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Making sense of Libertarianism


I have stumbled across this term in a few areas of philosophy, for the first time in my studies surrounding the free will vs determinism debate. It is a term first recorded by William Belsham in 1789 in this context.

It is believed to have been used to reflect anarchist thinking during the enlightenment by William Godwin, (who was married to Mary Woolstencroft, mother of Mary Shelley who wrote Frankenstein).

Godwin, in his ‘Political Justice’ was apparently the first to advocate a form of anarchy and this is how he uses the term ‘libertarian’. He saw the need for a form of minimalist state as a necessary evil and argued that it would become increasingly irrelevant as knowledge advanced.

There seems to be both a far left and far right version of libertarianism, which confuses me no end at the moment. However, both seem to stem from a need to limit state interference on free action. I should say here, that I seem to sit in the centrist position, very close to but not quite leaving the centre, which surprised me – I never saw myself as one to sit on the fence…

I will add more as I make more sense of the concept and compare liberalism with communitarianism.


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