This essay address the problem of action in William Godwin's writing, comparing his characterization of the ethical decision in An Enquiry concerning Political Justice with his much more uneasy rendering of it in Caleb Williams. The novel, coming between the two editions of Political Justice, seems to change Godwin's mind about the possibility of a clear-cut definition of action. Whereas the work of political philosophy allows the description of moral ideas leading to ethical action, the form of the novel as narrative, which requires examples of enacted decisions, stresses the necessity of the radically unknowable in the decision.
Penny Fielding; “No Such Thing as Action”: William Godwin, the Decision, and the Secret. Novel 1 November 2009; 42 (3): 380–386. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00295132-2009-031
Download citation file: