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Mandeville, Bernard (1670–1733)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-S081-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved June 24, 2024, from

Article Summary

Bernard Mandeville’s Fable of the Bees (1714) scandalized contemporaries by arguing that the flourishing commercial society they valued depended on vices they denounced. It resulted not only from the complementary satisfaction of appetites but was also based upon pride, envy and shame, which Mandeville traced to ‘self-liking’. Numerous individuals, driven by their own desires, acted independently to produce goods which required extensive, cooperative operations – an idea central to the economic concept of a market.

Mandeville initially appeared to credit ‘skilful politicians’ with originating morality and society. However, in defending and expounding his views, he set out ‘conjectural histories’ of the gradual development of many complex social activities and institutions, including language and society itself, thereby denying that they had been invented by public spirited heroes. Throughout his works, Mandeville adopted a strict criterion of virtue, repeatedly denying that he was advocating, rather than exposing, the vices he identified as inherent in human society.

Citing this article:
Goldsmith, M.M.. Mandeville, Bernard (1670–1733), 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-S081-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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