David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Philosophy of the Social Sciences 20 (1):35-55 (1990)
The attack on perfectibilism in T. R. Malthus's Essay on Population (1798) is methodologically hollow. Malthus presents himself as a Newtonian empiricist, yet his analysis of equalitarian society is entirely abstract. Godwinian equality is debunked by means of a thought experiment. Malthus fails to take note of a variety of historical instances of equalitarian social practice (Sparta, the Moravians, and so on), thus undermining his empiricist posture. This deficiency in the critique of equality is remedied, to some degree, in the fifth edition of the Essay (1817), where Malthus finally cites some of the historical evidence relevant to an assessment of equalitarianism.
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