Philosophical anarchism

Philosophical anarchism

Philosophical anarchism is an anarchist school of thought [Wayne Gabardi, [ review] of "Anarchism" by David Miller, published in "American Political Science Review" Vol. 80, No. 1. (Mar., 1986), pp. 300-302.] which contends that the State lacks moral legitimacy but does not advocate revolution to eliminate it. Though philosophical anarchism does not necessarily imply any action or desire for the elimination of the State, philosophical anarchists do not believe that they have an obligation or duty to obey the State, or conversely, that the State has a right to command.

Philosophical anarchism is a component especially of individualist anarchism. [Outhwaite, William & Tourain, Alain (Eds.). (2003). Anarchism. The Blackwell Dictionary of Modern Social Thought (2nd Edition, p. 12). Blackwell Publishing] Philosophical anarchists of historical note include William Godwin, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Benjamin Tucker [Tucker, Benjamin R., "Instead of a Book, by a Man too Busy to Write One: A Fragmentary Exposition of Philosophical Anarchism" (1897, New York)] , and Henry David Thoreau [Broderick, John C. Thoreau's Proposals for Legislation. American Quarterly, Vol. 7, No. 3 (Autumn, 1955). p. 285] . Contemporary philosophical anarchists include John Simmons and Robert Paul Wolff.

According to scholar Allan Antliff, Benjamin Tucker coined the term "philosophical anarchism," to distinguish peaceful evolutionary anarchism from revolutionary variants. [Antliff, Allan. 2001. Anarchist Modernism: Art, Politics, and the First American Avant-Garde. University of Chicago Press. p.4]


Philosophical anarchists may accept the existence of a minimal state as unfortunate, and usually temporary, "necessary evil" but argue that citizens do not have a moral obligation to obey the state when its laws conflict with individual autonomy. [Klosko, George. Political Obligations. Oxford University Press 2005. p. 4] As conceived by William Godwin, it requires individuals to act in accordance with their own judgements and to allow every other individual the same liberty; conceived egoistically as by Max Stirner, it implies that 'the unique one' who truly 'owns himself' recognizes no duties to others; within the limit of his might, he does what is right for him. [Outhwaite, William & Tourain, Alain (Eds.). (2003). Anarchism. The Blackwell Dictionary of Modern Social Thought (2nd Edition, p. 12). Blackwell Publishing]

Rather than throwing bombs or taking up arms to bring down the state, philosophical anarchists "have worked for a gradual change to free the individual from what they thought were the oppressive laws and social constraints of the modern state and allow all individuals to become self-determining and value-creating." [Murphy, Brenda. The Provinceton Platers and the Culture of Modernity. Cambridge University Press 2005. pp. 31-32.] They may oppose the immediate elimination of the state by violent means out of concern that it would be left unsecured against the establishment of a more harmful and oppressive state. This is especially true among those anarchists who consider violence and the state as synonymous, or who consider it counterproductive where public reaction to violence results in increased "law enforcement" efforts.

Notable philosophical anarchists

William Godwin, the founder of philosophical anarchism,sep entry|godwin|William Godwin|Mark Philip|2006-05-20] believed that government was a "necessary evil" but that it will become increasingly unnecessary and powerless by the gradual spread of knowledge. Godwin said,

According to philosophical anarchist John Simmons:

Philosophical anarchists may not wish to disrupt a particular state, but they do not necessarily think anyone has an obligation to obey the state. According to philosophical anarchist Robert Paul Wolff, there can be no such thing as a government which "has a right to command and whose subjects have a binding obligation to obey." [Cited in Wolff's "Defence of Philosophical Anarchism" by Rex Martin. "Philosophical Quarterly", Vol 24 No 95, April 1974, p. 141]

Mahatma Gandhi also identified himself as a philosophical anarchist. []


External links

*iep|/p/poli-obl.htm#H8|Philosophical anarchism|Ned Dobos

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