William Godwin

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Now and then it's good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy.
Guillaume Apollinaire
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If there be such a thing as truth, it must infallibly be struck out by the collision of mind with mind.

William Godwin (1756-03-031836-04-07), was a leader of the English Jacobin movement, a political philosopher, educationalist, novelist, historian and biographer. He was the husband of Mary Wollstonecraft, father of Mary Shelley and father-in-law of Percy Bysshe Shelley.


  • As the true object of education is not to render the pupil the mere copy of his preceptor, it is rather to be rejoiced in, than lamented, that various reading should lead him into new trains of thinking.
    • "Of Choice in Reading", The Enquirer (1797)
  • The poet…who is the legislator of generations and the moral instructor of the world.
    • The Life of Geoffrey Chaucer vol. 1, p. 370 (1803)

An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice (1793)

  • Perfectibility is one of the most unequivocal characteristics of the human species.
    • Vol. 1, bk. 1, ch. 2
  • If there be such a thing as truth, it must infallibly be struck out by the collision of mind with mind.
    • Vol. 1, bk. 1, ch.4
  • The illustrious archbishop of Cambray was of more worth than his chambermaid, 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…Supposing the chambermaid had been my wife, my mother 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 chambermaid; 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 expence of the other. What magic is there in the pronoun "my", to overturn the decisions of everlasting truth?
    • Vol.1, bk. 2, ch. 2
  • Whenever government assumes to deliver us from the trouble of thinking for ourselves, the only consequences it produces are those of torpor and imbecility.
    • Vol. 2, bk. 6, ch. 1
  • The proper method for hastening the decay of error, is not, by brute force, or by regulation which is one of the classes of force, to endeavour to reduce men to intellectual uniformity; but on the contrary by teaching every man to think for himself.
    • Vol. 2, bk. 8, ch. 6

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Works by William Godwin at Project Gutenberg