Front Page Titles (by Subject) II. EDUCATION - An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, Vol. I.
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II. EDUCATION - William Godwin, An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, Vol. I. 
An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, and its Influence on General Virtue and Happiness, vol. 1 (London: G.G.J. and J. Robinson, 1793).
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But, if it appear that literature, unaided by the regularityBenefits of education. of institution and discipline, is inadequate to the reformation of the species, it may perhaps be imagined, that education, commonly so called, is the best of all subsidiaries for making up its defects. Education may have the advantage of taking mind in its original state, a soil prepared for culture, and as yet unin BOOK I. CHAP. IV. fested with weeds; and it is a common and a reasonable opinion, that the task is much easier to plant right and virtuous dispositions in an unprejudiced understanding, than to root up the errors that have already become as it were a part of ourselves. If an erroneous and vicious education be, as it has been shewn to be, the source of all our depravity, an education, deprived of these errors, seems to present itself as the most natural exchange, and must necessarily render its subject virtuous and pure.
I will imagine the pupil never to have been made the victim of tyranny or the slave of caprice. He has never been permitted to triumph in the success of importunity, and cannot therefore well have become restless, inconstant, fantastical or unjust. He has been inured to ideas of equality and independence, and therefore is not passionate, haughty and overbearing. The perpetual witness of a temperate conduct and reasonable sentiments, he is not blinded with prejudice, is not liable to make a false estimate of things, and of consequence has no immoderate desires after wealth, and splendour, and the gratifications of luxury. Virtue has always been presented to him under the most attractive form, as the surest medium of success in every honourable pursuit, the never-failing consolation of disappointment, and infinitely superior in value to every other acquisition.
It cannot be doubted that such an education is calculated toBOOK I. CHAP. IV. Causes of its imbecility. produce very considerable effects. In the world indeed the pupil will become the spectator of scenes very different from what his preconceived ideas of virtue might have taught him to expect. Let us however admit it to be possible so to temper the mind, as to render it proof against the influence of example and the allurements of luxury. Still it may be reasonable to doubt of the sufficiency of education. How many instances may we expect to find, in which a plan has been carried into execution, so enlightened, unremitted and ardent, as to produce these extraordinary effects? Where must the preceptor himself have been educated, who shall thus elevate his pupil above all the errors of mankind? If the world teach an implicit deference to birth and riches and accidental distinctions, he will scarcely be exempt from this deference. If the world be full of intrigue and rivalship and selfishness, he will not be wholly disinterested. If falshood be with mankind at large reduced to a system, recommended by the prudent, commanded by the magistrate, inforced by the moralist* , and practised under a thousand forms, BOOK I. CHAP. IV. the individual will not always have the simplicity to be sincere, or the courage to be true. If prejudice have usurped the feat of knowledge, if law and religion and metaphysics and government be surrounded with mystery and artifice, he will not know the truth, and therefore cannot teach it; he will not possess the criterion, and therefore cannot furnish it to another. Again; if a man thus mighty, thus accomplished, thus superior to rivalship and comparison, can be found, who will consent to the profanation of employing him in cultivating the mind of a boy, when he should be instructing the world?
Education, in the sense in which it has commonly been understood, though in one view an engine of unlimited power, is exceedingly incompetent to the great business of reformingBOOK I. CHAP. IV. mankind. It performs its task weakly and in detail. The grand principles that the inventor seeks in his machines, and the philosopher in investigating the system of the universe, are such, as from a few simple data are sufficient to the production of a thousand events. But the education I have been describing is the reverse of this. It employs an immense combination of powers, and an endless chain of causes for the production of a single specimen. No task, which is not in its own nature impracticable, can easily be supposed more difficult, than that of counteracting universal error, and arming the youthful mind against the contagion of general example. The strongest mind that proposed this as its object, would scarcely undertake the forming more than one, or at most a very small number, of pupils. Where can a remedy be found for this fundamental disadvantage? where but in political justice, that all comprehensive scheme, that immediately applies to the removal of counteraction and contagion, that embraces millions in its grasp, and that educates in one school the preceptor and the pupil?
[*]The following passage is extracted from Lord Kaimes, late one of the judges of the kingdom of Scotland.