William Godwin on debt

William Godwin did not philosophically address the question of debt obligations, although he often had many. Perhaps this helps to explain the omission. It’s very likely that Godwin would deny that
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William Godwin (1756-1836) did not philosophically address the question of debt obligations, although he often had many. Perhaps this helps to explain the omission. It’s overwhelmingly likely that Godwin would deny that there is such a thing as the obligation to repay debts, and his creditors wouldn’t have liked to hear that. A debt is a type of promise, and Godwin denies that promises generate obligations. It is not that we should never do as we have promised, of course. Rather, we should always perform what we think to be the right – the most just – action, regardless of whether it is or is not what we have promised to do: “I ought to be guided by the intrinsic merit of the objects, and not by any external and foreign consideration. No engagements [i.e., promises] of mine can change their intrinsic claims.” (Political Justice, Book 3, Chapter 3). Later Godwin comes to the question: ‘if promises be not made, or when made be not fulfilled, how can the affairs of the world. . .

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News source: OUPblog » Philosophy

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