserable," and "more to be deprecated than anarchy itself."(2*) Certainly every man who takes a dispassionate survey of this picture will feel himself inclined to pause respecting the necessity of the havoc which is thus made of his species, and to question whether the established methods for protecting mankind against the caprices of each other are the best that can be devised. He will be at a loss which of the two to pronounce most worthy of regret, the misery that is inflicted, or the depravity by which it is produced. If this be the unalterable allotment of our nature, the eminence of our rational faculties must be considered as rather an abortion than a substantial benefit; and we shall not fail to lament that, while in some respects we are elevated above the brutes, we are in so many important ones destined for ever to remain their inferiors.“ Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, and Its Influence on General Virtue and Happiness


„Invisible things are the only realities; invisible things alone are the things that shall remain.“ Mandeville. a Tale of the Seventeenth Century in England, Volume 1

„Sure I arn't a cabbage, that if you pull it out of the ground it must die.“ Caleb Williams

„What power there is in the word my.“ Godwin's Political Justice.; A Reprint of the Essay on Property, from the Original Edition Volume 8: ,,,,,,

„The only mode which is employed to repress this violence, and to maintain the order and peace of society, is punishment. Whips, axes and gibbets, dungeons, chains and racks are the most approved and established methods of persuading men to obedience, and impressing upon their minds the lessons of reason. There are few subjects upon which human ingenuity has been more fully displayed than in inventing instruments of torture. The lash of the whip a thousand times repeated and flagrant on the back of the defenceless victim, the bastinado on the soles of the feet, the dislocation of limbs, the fracture of bones, the faggot and the stake, the cross, impaling, and the mode of drifting pirates on the Volga, make but a small part of the catalogue. When Damiens, the maniac, was arraigned for his abortive attempt on the life of Louis XV of France, a council of anatomists was summoned to deliberate how a human being might be destroyed with the longest protracted and most diversified agony. Hundreds of victims are annually sacrificed at the shrine of positive law and political institution.“ Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, and Its Influence on General Virtue and Happiness

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