Imagining What An Ideal World Would Look Like
By Jade Hermosillo
Who are the “cool” people in your life? It is an important question to ask yourself because you might see those people and maybe even yourself differently after reading this short article.
When one is a young child, say from kindergarten through elementary school, the “cool” kids in the class were usually those who had fancy decorative pens, who brought their expensive toys to show and tell, and whose parents always took them on fun vacations. A few years go by, and you hear about them getting their own rooms, multiple Apple products, and the newest gaming systems.
Do you notice a pattern? As life goes on, we continue to judge people in terms of the things they have. Do you ever find yourself comparing your belongings to theirs? What if we only judged others based on their character and actions?
Born in 1756, William Godwin would be remembered as possibly the first “philosophical anarchist.” Before continuing, it is important to keep in mind that the term “Anarchism” is thrown around a lot and is usually portrayed as chaos and disorder in movies and media. However, there are many different forms of anarchism, and one way to think about it is simply another way of thinking about how we should live. Furthermore, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy provides a few good definitions of anarchism being “a political theory that is skeptical of the justification of authority and power…[offering] a positive theory of human wellbeing, based upon an ideal of equality, community, and non-forceful consensus building”. Doesn’t sound too chaotic, right?
Out of Godwin’s many philosophies came the idea of “self-esteem,” meaning that people are always looking for ways to feel good about themselves, which he implies is a natural instinct. However, his problem lies in how we measure ourselves. John P. Clark wrote a book titled The Philosophical Anarchism of William Godwin (1977), where he analyzes some of Godwin’s most important work. When it comes to self-esteem, Clark comes to the conclusion that Godwin sees that “the value of a person comes to be equated with the number of material things he possesses.” In short, he believes that we live in a world where people measure each other’s worth based on how much money, and as a result, how many things they have.
To end on a more optimistic point of view on human nature, Godwin offers an alternative way of satisfying our self-esteem: by simply being good people and helping others. For one second, imagine a world where money is not an issue or an incentive, would we still be motivated to work? Clark believes Godwin would agree with him that if everyone were allowed to choose their own career paths, then people would “voluntarily choose to do [their] just share of the work and to distribute [their] products to others equitably. Individual conscience and social pressure would be the only forces used”.
This shows that if there wasn’t the worry of money, then people would still feel the pressure of others to contribute to the world, but by instead doing a job they enjoy. To conclude, this essay might seem like something of a utopia or “unrealistic,” which may be true. However, this does not mean we can’t hope for a more equal and happier society in the future. We can start doing this by changing how we measure ourselves and others. Hold people accountable for their actions and don’t make excuses for them just because they have a cool “this or that,” and you too can start forming better relationships.
Fiala, A. (2021, October 26). Anarchism. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/anarchism/
Clark, J. P. (1977). The Philosophical Anarchism of William Godwin. Princeton University Press.