IF one is to chart the intellectual ancestry of a writer with much completeness and subtlety it is necessary to know more of his private life than is known of Mandeville’s. Of Mandeville’s intellectual companions, his tastes, his reading, the practical influences that played upon him, we know little more than can be learned from his books. And these books, moreover, date from a period when he was already a mature man, the first work definitely indicative of his outlook on life — the Virgin Unmask’d (1709)— having been published in his thirty-ninth year. Yet we can, none the less, discover those general aspects of the speculation of Mandeville’s age which were base and framework for his system. We can point out certain related elements in the thinking of contemporaries and predecessors with the assurance that, if this body of cognate thought did not mould him through this or that particular work, it must at least have done so through works of the same sort.
Now, the author of the Fable of the Bees was a very cosmopolitan person. Born and educated in Holland, familiar with the Continent,1 and conversant with the literature of three nations, Mandeville’s thought partook of the international quality of its creator; and this is especially true of the psychological and economic aspects of it.
It will be remembered that a dominant element in his analysis of the human mind was his insistence on its basal irrationality, his belief that what seems like the display of pure reason is merely the dialectic by which the mind discovers reasons to justify the demands of the emotions (cf. above, i. lxiii-lxiv). Now, before searching into the earlier history of this anti-rationalistic conception, it is necessary carefully to distinguish between several kinds of anti-rationalism existent at the time. There was, first, the pyrrhonistic distrust of reason as an instrument incapable of achieving absolute truth. This was a mere commonplace of an age confronted through its geographical discoveries with the knowledge that what one people held sacred was thought evil by another, and familiar with the philosophical anarchism of ancient thinkers like Sextus Empiricus.1 Secondly, there was the aristocratic belief that the majority of men are incapable of reasoning well — a platitude shared by Plato and the village alderman, and particular to no age. Both of these forms of distrust of human reason are to be found in Mandeville,2 but neither should be confused with the type of anti-rationalism here to be considered. Pyrrhonism announced the weakness of the reason on logical rather than on psychological grounds; Mandeville — always the psychologist — was not so much interested in proving that reason is impotent to discover truth, as that, whether it find truth or not, it does so entirely at the bidding and under the sway of some sub-rational desire.1 And, whereas the aristocratic attitude distrusted merely the reason of the multitude, Mandeville declared the reason of all men the tool of their passions.
All Human Creatures are sway’d and wholly govern’d by their Passions, whatever fine Notions we may flatter our Selves with; even those who act suitably to their Knowledge, and strictly follow the Dictates of their Reason, are not less compell’d so to do by some Passion or other, that sets them to Work, than others, who bid Defiance and act contrary to Both, and whom we call Slaves to their Passions (Origin of Honour, p. 31)
It is only this form of anti-rationalism which is here to be considered.
Mandeville’s anti-rationalism is developed with such literary inventiveness that it gives the effect of great originality. It was, however, merely the most brilliant handling of a conception which, from the time of Montaigne, had been common in French thought, and which, besides, had been profoundly stated by Spinoza.1 Some of the greatest French writers — La Rochefoucauld, Pascal, Fontenelle — had anticipated Mandeville; and popular philosophers had defended the conception elaborately.2 Thus Bayle devoted several sections of his Miscellaneous Reflections, Occasion’d by the Comet to the contention that ‘ . . . Man is not determin’d in his Actions by general Notices, or Views of his Understanding, but by the present reigning Passion of his Heart’ (see below, i. 167, n. 2). And Jacques Abbadie rivalled Mandeville in his elaboration of the anti-rationalistic position:
. . . l’ame est inventive à trouver des raisons favorables à son desir, parce que chacune de ces raisons luy donne un plaisir sensible, elle est au contraire trés lente à apercevoir celles qui y sont contraires, quoy qu’elles sautent aux yeux, parce qu’elle . . . ne cherche point, & qu’elle conçoit mal, ce qu’elle ne reçoit qu’à regret. Ainsi le cœur rompant les reflexions de l’esprit, quand bon luy semble, détournant sa pensée du côté favorable à sa passion, comparant les choses dans le sens qui luy plait, oubliant volontairement ce qui s’oppose à ses desirs, n’ayant que des perceptions froides & languissantes du devoir; concevant au contraire avec attachement, avec plaisir, avec ardeur & le plus souvent qu’il luy est possible, tout ce qui favorise ses penchans, il ne faut pas s’étonner s’il se joüe des lumieres de l’esprit; & s’il se trouve que nous jugons des choses, non pas selon la verité: mais selon nos inclinations.1
Il est vray que j’ay des maximes d’equité & de droiture dans mon esprit, que je me suis accoûtumé de respecter: mais la corruption qui est dans mon cœur se joüe de ces maximes generales. Qu’importe que je respecte la loy de la justice, si celle-ci ne se trouve que dans ce qui me plaît, ou qui me convient, & s’il depend de mon cœur de me persuader qu’une chose est juste ou qu’elle ne l’est pas?1
With this body of anti-rationalistic thought Mandeville must have been conversant. Not only does his early career as a translator of French verse argue his familiarity with the literature of that nation, but such specific references as he makes in his writings are most frequently to French sources, and in particular to two writers — Bayle and La Rochefoucauld — who developed elaborately the anti-rationalistic concept.2
In addition to literature of this nature, in which anti-rationalism is formulated with considerable completeness, there were other writings which might well have prepared the way for Mandeville’s beliefs. I refer to those works in which the anti-rationalistic position is found merely in embryo. Anti-rationalism, of course, did not spring fully articulated into thought, but had a long and tortuous ancestry. It is worth our while to examine into this preliminary history, for there is no element in it here to be considered which is not advocated somewhere by Mandeville, and which may not therefore have contributed directly to his thought.
In the first place there was the sensationalistic psychology of the Peripatetics and Epicureans, elaborated by Hobbes, Locke, and others. The usefulness of this doctrine — which is found in Mandeville3 — as a groundwork for anti-rationalism is too obvious to need elucidation. — Secondly, there was the body of unorthodox thought — Epicurean and Averroistic — which held the soul to be mortal. It is no great stride from the belief that the soul (rational principle) is dependent on the body for its existence to the belief that the rational faculty cannot help but be determined by the mechanism through which it has its being. And Mandeville, it should be noted, doubts the immortality of the soul.1 — Also related to the anti-rationalism we are considering was that other form of anti-rationalism, mentioned above, which denied the ability of the reason to arrive at final truth. This philosophical anarchism, a commonplace of Renaissance thought,2 is found in Mandeville closely interwoven with his psychological anti-rationalism,3 and evidently contributed towards it. — Another probable contributing influence was an opinion kindred to the Epicureanism of the seventeenth century; I mean the opinion that men cannot help living for what seems to their advantage. Such a conception, which allows the reason no function except that of discovering and furthering what the organism desires, needs only to have its implications made clear to become anti-rationalism. Now, Mandeville propounds this belief that men cannot help acting for what seems to their profit.4 — Still another agent conducing to anti-rationalism may have inhered in the discussions of the century concerning animal automatism. Add to the belief that animals are machines the belief that they feel, as Gassendi argued; and, with Gassendi, place man in the category of animals: man is then a sentient machine. From this position it is easy to progress to a deterministic psychology in which reason is little more than a spectator of physical reactions. And Mandeville had embraced the Gassendist positions.1
Finally, there is one other precursor of anti-rationalism which did certainly enter into the formation of Mandeville’s psychology: the medical conception of the humours and temperament. From the time of the ancient Greeks,2 physicians had taught that our mental and moral constitution was determined by the relative proportions of the four ‘humours’ or body fluids — blood, phlegm, choler, and melancholy — or the four qualities — hot, cold, dry, and moist — which combine to compose a man’s temperament. Nor was this doctrine peculiar to physicians: it had been popularized by well-known literary men,3 including La Rochefoucauld. We do not, however, need the evidence that Mandeville actually cited La Rochefoucauld’s opinion that our virtues result from our temperament4 to prove that Mandeville was influenced by this popular medical concept; it is enough to know that he was himself a physician. Now, this doctrine of the dependence of the mind on the temperament is only removed by an inference from a systematic anti-rationalism which should proclaim the similar dependence of the reason on the temperament.1
A second main trait of Mandeville’s psychology, as important as his anti-rationalism, was his insistence that man is completely egoistic, that all his apparently altruistic qualities are really merely an indirect and disguised form of selfishness.2 Here again, Mandeville’s speculation was led up to by a long avenue of thought. The basal egoism of man had been lamented by theologians from the beginning of Christianity.3 It was, however, the seventeenth century that saw the rise to prominence of the careful psychologizing of human nature which distinguishes Mandeville’s theory of human selfishness from the common theological form of the doctrine. In England, Hobbes had based the conception of human selfishness on psychological analysis,1 and La Rochefoucauld, Pascal, and others had done so in France.2 Jacques Esprit, for instance, declared that
. . . depuis que l’amour propre s’est rendu la maître & le tyran de l’homme, il ne souffre en luy aucune vertu ni aucune action vertueuse qui ne luy soit utile. . . . Ainsi ils [men] ne s’acquittent d’ordinaire de tous ces devoirs que par le mouvement de l’amour propre, & pour procurer l’execution de ses desseins.
Je dis d’ordinaire, parce que je n’entre pas dans ces contestations des Theologiens . . .1 (La Fausseté des Vertus Humaines, Paris, 1678, vol. 1, pref., signn. [a 11v–12]; for a sample of other similar passages in Esprit, see i. 172).
Even writers like Nicole, who believed that the doctrine of human selfishness was not always true, yet gave it such clear and complete expression as easily to serve for propagators of the conception: 2 one needed only to omit their exceptions. So elaborate, indeed, had been the development of the doctrine, that even in such details as the analysis whereby Mandeville showed sympathy itself selfish he had been anticipated.3
The chief means, according to Mandeville, whereby the human mechanism is made to hide its ineradicable egoism under a cover of apparent altruism, and thus to deceive the uninitiated observer, is the passion of pride. To gratify this passion man will undergo the greatest deprivations, and, as a wise organization of society has ordained that actions which are for the good or ill of others shall be repaid by glory or punished by shame, the passion of pride is the great bulwark of morality, the instigator of all action for the good of others which seems contrary to the interests and instincts of the performer.1 Now, the value of pride as a spur to moral action was, of course, a commonplace of ancient thought, and, being a very obvious fact, had never ceased to be remarked. Until the Renaissance, however, theology, to which pride was the first of the deadly sins, prevented much elaboration of the usefulness of this passion. But, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, as theology lost grip, the value of pride became highly stressed, especially by the neo-Stoics.2 However, mere recognition of the utility of pride could scarcely serve as a genuine anticipation of Mandeville: the account of the uses of pride had first to become systematized, and a psychology of the emotion developed which should show it not merely a separate passion which happens to have social efficacy, but the basis of moral action in general. The real predecessors of Mandeville were those analysts who demonstrated how pride may take to itself the form of the various virtues. There were a considerable number of such anticipators.1 Mandeville, indeed was not original even in the most subtle part of his analysis of the function of pride — his reduction of modesty to a form of pride.1
It is clear, then, that the main elements in Mandeville’s vivisection of human nature had been often anticipated — by Erasmus, Hobbes, Spinoza, and Locke, and by many French writers. Of predecessors outside France, however, only Erasmus and, possibly, Hobbes, as I try to show below, had much influence. The great source of Mandeville’s psychology was France, as is seen not only from the mass of anticipations there to be found,1 but from the fact that Mandeville’s citations and the circumstances of his life show him to have been thoroughly acquainted with this French speculation.2
In the field of economics Mandeville’s most carefully developed position was his defence of luxury.3 This defence had two aspects to meet two current attitudes. In the first place, there was the attitude which made luxury a vice by making its opposite, frugality, a virtue. Mandeville met this by denying the virtuousness of national frugality: it is always, he said, merely the inevitable result of certain economic conditions and without relation, therefore, to morality: ‘ . . . a National Frugality there never was and never will be without a National Necessity’ (Fable i. 251). In the second place, Mandeville attacked the belief that luxury, by corrupting a people and wasting its resources, is economically dangerous. It is on the contrary, he argued, not only inseparable from great states, but necessary to make them great. For this defence of luxury there was little direct preparation — chiefly in Saint-Évremond.4
Nevertheless, in a way, the road to Mandeville’s position was really well paved, although this road may seem at first sight to have been leading in an opposite direction. The attacks on luxury, paradoxically, opened the way for Mandeville’s defence. The ancient world abounded in philosophers who denounced the search for wealth and luxury; and throughout the Christian era such denunciation had represented the orthodox position. According to this attitude, then, luxury was ex hypothesi condemned; and the condemnation was elaborated in the seventeenth century by analyses of primitive civilizations such as those of Rome and Sparta showing how in these states greatness and the absence of enervating luxury were synonymous.1 Meanwhile, however, commerce and manufacture were growing enormously, and, as a result, the consumption of luxuries. The interest of the state being thereby involved in this increasing trade, the safeguarding of this activity became naturally a chief end of political theory. But, although the inevitable result of worldly interests was thus to foster the development of production and commerce, and thereby the spread of luxury, yet, in the face of this actual activity, popular opinion still denounced luxury as evil in itself and corrupting in its effects. This union of conflicting attitudes — of the practical aim of getting wealth with the moral condemnation of luxury — can plainly be seen, for example, in Fénelon when, immediately after discussing the way to make a state rich, he urges, ‘Lois somptuaires pour chaque condition. . . . On corrompt par ce luxe les moeurs de toute la nation. Ce luxe est plus pernicieux que le profit des modes n’est utile’ (Plans de Gouvernement, § 7).2 The age was partly aware of this dualism, for it made an effort to reconcile its opinions by arguing that wealth could be attained without producing luxury and without depending on it (see below, i. 189, n. 2). But, none the less, it was obvious that in practice wealth and luxury were companions; and the contradiction between the actual pursuit of this wealth and the current moral condemnation of the luxury it involved remained. The popular attitude, therefore, was a compound of antagonistic intellectual reagents needing only the proper shock of one upon the other to cause an explosion. This shock was supplied by Mandeville.
In other words, here as elsewhere Mandeville gained his effect by consciousness of a contradiction in current opinion which had escaped his contemporaries. And by playing on this contradiction, by confronting, in his usual manner, the ideal with the actual, he secured a greater effect on his contemporaries than the modern reader may suspect. Since, to Mandeville’s public, luxury was morally evil, when Mandeville demonstrated that it was inseparable from flourishing states, he was not only challenging orthodox economic theory, but forcibly achieving once more the moral paradox of ‘Private Vices, Publick Benefits’.
The other very important aspect of Mandeville’s economic speculation was the defence of free trade whereby he became so important a forerunner of the school of laissez-faire.1 Mandeville’s argument that business most flourishes when least interfered with by government had two aspects according to whether considered domestically or internationally. That internal affairs are best left to their own devices was urged strongly by Mandeville (Fable i. 299–300 and ii. 353); and, although he qualified in somewhat the usual manner concerning the ‘balance of trade’, he was caused by his sense of the interdependence of nations to plead urgently for freer trade with other states (Fable i. 109–16). For this attitude there had been much preparation. In the first place, there were certain general historical factors leading naturally to a reaction against restrictions on trade. For one thing, trade was growing rapidly, and thereby bringing into prominence groups of influential men who stood to gain by the removal of barriers and monopolies. For another thing, certain changes in the public outlook on life in general had effect in the field of economics. Thus, the conception of religious toleration was developing, carrying in its wake the idea of freedom in other fields;1 and the old Stoic doctrine of ‘following nature’, as revived in the neo-Stoics of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and in jurists like Grotius, was apparently being carried over into the theory of commerce, where too ‘nature’ was to rule.2 In addition, Mandeville had the opportunity of being familiar with an extensive body of English, Dutch, and French literature urging the cause of freer trade, both domestic and international.3 Every practical aspect of Mandeville’s argument had been anticipated.1 Nor should we overlook the probable effect on Mandeville of the Dutch environment in which he grew up. The Dutch were especially concerned with free trade. They were carriers to the rest of Europe and thus possessed of the interest in the freedom of the seas reflected in the treatises of Grotius and Graswinckel — the freedom of the seas, of course, being a problem closely connected with the question of the restriction of trade. The Dutch, furthermore, were international bankers and therefore could not help having driven in upon their consciousness the interdependence of national interests. The whole matter, also, must have been brought vividly before Mandeville when the city of Amsterdam, in 1689, reduced its tariffs so as to compete with Hamburg as a port of exchange, and thus aroused a heated controversy over free trade,1 Mandeville being then at the impressionable age of nineteen and still in Holland.
But, if Mandeville was thus anticipated even in the details of his argument — if, indeed, predecessors like Barbon and North had gone beyond him — what was there original about his advocacy of free trade? There was this very important difference between Mandeville and his predecessors: they considered the welfare of the state as a whole and the interest of its individual inhabitants as not necessarily corresponding; Mandeville held that the selfish good of the individual is normally the good of the state. Mandeville, therefore, not only argued away a powerful reason for restriction, but furnished a genuine philosophy for individualism in trade. This was a profoundly important step. Hitherto, except for a very few tentative and unsystematic anticipations,1 defence of laissez-faire had been opportunist rather than a matter of general principle. Mandeville allowed it to be made systematic. It is through his elaborate psychological and political analysis that individualism becomes an economic philosophy.1
1 See above, i. xix, n. 5.
1 Cf. above, i. xli-xlii.
2 See, for instance, Fable i. 327–31 and 406.
1 There was, of course, a psychological element in the anti-rationalism of the pyrrhonists, for much of their scepticism as to the possibility of achieving truth rested on the ground that the divergence of our organisms, and, hence, of our impressions and experience, prevents the discovery of the common premisses necessary for the realization of truth. But the Sceptics were interested in criticizing conclusions rather than mental processes, and, when giving a psychological criticism, they attributed error usually to faults of sense or inference, and not, as with Mandeville, to the will to error. Still, they showed on some occasions an anti-rationalism of the Mandevillian type. Thus, Montaigne added to the more customary type of scepticism of his Apologie de Raimond Sebond some consideratlon of the rule of passion over reason from the particular anti-rationalistic point of view with which we are here concerned (see below, i. lxxx, n. 2), as did Joseph Glanvill (Essays on Several Important Subjects in Philosophy and Religion, ed. 1676, pp. 22–5, in the first essay). There naturally would be some relation between the Sceptics and anti-rationalists of the class to which Mandeville belonged, for in their attempt to show the elusiveness of truth, the Sceptics, as might be expected, considered the ability of man to deceive himself. This recognition of man’s openness to self-imposture needed only to be stressed and universalized to issue as anti-rationalism of the kind here considered. Thus, the Sceptics were among the intellectual grandparents of Mandeville.
1 See next note. — This is not to deny that Spinoza was also a rationalist (see below, i. 49, n. 1). — I take this opportunity to note that, in painting Mandeville’s background, I am not attempting to show his predecessors full-length, considering that, if they stated a concept clearly, it may often fairly be taken as a possible source of influence, whether or not the concept in question was thoroughly representative of its utterer.
2 I mass here some citations to show the prevalency of
anti-rationalism of the type now being considered: Montaigne: ‘Les secousses & esbranlemens que nostre ame reçoit
par les passions corporelles, peuuent beaucoup en elle, mais encore plus les siennes propres, ausquelles elle est si
fort en prinse qu’il est à l’aduanture soustenable qu’elle n’a aucune autre alleure & mouuement que du
souffle de ses vents, & que, sans leur agitation, elle resteroit sans action, comme vn nauire en pleine mer, que
les vents abandonnent de leur secours. Et qui maintiendroit cela suiuant le parti des Peripateticiens ne nous
feroit pas beaucoup de tort, puis qu’il est conu que la pluspart des plus belles actions de l’ame
procedent & ont besoin de cette impulsion des passions. . . . Quelles differences de sens & de
raison, quelle contrarieté d’imaginations nous presente la diuersité de nos passions! Quelle asseurance pouuons nous
donq prendre de chose si instable & si mobile, subiecte par sa condition à la maistrise du trouble, n’alant
iamais qu’un pas force & emprunte? Si nostre iugement est en main à la maladie mesmes & à la
perturbation; si c’est de la folie & de la temerité qu’il est tenu de receuoir l’impression des
choses, quelle seurte pouuons nous attendre de luy?’ (Essais, Bordeaux, 1906–20, ii. 317–19); Daniel Dyke:
‘Therefore Peter well sayes of these corrupt lusts, that they fight against the soule [I Peter ii. 11]; yea,
even the principall part thereof, the Understanding; by making it servilely to frame its judgement to their desire’
(Mystery of Selfe-Deceiving, ed. 1642, p. 283; cf. also p. 35); Pierre Le Moyne: ‘Cependant c’est ce qu’a
voulu Galien en vn Traitté [De Temperamentis], où il enseigne que les mœurs suiuent necessairement la
complexion du Corps. C’est ce que veulent encore auiourd’huy certains Libertins, qui soustiennent auecque luy, que la
Volonté n’est pas la Maistresse de ses Passions; que la Raison leur a esté donnée pour Compagne, & non pas pour
Ennemie; & qu’au lieu de faire de vains efforts pour les retenir, elle se doit contenter de leur chercher de beaux
chemins, d’éloigner les obstacles qui les pourroient irriter, & de les mener doucement au Plaisir où la Nature les
appelle’ (Peintures Morales, ed. 1645, i. 373–4); Joseph Glanvill (see his Vanity of Dogmatizing, ed.
1661, pp. 133–5); La Rochefoucauld: ‘L’esprit est toujours la dupe du cœur’ (maxim 102, Œuvres, ed. Gilbert
and Gourdault), and cf. maxims 43, 103, and 460; Mme de Schomberg: ‘ . . . c’est toujours le cœur qui fait
agir l’esprit . . .’ (cited from Œuvres de la Rochfoucauld, ed. Gilbert and Gourdault, i. 377); Pascal: ‘Tout
notre raisonnement se réduit à céder au sentiment’ (Pensées, ed. Brunschvicg, § 4, 274-ii. 199); ‘Le cœur a
ses raisons, que la raison ne connaît point . . .’ (§ 4, 277-ii. 201); cf. also § 2, 82–3 — ii. 1–14 (Pascal
anti-rationalistic, for he believes that, although ‘L’homme n’agit point par la raison’, nevertheless reason ‘fait son
êtré’ [§ 7, 439-ii. 356]); M. de Roannez is cited by Pascal as saying: ‘Les raisons me viennent après, mais d’abord la
chose m’agrée ou me choque sans en savoir la raison, et cependant cela me choque par cette raison que je ne découvre
qu’ensuite. — Mais je crois, non pas que cela choquait par ces raisons qu’on trouve après, mais qu’on ne trouve ces
raisons que parce que cela choque’ (Pensées, ed. Brunschvicg, § 4, 276-ii. 200); Malebranche: ‘
. . . leurs passions ont sur leur esprit une domination si vaste et si étenduë, qu’il n’est pas possible d’en
marquer les bornes’ (Recherche de la Verité, Paris, 1721, ii. 504); ‘Les passions tâchent toujours de se
justifier, & elles persuadent insensiblement que l’on a raison de les suivre’ (ii. 556; and cf. bk. 5, ch. 11:
‘Que toutes les passions se justifient . . .’— Malebranche, however, though giving expression to the
anti-rationalistic attitude, was far from holding it); Spinoza: ‘Constat itaque ex his omnibus, nihil nos conari,
velle, appetere, neque cupere, quia id bonum esse judicamus; sed contra, nos propterea aliquid bonum esse judicare,
quia id conamur, volumus, appetimus, atque cupimus’ (Ethica, ed. Van Vloten and Land, 1895, pt. 3, prop. 9,
scholium); ‘Vera boni et mali cognitio, quatenus vera, nullum affectum coërcere potest, sed tantum quatenus ut
affectus consideratur’ (Ethica, pt. 4, prop. 14); see also pt. 3, def. 1 and pt. 4, def. 7. Jacques
Esprit wrote, ‘ . . . ils [the philosophers] ne sçavoient pas quelle étoit la disposition des ressorts qui
font mouvoir le cœur de l’homme, & n’avoient aucune lumiere ni aucun soubçon de l’étrange changement qui s’étoit
fait en luy, par lequel la raison étoit devenuë esclave des passions’ (La Fausseté des Vertus Humaines, Paris,
1678, vol. 1, pref., sign. [a 10]). Fontenelle has, ‘Ce sont les passions qui font et qui défont tout. Si la raison
dominoit sur la terre, il ne s’y passeroit rien. . . . Les passions sont chez les hommes des vents qui sont
nécessaires pour mettre tout en mouvement . . .’ (Œuvres, Paris, 1790, i. 298, in the dialogue between
Herostratus and Demetrius of Phalerus); cf. also the dialogue between Cortez and Montezuma, and the dialogue between
Pauline and Callirrhoe on the theme ‘Qu’on est trompé, d’autant qu’on a besoin de l’étre’. Jean de la Placette
echoed Malebranche (see above in this note): ‘On a aussi remarqué que toutes les passions aiment à se justifier . . .’
(Traite de l’Orgueil, Amsterdam, 1700, p. 33). Rémond de Saint-Mard wrote, ‘Bon, il sied bien à la sagesse de
défendre les passions; elle est elle-même une passion’ (Œuvres Mêlées, The Hague, 1742, i. 66, in
Dialogues des Dieux, dial. 3). J. F. Bernard believed that man ‘a reçu la raison, mais qu’il en abuse’,
continuing, ‘Dans tous les siecles passés l’on a travaillé à le connoitre; & l’on n’a decouvert en lui qu’un Amour
propre, qui maitrise la Raison & la trahit en même tems . . .’ (Reflexions Morales, Amsterdam, 1716, p. 1;
cf. also p. 111). — For citations from Bayle, Locke, and Hobbes, see below, i. 167, n. 2; and compare i. 333,
Some writers show modified forms of this anti-rationalism. Cureau de la Chambre wrote, ‘ . . . la Vertu n’estant autre chose qu’vn mouuement reglé, & vne Passion moderée par la Raison; puisque vne Passion moderée est tousiours Passion . . .’ (Les Characteres des Passions, Paris, 1660, vol. 2, ‘Aduis au Lecteur’). And Jean de Bellegarde said, ‘ . . . peu de gens cherchent de bonne foi à se guérir de leurs passions; toute leur application ne va qu’à trouver des raisons pour les justifier . . .’ (Lettres Curieuses de Litterature, et de Morale, Paris, 1702, p. 34).
Father Bouhours, in 1687, gave some interesting testimony as to the prevalence of anti-rationalism: ‘Je ne sais pourtant, ajouta-t-il, si une pensée que j’ai vue depuis peu dans des mémoires très-curieux & très-bien écrits, est vraie ou fausse; la voici en propres termes: Le cœur est plus ingénieux que l’esprit.
‘ Il faut avouer, repartit Eudoxe, que le cœur & l’esprit sont bien à la mode: on ne parle d’autre chose dans les belles conversations; on y met à toute heure l’esprit & le cœur en jeu. Nous avons un livre qui a pour titre: Le démêlé du cœur & de l’esprit; & il n’y a pas jusqu’aux prédicateurs qui ne fassent rouler souvent la division de leurs discours, sur le cœur & sur l’esprit. Voiture est peut-être le premier qui a opposé l’un à l’autre, en écrivant à la marquise de Sablé. “Mes lettres, dit-il [Voiture, Œuvres, ed. Roux, 1858, p. 105], se font avec une si véritable affection, que si vous en jugez bien, vous les estimerez davantage que celles que vous me redemandez. Celles-là ne partoient que de mon esprit, celles-ci partent de mon cœur” ’ (La Maniere de bien penser, Paris, 1771, p. 68).
1 L’Art de se connoitre soy-meme (The Hague, 1711) ii. 241–2.
1 L’Art de se connoitre soy-meme (The Hague, 1711) ii. 233–4.
2 See below, i. ciii-cv.
3 See Fable ii. 168.
1 See his Treatise (1730), pp. 159–60.
2 See above, i. xli-xlii.
3 See Fable i. 325–33.
4 See, for instance, Fable i. 41 and ii. 178.
1 See below, i. 181, n. 1.
2 For instance, Galen in De Temperamentis.
3 For example, by Charron, De la Sagesse (Leyden, 1656) i. 89–91; Cureau de la Chambre, L’Art de connoistre les Hommes (Amsterdam, 1660), pp. 22–3; Glanvill, Vanity of Dogmatizing (1661), pp. 122 and 125; La Rochefoucauld, maxim 220 (Œuvres, ed. Gilbert and Gourdault, i. 118–19); Jacques Esprit, La Fausseté des Vertus Humaines (Paris, 1678) ii. 92 and 121–2; Laconics: or, New Maxims of State and Conversation (1701), p. 60-pt. 2, maxim 156. J. F. Bernard put it very flatly: ‘Nous vivons selon nôtre temperament, & ne sommes pas plus maîtres de nos vertus, que . . . des vertus des autres’ (Reflexions Morales, Amsterdam, 1716, p. 112). See also the first, second, and fourth citations under ‘Temperament’ sb. 6, in the Ox£ord English Dictionary.
4 Fable i. 213.
1 A more subtly related ancestor of anti-rationalism, and possibly, therefore, to some extent of Mandeville’s, is perhaps to be found in the medieval doctrine called Voluntarism. Voluntarism declared that it was the will, and not the reason, which was the efficient cause of belief: ‘Nemo credit nisi volens’. Of course, this doctrine is very different from the anti-rationalism of a Mandeville, for to the Voluntarist, in contrast to Mandeville (see Fable ii. 139, n. 1, for Mandeville’s determinism), the will was free, and therefore capable of completely rational choice and control; so that the priority of the will committed no Voluntarist to anti-rationalism. Add now, however, to Voluntarism the servum arbitrium of the Lutherans and Calvinists. This leaves the will no longer free to make rational choice; but, since the nature of God’s Creation is rational, the action of the will still remains rational despite its loss of power to choose. Now, however, take a not unnatural step: instead of having the will determined by the nature of God’s Creation, have it determined by its own nature. We then have a deterministic psychology which may easily issue as an anti-rationalism like Mandeville’s, for to the belief that the reason does not control the will is now added the belief that the will is not free to control itself by the light of reason, but must mechanically follow the dictates of its own constitution, which need not be conceived of as rational. However abstruse such a progression of concepts may sound at first, it was not, I think, in practice unlikely.
2 See above, i. lxi-lxiii.
3 Raymond Sebond, to take one instance, thus lamented the egoism of unregenerate man: ‘ . . . si Dieu n’est premierement aymé de nous, il reste que chacũ d’entre nous s’ayme soy-mesme auant toute autre chose’ (Theologie Naturelle, trans. Montaigne, 1581, f. 145v).
1 See below, i. cix.
2 For examples, see La Rochefoucauld, maxims 171, 531, and
607 (Œuvres, ed. Gilbert and Gourdault); Pascal: ‘Il ne pourrait pas par sa nature aimer une autre chose,
sinon pour soi-même et pour se l’asservir, parce que chaque chose s’aime plus que tout’ (Pensées, ed.
Brunschvicg, § vii, 483-ii. 389); the Chevalier de Méré: ‘C’est quelque chose de si commun, & de si fin que
l’interest, qu’il est toûjours le premier mobile de nos actions, le dernier point de veuë de nos entreprises, & le
compagnon inseparable du des-interessement’ (Maximes, Sentences, et Reflexions Morales et Politiques, Paris,
1687, maxim 531); Fontenelle: ‘ . . . vous entendrez bien du moins que la morale a aussi sa chimère; c’est le
désintéressement; la parfaite amitié. On n’y parviendra jamais, mais il est bon que l’on prétende y parvenir: du moins
en le prétendant, on parvient à beaucoup d’autres vertus, ou à des actions dignes de louange et d’estimé
(Œuvres, Paris, 1790, i. 336, in Dialogues des Morts); Bossuet: ‘Elle [Anne de Gonzague] croyait voir
partout dans ses actions un amour-propre déguisé en vertu’ (Œuvres, Versailles, 1816, xvii. 458); Abbadie: ‘On
peut dire même que l’amour propre entre si essentielement dans la definition des vices & des vertus, que sans luy
on ne sauroit bien concevoir ni les uns ni les autres. En general le vice est une préference de soy-même aux autres;
& la vertu semble être une préference des autres à soy-même. Je dis, qu’elle semble l’être, parce qu’en effet il
est certain que la vertu n’est qu’une maniere de s’aymer soy-même, beaucoup plus noble & plus sensée que toutes les
autres’ (L’Art de se connoitre soy-meme, The Hague, 1711, ii. 261–2); and ‘La liberalité n’est, comme on l’a
déja remarqué, qu’un commerce de l’amour propre, qui prefere la gloire de donner à tout ce qu’elle donne. La constance
qu’une ostentation vaine de la force de son ame, & un desir de paroître au dessus de la mauvaise fortune.
L’intrepidité qu’un art de cacher sa crainte, ou de se dérober à sa propre foiblesse. La magnanimité qu’une envie de
faire paroître des sentimens élevés.
‘L’amour de la patrie qui a fait le plus beau caractere des anciens Heros, n’étoit qu’un chemin caché que leur amour propre prenoit . . .’ (ii. 476; and bee also vol. 2, ch. 7, ‘Où l’on fait voir que l’amour de nous mêmes allume toutes nos autres affections, & est le principe general de nos mouvemens’); Jean de la Placette: ‘L’amour propre est le principe le plus general de nôtre conduite. C’est le grand ressort de la machine. C’est celui qui fait agir tous les autres, & qui leur donne ce qu’ils ont de force & de mouvement. Rien n’échappe à son activité. Le bien & le mal, la vertu et le vice, le travail et le repos, en un mot tout ce qu’il y a . . . dans la vie, & dans les actions des hommes, ne vient que de là (Essais de Morale, Amsterdam, 1716, ii. 2–3); Houdar de la Motte:
. . . nous nous aimons nous-mêmes,
Et nous n’aimons rien que pour nous.
De quelque vertu qu’on se pique,
Ce n’est qu’un voile chimérique,
Dont l’Amour propre nous séduit . . . .
(Œuvres, Paris, 1753–4, i 2. 362, in L’Amour Propre); J. F. Bernard: ‘L’Amour propre est inseparable de l’homme . . .’ (Reflexions Morales, Amsterdam, 1716, p. 111). A work attributed to Saint-Evremond states, ‘ . . . Honour . . . is nothing but Self-love well manag’d’ (Works, trans. Desmaizeaux, 1728, iii. 351).
Robert Waring’s Effigies Amoris (1648) has a passage on human egoism from which I quote (I cite John Norris’s translation —The Picture of Love Unveil’d, ed. 1744): ‘For this is the Merit of Benevolence, earnestly to wish well to ones self. . . . So that ’tis no wonder, that Virtue, which enjoyns a Neglect of our selves, suffers her self a greater Disregard from the World’ (p. 65). Norris himself wrote (Theory and Regulation of Love, ed. 1694, p. 46), ‘ . . . even Love of Benevolence or Charity may be, (and such is our present Infirmity) is for the most part occasion’d by Indigence, and when unravel’d to the Bottom concludes in Self-Love. Our charity not only begins at Home, but for the most part ends there too.’ See also Norris’s Collection of Miscellanies (Oxford, 1687), pp. 333-7. Before him, Glanvill stated, ‘ . . . For every man is naturally a Narcissus, and each passion in us, no other but self-love sweetened by milder Epithets’ (Vanity of Dogmatizing, ed. 1661, p. 119). See also Lee, Caesar Borgia 111 (Works, ed. 1713, ii. 41).
1 Esprit’s concession that there were some exceptions to the rule of human selfishness was in answer to the insistence of the theologians that God could by His grace inspire man with genuine altruism. This proviso that the doctrine of human selfishness was to be applied only to man in ‘the state of nature’ was added also by La Rochefoucauld and Bayle — see my note to the passage in the Fable (i. 40, n. 1) where Mandeville similarly qualifies. It might be noted that it was common — perhaps to escape prosecution — to limit many theses about human nature to man in ‘the state of nature’. Seventeenth-century anti-rationalism was often thus qualified. That a writer, however, admitted exceptions to his rule of human conduct — even when honest in the admission — did not prevent him serving as a focus for an influence which neglected his provisos — a simple procedure, since these qualifications often appeared widely separated in the text from otherwise forcible statements.
2 Cf. Nicole’s treatise De la Charité, & de l’Amour-propre. See the preceding note.
3 Compare the Fable i. 66 with the following passages: Aristotle: ἔστω δὴ ἔλεος λύπη τις ἐπὶ φαινομένῳ κακωχͅ . . . ὃ κἂν αὐτὸς προσδοκήσειεν ἂν παθει̑ν ἢ τ̑ν αὑτο̑ τινά . . . (Rhetoric 11. viii. 2 [1385 b]; this is stated in a more qualified manner in Nic. Ethics ix. viii. 2); Charron: ‘Nous souspirons auec les affligés, compatissons à leur mal, ou pource que par vn secret consentement nous participons au mal les vns des autres, ou bien que nous craignons en nous mesmes, ce qui arriue aux autres’ (De la Sagesse, Leyden, 1656, bk. 1, ch. 34); Hobbes: ‘Pity is imagination or fiction of future calamity to ourselves, proceeding from the sense of another man’s calamity’ (English Works, ed. Molesworth, iv. 44); La Rochefoucauld: ‘La pitié est souvent un sentiment de nos propres maux dans les maux d’autrui; c’est une habile prévoyance des malheurs où nous pouvons tomber . . .’ (maxim 264, Œuvres, ed. Gilbert and Gourdault); Esprit: ‘ . . . la pitié est un sentiment secrettement interessé; c’est une Prévoyance habile, & on peut l’appeller fort proprement la providence de l’amour propre’ (La Fausseté des Vertus Humaines, Paris, 1678, i. 373; cf. also i. 131–2); Houdar de la Motte:
Leur bonheur [of friends and lovers] ne nous intéresse
Qu’autant-qu’il est notre bonheur
1 Cf. above, i. lxi-lxiii.
2 Thus the neo-Stoic Du Vair had written, ‘Qui est ce qui voudroit courir seul aux ieux Olimpiques? ostez l’emulation, vous ostez la gloire, vous ostez l’esperon à la vertu’ (La Philosophie Morale des Stoïques, Rouen, 1603, f. 30). Another example of Renaissance insistence on the value of glory was offered by Giordano Bruno, who thought this desire for fame (‘l’appetito de la gloria’) the great spur (‘solo et efficacissimo sprone’) to heroism (Opere, Leipsic, 1830, ii. 162, in Spaccio della Bestia Trionphante, 2nd dial., pt. 1). These earlier writings, however, hymn not pride, but the desire for glory, which they would not always have acknowledged to be the same thing.
1 Erasmus enlarged on the social import of pride in the Encomium Moriae (see below, i. cvii-cviii, the second, third, and fourth citations in the parallel columns). La Rochefoucauld has a number of maxims on the subject — for instance, maxim 150 (ed. Gilbert and Gourdault): See also Fontenelle: ‘La vanité se joue de leur [men’s] vie, ainsi que de tout le reste’ (Œuvres, Paris, 1790, i. 297, in the dialogue between Herostratus and Demetrius of Phalerus; cf. also the dialogues between Lucretia and Barbe Plomberge, and between Soliman and Juliette de Gonzague); Houdar de la Motte:
Sa sévérité n’est que faste,
Et l’honneur de passer pour chaste
La résout à lêtre en effet.
Sagesse pareille au courage
De nos plus superbes Héros!
L’Univers qui les envisage,
Leur fait immoler leur repos
1 Thus, Daniel Dyke stated, ‘And yet this is the deceit of
our hearts, to shape our divers vices unto us, like those vertues to which they are most extremely contrary. For
example, not only base dejection of minde goes under the account of true humility, but even pride it
selfe: as in those that seek praise by disabling and dispraysing themselves . . .’ (Mystery of
Selfe-Deceiving, ed. 1642, p. 183). La Rochefoucauld argued that ‘La modestie, qui semble refuser les louanges,
n’est en effet qu’un desir d’en avoir de plus delicates’ (maxim 596, ed. Gilbert and Gourdault). In Nicole’s treatise
De la Charité, & de l’Amour-propre, ch. 5 is entitled ‘Comment l’amour-propre imite l’humilité.
See also Esprit: ‘C’est l’orgueil qui les excite à étudier & à imiter les mœurs & les façons de faire des
personnes les plus modestes, & qui est le principe caché de la modestie.
‘Dans les personnes extraordinairement habiles, la modestie est une vanterie fine . . .’ (La Fausseté des Vertus Humaines, Paris, 1678, ii. 73; cf. vol. 1, ch. 21 —‘L’Humilité’); the Chevalier de Méré: ‘Ceux qui font profession de mépriser la vaine gloire se glorifient souvent de ce mépris avec encore plus de vanité’ (Maximes, Sentences, et Reflexions Morales et Politiques, Paris, 1687, maxim 44; cf. also maxim 43); Abbadie: ‘C’est une politique d’orgueil d’aller à la gloire en luy tournant le do . . . quand un homme paroit mépriser cette estime du monde, qui est ambitionnée de tant de personnes, alors comme il sort volontairement du rang de ceux qui y aspirent, on le considere avec complaisance, on ayme son desinteressement, & on voudroit comme luy faire accepter par force, ce qu’il fait semblant de réfuser’ (L’Art de se connoitre soy-meme, The Hague, 1711, ii, 433–4). See, also, La Placette. Traite’ de l’Orgueil (Amsterdam, 1700), pp. 99–100 and 149–52.
This list might be indefinitely extended by including less thoroughgoing reductions of humility to pride, like Bourdaloue’s ‘Sermon pour le Premier Dimanche de l’Avent. Sur le Jugement Dernier’ and ‘Pensées Diverses sur l’Humilité et l’Orgueil’ (Œuvres, Paris, 1837, i. 19 and iii. 440–4).
1 That further research might show this psychology to be an Italian as well as a French product is irrelevant, since Mandeville’s citations and literary background indicate at most very slight indebtedness to Italian literature.
2 Practically all the French writers in question, it may be noted also, had been translated into English.
3 For Mandeville’s defence of luxury see Remarks L, M, N, P, Q, S, T, X, and Y, and i. 355.
4 Mandeville’s position that national frugality is not a
virtue, but the result of necessity, was somewhat anticipated by Saint-Évremond. Noting how circumstances moulded the
character of the Romans, he wrote, ‘Ansi, des idées nouvelles firent, pour ainsi parler, de nouveaux esprits; & le
Peuple Romain touché d’une magnificence inconnue, perdit ces vieux sentimens où l’habitude de la pauvreté n’avoit pas
moins de part que la vertu’ (Œuvres, ed. 1753, ii. 152, in Réflexions sur les Divers Génies du Peuple
Romain, ch. 6). Mandeville’s argument that the delicacies of life need be no more enervating than its coarser
means of subsistence (Fable i. 118–23) was also partly anticipated by Saint-Évremond: ‘ . . .
trouvez bon que les délicats nomment plaisir, ce que les gens rudes & grossiers ont nommé vice; & ne composez
pas votre vertu de vieux sentimens qu’un naturel sauvage avoit inspiré aux premiers hommes’ (Œvres iii. 210,
in Sentiment d’un Honnête . . . Courtisain).
Saint-Évremond, too, has some anticipations of Mandeville’s argument that luxury is economically desirable. Like Mandeville, he urged that frugality can be beneficial only in small states: ‘Je me représente Rome en ce temps-là, comme une vrai Communauté où chacun se désaproprie, pour trouver un autre bien dans celui de l’Ordre: mais cet esprit-là ne subsiste guére que dans les petits états. On méprise dans les Grands toute apparence de pauvreté; & c’est beaucoup quand on n’y approuve pas le mauvais usage des richesses. Si Fabricius avoit vécu dans la grandeur de la République, ou il auroit changé de mœurs, ou il auroit été inutile à sa patrie . . .’ (Œ uvres ii. 148). And again, ‘Sa [Cato’s] vertu qui eût été admirable dans les commencemens de la République, fut ruineuse sur ses fins, pour être trop pure & trop nette ‘ (Œuvres iii. 211). See also Œuvres iii. 206 (in La Vertu trop Rigide), where Saint-Évremond, like Mandeville, calls the extravagance of public despoilers ‘une espece de restitution’.
I cite below such other anticipations as I could find of Mandeville’s defence of luxury as economically advantageous: A. Arnauld: ‘Je ne crois point qu’on doive condamner les passemens, ni ceux qui les font, ni ceux qui les vendent. Et il est de même de plusieurs choses qui ne sont point nécessaires, & que l’on dit n’être que pour le luxe & la vanité. Si on ne vouloit souffrir que les arts, où on travaille aux choses nécessaires à la vie humaine, il y auroit les deux tiers de ceux qui n’ont point de revenu, & qui sont obligez de vivre de leur travail, qui mourroient de faim, ou qu’il faudroit que le public nourri’t sans qu’ils eussent rien à faire; car tous les arts nécessaires sont abondamment fournis d’ouvriers, que pourroient donc faire ceux qui travaillent presentement aux non-nécessaires, si on les interdisoit?’ (Lettres, Nancy, 1727, iv. 97, in Letter 264, to M. Treuvé, 1684); Barbon: ‘It is not Necessity that causeth the Consumption, Nature may be Satisfied with little; but it is the wants of the Mind, Fashion, and desire of Novelties, and Things scarce, that causeth Trade’ (A Discourse of Trade, ed. 1690, pp. 72–3); Sir Dudley North: ‘The main spur to Trade, or rather to Industry and Ingenuity, is the exorbitant Appetites of Men, which they will take pains to gratifie, and so be disposed to work, when nothing else will incline them to it; for did Men content themselves with bare Necessaries, we should have a poor World.
‘The Glutton works hard to purchase Delicacies, wherewith to gorge himself; the Gamester, for Money to venture at Play. . . . Now in their pursuit of those Appetites, other Men less exorbitant are benefitted . . . .
‘Countries which have sumptuary Laws, are generally poor; for when Men by those Laws are confin’d to narrower Expence than otherwise they would be, they are at the same time discouraged from the Industry and Ingenuity which they would have imployed in obtaining wherewithal to support them, in the full latitude of Expence they desire’ (Discourses upon Trade, ed. 1691, pp. 14–15; cf. also below, i. 130, n. 1); Bayle: ‘ . . . un luxe modéré a de grands usages dans la République; il fait circuler l’argent, il fait subsister le petit peuple . . .’ (Continuation des Pensées Diverses, § 124). As a rule, however, Bayle did not directly espouse luxury, but took the related position that the ascetic virtues of Christianity — which include abstention from luxury — are incompatible with national greatness (cf. Miscellaneous Reflections, ed. 1708, i. 282–5). This is the only aspect of Bayle’s treatment of luxury to which we can be sure of Mandeville’s indebtedness, for we have no proof that he had read more than the Dictionary, the Miscellaneous Reflections, and, perhaps, the Réponse aux Questions d’un Provincial (see below, i. cv, n. 1).
The attitude of the age towards luxury will be considered in André Morize’s forthcoming Les Idées sur le Luxe Écrivains Philosophes du XVIIIe Siècle.
1 Cf. Morize, L’Apologie du Luxe au XVIIIe Siècle (1909), p. 117.
2 Compare, also, in the Aventures de Télémaque, i.
118–22 with ii. 121 and 554 (ed. Cahen).
Montchrétien, too, shows the combination of the old moral condemnation of the search for worldly comfort with the new stress on the technique of aggrandizement: ‘La vie contemplative à la verité est la premiere et la plus approchante de Dieu; mais sans l’action elle demeure imparfaite et possible plus préjudiciable qu’utile aux Republiques. . . . Les occupations civiles estant empeschés et comme endormies dans le sein de la contemplation, il faudroit necessairement que la Republique tombast en ruïne. Or, que l’action seule ne luy soit plus profitable, que la contemplation sans l’action, la necessité humaine le prouve assés, et faut de là conclure, que si l’amour de verité desire la contemplation, l’union et profit de nostre societé cherche et demande l’action’ (Traicté de l’(Œconomie Politique, ed. Funck-Brentano, 1889, p. 21).
1 For Mandeville’s influence on free-trade theory see below, i. cixxxix-cxli.
1 Note how religious and commercial freedom are paired in Pieter de la Court’s widely known Interest van Holland ofte Gronden van Hollands-Welvaren (1662).
2 Petty, for instance, wrote concerning ‘the vanity and fruitlessness of making Civil Positive Laws against the Law of Nature . . .’ (Economic Writings, ed. Hull, 1899, i. 48, in Treatise of Taxes). See, also, the citation from Boisguillebert in the next note.
3 See, for instance, Thomas Mun, England’s Treasure by
Forraign Trade (1664), ch. 4, Petty, Economic Writings, ed. Hull, 1899, i. 271, in Political
Arithmetick, and Nicholas Barbon, A Discourse of Trade (1690), pp. 71–9. D’Avenant held that ‘Trade is in
its nature free, finds its own channel, and best directeth its own course: and all laws to give it rules and
directions, and to limit and circumscribe it, may serve the particular ends of private men, but are seldom advantageous
to the public’ (Works, ed. 1771, i. 98). The original editor of Sir Dudley North’s Discourses upon
Trade argued ‘That there can be no Trade unprofitable to the Publick; for If any prove so, men leave it off.
. . . That no Laws can set Prizes in Trade, the Rates of which, must and will make themselves: But when any
such Laws do happen to lay any hold, it is so much Impediment to Trade, and therefore prejudicial’ (ed. 1691,
signn. Bv–B2; see also pp. 13–14). Fénelon wrote, ‘Le commerce est comme certaines sources: si
vous voulez detourner leur cours, vous les faites tarir’ (Les Aventures de Télémaque, ed. Cahen, i. 122), and,
again, ‘ . . . laisser liberté’ (Plans de Gouvernement, § 7). Boisguillebert was the most copious
and downright of all concerning freedom of trade: ‘ . . . la nature, loin d’obéir à l’autorité des hommes,
s’y montre toujours rebelle, et ne manque jamais de punir l’outrage qu’on lui fait . . . la nature ne respire
que la liberté . . .’ (Traité des Grains, in Œconomistes Financiers, ed. Daire, 1843, pp. 387–8). Cf.
also Traité des Grains, pt. 2, ch. 3 (‘Ridicules des préjugés populaires contre l’exportation des blés’), and
see the citations from Boisguillebert below, i. cii, n. i. Among Dutch productions leaning more or less on the
side of commercial liberty may be mentioned De la Court’s Interest van Holland ofte Gronden van
Hollands-Welvaren (1662) and the Remonstrantie van Kooplieden der Stad Amsterdam (1680).
As indicated elsewhere (see below, i. 109, n. 1), most of these anticipations were, from the modern point of view, unsystematic and half-hearted. Barbon, North (or his editor), and Boisguillebert, however, went beyond Mandeville in the details of their analysis. — I should add, also, that the citations in this note are given not as specific sources for Mandeville’s opinions, but to illustrate a general background from which his opinions naturally emerged.
1 Thus, Mandeville’s reasoning (Fable i. 109–16) that if a country ceases to import it renders it impossible for other countries to buy its exports was adumbrated by D’Avenant in his Essay on the East-India Trade: ‘But if we provide ourselves at home with linen sufficient for our own consumption, and do not want that which is brought from Silesia, Saxony, Bohemia and Poland, this trade must cease; for these northern countries have neither money nor other commodities; and if we deal with them, we must be contented, in a manner, to barter our clothes for their linen; and it is obvious enough to any considering man, that by such a traffic we are not losers in the balance’ (Works, ed. 1771, i. 111). Similar reasoning may be found in Sir Dudley North’s Discourses upon Trade (1691), pp. 13–14. See also Child, New Discourse of Trade (1694), p. 175: ‘If we would engage other Nations to Trade with us, we must receive from them the Fruits and Commodities of their Countries, as well as send them ours . . . .’ He adds, however, ‘ . . . but its our Interest . . . above all kinds of Commodities to prevent . . . the Importation of Foreign Manufactures.’ For other parallels see the notes to Mandeville’s text.
1 Cf. E. Laspeyres, Geschichte der volkswirtschaftlichen Anschauungen der Niederländer . . . zur Zeit der Republik (Leipsic, 1863), p. 170.
1 Cf. Child: ‘ . . . all men are led by their
Interest, and it being the common Interest of all that engage in any Trade, that the Trade should be regulated and
governed by wise, honest and able men, there is no doubt but most men will Vote for such as they esteem so to be, which
is manifest in the East-India Company . . .’ (A New Discourse of Trade, ed. 1694, p. 110).
Boisguillebert is more full: ‘La nature donc, ou la Providence, peut seule faire observer cette justice, pourvu encore
une fois que qui que ce soit ne s’en mêle; et voici comme elle s’en acquitte. Elle établit d’abord une égale nécessité
de vendre et d’acheter dans toutes sortes de traffics, de façon que le seul désir de profit soit l’âme de tous les
marchés, tant dans le vendeur que dans l’acheteur; et c’est à l’aide de cet équilibre ou de cette balance, que l’un et
l’autre sont également forcés d’entendre raison, et de s’y soumettre’ (Dissertation sur la Nature des
Richesses, in Économistes Financiers du XVIIIe Siècle, ed. Daire, 1843, p. 409);
and, again, ‘Cependant, par une corruption du cœur effroyable, il n’y a point de particulier, bien qu’il ne doive
attendre sa félicité que du maintien de cette harmonie, qui ne travaille depuis le matin jusqu’au soir et ne fasse tous
ses efforts pour la ruiner. Il n’y a point d’ouvrier qui ne tâche, de toutes ses forces, de vendre sa marchandise trois
fois plus qu’elle ne vaut, et d’avoir celle de son voisin pour trois fois moins qu’elle ne coûte à établir. — Ce n’est
qu’à la pointe de l’épée que la justice se maintient dans ces rencontres: c’est néanmoins de quoi la nature ou la
Providence se sont chargées. Et comme elle a ménagé des retraites et des moyens aux animaux faibles pour ne devenir pas
tous la proie de ceux qui, étant forts, et naissant en quelque manière armés, vivent de carnage; de même, dans le
commerce de la vie, elle a mis un tel ordre que, pourvu qu’on la laisse faire, il n’est point au pouvoir du plus
puissant, en achetant la denrée d’un misérable, d’empêcher que cette vente ne procure la subsistance à ce dernier, ce
qui maintient l’opulence, à laquelle l’un et l’autre sont redevables également de la subsistance proportionnée à leur
état. On a dit, pourvu qu’on laisse faire la nature, c’est-à-dire qu’on lui donne sa liberté, et que qui que
ce soit ne se mêle à ce commerce que pour y départir protection à tous, et empêcher la violence’ (Factum de la
France, in Économistes Financiers, p. 280).
The citation from Child, however, is merely an unelaborated hint, and Boisguillebert is comparatively half-hearted: he does not really defend selfishness, but holds merely that, in spite of itself, it cannot mar the social harmony. Nor does he work out the details of this harmony as Mandeville does.
1 For the intellectual background of other phases of Mandeville’s thought, see elsewhere in this Introduction and in the notes to Mandeville’s text.
I have stated the difficulty of indicating more than the general background of Mandeville’s thought; yet there were some predecessors who can with certainty be specified as Mandeville’s teachers.
By far the chief of these was Pierre Bayle. In the Fable Mandeville cited Bayle and borrowed from him again and again — especially from his Miscellaneous Reflections;2 in his Free Thoughts3 Mandeville specifically confessed the debt which that book owed to Bayle’s Dictionary; and the germ of the Origin of Honour is to be found in the Miscellaneous Reflections.4 Mandeville’s basal theories are in Bayle: the general scepticism as to the possibility of discovering absolute truth; the anti-rationalism which held that men do not act from principles of reason or from regard for abstract morality, but from the reigning desires of their hearts; the corollary opinion that Christianity, despite the lip service paid it, is little followed in the world; the stress on man’s inevitable egoism, and the realization of the moral implications and uses of pride; the belief that men could be good without religion; the definition of Christianity as ascetic; and the belief that Christianity thus defined and national greatness are incompatible.1 Bayle, in fact, might almost have been planning the groundwork of the Fable when he summarized his own Miscellaneous Reflections as teaching
That considering the Doctrine of Original Sin, and that of the Necessity and Inamissibility of Grace, decided at the Synod of Dort, every reform’d Protestant is oblig’d to believe, that all, except the predestin’d, whom God regenerates and sanctifys, are incapable of acting out of a Principle of Love to God, or resisting their Corruptions from any other Principle than that of Self-love and human Motives: So that if some Men are more vertuous than others, this proceeds either from Natural Constitution, or Education, or from a Love for certain kinds of Praise, or from a fear of Reproach, &c. (Miscellaneous Reflections ii. 545).
Granted this psychology and these tenets, it needed only the educing of the latent inference to reach the doctrine that private vices are public benefits. And like Mandeville, also, Bayle refused to attack the validity of rigoristic morality because of its impracticability. Mandeville, in fact, offered as one of his guiding principles what he termed ‘that true, as well as remarkable Saying of Monsieur Baile. Les utilités du vice n’empéchent pas qu’il ne soit mauvais.’1
It is worth noting, too, that Bayle was teaching in Rotterdam while Mandeville was attending the Erasmian School there (see above, i. xvii-xviii), and that, consequently, Mandeville may have had personal contact with Bayle.
Mandeville was indebted also to La Rochefoucauld, whom he cited several times and closely paralleled in thought (see index to commentary). Both insisted that men are creatures of passion and not reason and that human motives are at bottom self-love. Much of Mandeville’s philosophy, indeed, might be summarized as an elaboration of La Rochefoucauld’s maxim, ‘Nos vertus ne sont le plus souvent que des vices déguisées’,2 with le plus souvent changed to toujours. Nevertheless, as the doctrines in question were not rare, it is impossible to tell how much Mandeville drew them from La Rochefoucauld and how much from other sources (say Bayle or Esprit)— whether, in fact, Mandeville’s debt to La Rochefoucauld was not chiefly literary — phrasal borrowings to fit beliefs already formed.
Gassendi probably helped to mould Mandeville’s thought. Mandeville had read him while yet a boy, although at that time he opposed him in his De Brutorum Operationibus (Leyden, 1689), which upheld the Cartesian position. Perhaps, however, Mandeville’s youthful attack on Gassendi was not sincere, for the Disputatio was written under the tutelage of Burcherus de Volder, a violent Cartesian;1 and a student might well have hesitated to disagree with the fundamental beliefs of his instructor. Be that as it may, when he came to write the Fable Mandeville had discarded his Cartesianism and assumed the Gassendist attitude towards both animal automatism and the relation between man and beast.2 It may be, of course, that Mandeville reached the Gassendist positions without aid from Gassendi; but the latter was rather too big a figure to pass over, especially when read young; and it is perhaps significant that Mandeville referred favourably to him in the Fable (ii. 21).3
Another noteworthy influence on Mandeville was that of Erasmus. Trained in the Erasmian School in Erasmus’s city of Rotterdam, Mandeville again and again shows traces of Erasmus’s mentorship. He cites him in the Virgin Unmask’d (1724), sign. [A 5v], in the Treatise (1730), pp. 14 and 111, and in the Fable.4 According to his own statement, also, Mandeville quotes continually from the Adagia of Erasmus (see below, i. 314, n. 2); and Typhon (1704) was dedicated to the ‘Numerous Society of Fools’, avowedly after the example of Erasmus.
The two men, indeed, had similar points of view. Erasmus too was empirical and disbelieved in absolute laws without exceptions; and he held with Mandeville that true religiousness makes demands upon human nature rarely fulfilled. Both, also, shared belief in the irreconcilability of war and Christianity.
Not only their attitudes but their cast of wit was akin, and their thoughts often took similar forms. The skeleton of the Encomium Moriae is essentially identical with that of the Fable: both works demonstrate, in a series of loosely connected essays, the necessity of something by hypothesis evil, in the one case, Folly, in the other, Vice; and Mandeville means by vice pretty much what Erasmus means by folly.
To show the general similarity between the thought of the two men I cite here some parallels:
|‘ . . . Jupiter quanto plus indidit affectuum quam rationis? quasi semiunciam compares ad assem’ (Opera, Leyden, 1703–6, iv. 417, in Encomium Moriae).||‘ . . . For we are ever pushing our Reason which way soever we feel Passion to draw it, and Self-love pleads to all human Creatures for their different Views, still furnishing every individual with Arguments to justify their Inclinations’ (Fable i. 333).|
|‘Quid autem æque stultum, atque tibi ipsi placere? te ipsum admirari? At rursum quid venustum, quid gratiosum, quid non indecorum erit, quod agas, ipse tibi displicens’ (Opera iv. 421, in Encomium Moriae)?||‘There is no Man . . . wholly Proof against . . . Flattery . . .’ (i. 51). ‘If some great Men had not a superlative Pride . . . who would be a Lord Chancellor of England, a Prime Minister of State in France, or what gives more Fatigue, and not a sixth part of the Profit of either, a Grand Pensionary of Holland?’ (i. 221) . . . ‘Self-liking . . . is so necessary to the Well-being of those that have been used to indulge it; that they can taste no Pleasure without it . . .’ (ii. 135–6).|
|‘Verum ut ad id quod institueram, revertar: quæ vis saxeos, quernos, & agrestes illos homines in civitatem coëgit, nisi adulatio’ (Opera iv. 424, in Encomium Moriae)?||‘ . . . the Moral Virtues are the Political Offspring which Flattery begot upon Pride’ (i. 51). Cf. Mandeville’s Enquiry into the Origin of Moral Virtue.|
|‘Tum autem quæ res Deciis persuasit, ut ultro sese Diis Manibus devoverent? Quod Q. Curtium in specum traxit, nisi inanis gloria, dulcissima quædam Siren, sed mirum quam a Sapientibus istis damnata’ (Opera iv. 426, in Encomium Moriae)?||‘ . . . the great Recompence in view, for which the most exalted Minds have . . . sacrificed . . . every Inch of themselves, has never been any thing else but the Breath of Man, the Aerial Coin of Praise’ (i. 54–5).|
|‘Cujus rei si desideratis argumenta primum illud animadvertite, pueros, senes, mulieres, ac fatuos sacris ac religiosis rebus præter cæteros gaudere, eoque semper altaribus esse proximos, solo, nimirum, naturae impulsu. Præterea videtis primos illos religionis auctores, mire simplicitatem amplexos, acerrimos litterarum hostes fuisse’ (Opera iv. 499–500, in Encomium Moriae).||‘As to Religion, the most knowing and polite Part of a Nation have every where the least of it. . . . Ignorance is . . . the Mother of Devotion . . .’ (i. 269). Cf. Fable i. 308.|
|‘Ego puto totum hoc de cultu pendere a consuetudine ac persuasione mortalium’ (Opera i. 742, in Colloquia Familiaria).||‘In what concerns the Fashions and Manners of the Ages Men live in, they never examine into the real Worth or Merit of the Cause, and generally judge of things not as their Reason, but Custom direct them’ (i. 172).|
I do not mean to imply, though, that Mandeville drew constantly and consciously from Erasmus as he did from Bayle. The Erasmian influence was, I believe, a general formative one, and the parallels to Erasmus — where they were derivative — the result probably of early absorption rather than of deliberate borrowing.
That the Fable often parallels and sometimes derives from Hobbes is evident from my annotations to the text, and, indeed, some indebtedness to Hobbes was inevitable at that period of thought. As early as his college days Mandeville had studied Hobbes, for he disagreed with him in his Disputatio Philosophica (1689), sign. A3v. Among their chief points of similarity is their analysis of human nature. To Hobbes also the mainspring of social action was egoism: man was a selfish animal, and society, consequently, artificial:
All society . . . is either for gain, or for glory; that is, not so much for love of our fellows, as for the love of ourselves (English Works, ed. Molesworth, ii. 5; cf. also Leviathan, pt. 1, ch. 13).
And to Hobbes as well, the love of virtue was derivable ‘from love of praise’ (Engiish Works iii. 87). Both men, too, denounced the search for a universal summum bonum (cf. English Works iii. 85), and, denying the ‘divine original’ of virtue, thought morality a human product. ‘Where no law, no injustice’ was Hobbes’s dictum (iii. 115). But in the midst of this similarity there was a very important difference. Hobbes maintained that
The desires, and other passions of men, are in themselves no sin. No more are the actions, that proceed from those passions, till they know a law that forbids them . . . (iii. 114).
Mandeville, however, when identifying current moralities with custom, did not say that genuine virtue and vice are thus dependent, but only that men’s opinions of them are. To Mandeville men in the ‘state of nature’ were ipso facto wicked, as being unredeemed from their primal degeneracy (cf. below, i. 40, n. 1).
In his account of the origin of society in Part II Mandeville is closer to Hobbes’s discussion of this matter in his Philosophical Rudiments concerning Government and Society and his Leviathan than to any other predecessor (cf. below, i. xcii, n. 1).
It is not, however, possible to gauge Mandeville’s indebtedness to Hobbes with much accuracy, since most of what Mandeville shares with Hobbes he shares also with other predecessors such as Bayle and La Rochefoucauld. Hobbes and Mandeville, besides, were both in the same current of speculation, and it is therefore always possible that Mandeville’s resemblances to Hobbes were due not so much to immediate influence as to the effect of a stream of thought which Hobbes had done so much to direct.
In the case of Locke also, although Mandeville cites him and shows kinship to him, it is not possible to be certain how much he was influenced by him directly, and how much indirectly through the medium of an age which Locke had so greatly affected.
Of the various other precursors noted in the first part of this section, Mandeville specifically cited only Saint-Evremond,1 Fe,2 Spinoza,3 and Montaigne.4 From Saint-Evremond Mandeville may well have drawn for his defence of luxury.5 As to the various other possible progenitors of Mandeville, their very multiplicity precludes any certainty in the selection of particular ones as sources. Those most likely to have had important general influence — if we judge by the quantity and closeness of the parallel passages recorded in my notes — are Spinoza,1 Esprit, Abbadie, North, and D’Avenant.2
From this chapter and the notes to the text it will be seen that a great part of Mandeville’s thought was derivatory. What he did was to take conceptions of more or less currency and give to them an especially vivid embodiment; and if there was any self-contradiction in these conceptions, or if they had their roots in attitudes and circumstances usually concealed, he gave to these contradictions and concealments an especial prominence, so that merely by fully stating them he rendered men aghast at theories they had held all their lives. Much of his originality, then, lay in his manner of exposition.
But, for all that, Mandeville’s was essentially an original mind — in so far as there is such a thing. The reader who thinks that Mandeville’s evident borrowings show him a mere dealer in the second-hand would do well first to consider that the author of original mind is often (like Montaigne) more full of evident borrowings than the prosaic writer. The self-conscious, individualized, original thinker recognizes at once kindred elements in the thought of others; and, in his satisfaction at finding a sympathetic view-point in the midst of a world whose conventional opinions are usually hostile, may make an especial parade of statements by other writers with which he agrees. It should also be remembered that sufficient research can make any thought seem stale. If originality consists in not being anticipated, no one was ever original. We cannot help drawing from the old thoughts with which we first fed our consciousness; but we are not thereby made unoriginal unless we retail these thoughts without rethinking them. Mandeville did rethink them: in his books they bear the especial stigmata of his own mind. And, in such contributions as his psychologizing of economics and his extraordinary sketch of the origin of society,1 he offered that drawing of latent inference from old material, that novel rearrangement of old knowledge, which constitutes the positive side of originality.
2 See index to commentary.
3 Ed. 1729, pp. xix-xxi.
4 See below, i. 222, n. 1.
1 For consideration of Bayle’s doctrines see above, i. xlii-xlv, and cf. the index to commentary.
1 Letter to Dion (1732), p. 34. Mandeville seems to have made this phrase out of two similar statements in Bayle —‘Que la necessité du vice ne détruit point la distinction du bien & du mal’ and the rhetorical question, ‘Les suites utiles d’une vice peuventelles empécher qu’il ne soit un vice?’ (Bayle, Oeuvres Diverses, The Hague, 1727–31, iii. 977 and 978, in Réponse aux Questions d’un Provincial).
2 Réflexions ou Sentences et Maximes Morales, 4th ed., heading.
1 De Volder’s superintendence of the Disputatio is stated on its title-page. De Volder was so insistent a partisan of Descartes that on 18 June 1674 action was taken by the university authorities to stop his onslaughts against the Aristotelian philosophy (Bronnen tot de Geschiedenis der Leidsche Universiteit, ed. Molhuysen, iii (1918). 293). De Volder was not the only active Cartesian, for a deliberation of the curators on 18 Dec. 1675 shows the Cartesian professors to have forced the Aristotelians into silence (Bronnen iii. 314).
2 Cf. below, i. 181, n. 1.
3 It should be noted, however, that Mandeville’s anti-Cartesianism might have been inspired by other writers — for example, by Bayle, who so much affected him (cf. above, i. 44, n. 2, and 181, n. 1).
4 The citation in the Free Thoughts (ed. 1729, p. 142, n a) comes at second hand from Bayle’s Dictionary (ed. 1710, i. 458, n. C).
1 Cf. the Origin of Honour (1732), p. 119.
2 Cf. Free Thought (1729), pp. 68, 78, and 81.
3 See below, i. cxi, n. 1.
4 At least one of the citations from Montaigne (see index to commentary) is, however, drawn at second hand from Bayle.
5 Cf. above, i. xciv, n. 4.
1 Except one very general unfavourable reference to Spinoza (Fable ii. 312) Mandeville did not explicitly cite him, but it is possible that he owed something to the Tractatus Politicus and to the Ethica. Besides the parallels of thought and phrase indicated in my annotations, there is also the following resemblance in an unusual thought. Spinoza wrote, ‘Concludo itaque, communia illa pacis vitia . . . nunquam directe, sed indirecte prohibenda esse, talia scilicet imperii fundamenta jaciendo, quibus fiat, ut plerique, non quidem sapienter vivere studeant (nam hoc impossibile est), sed ut iis ducantur affectibus, ex quibus Reip. major sit utilitas’ (Opera, ed. Van Vloten and Land, 1895, i. 341, in Tractatus Politicus x. 6). With this compare Mandeville’s Origin of Honour, pp. 27–8: ‘ . . . on the one Hand, you can make no Multitudes believe contrary to what they feel, or what contradicts a Passion inherent in their Nature, and . . ., on the other, if you humour that Passion, and allow it to be just, you may regulate it as you please.’ The thought, too, has close kinship with the main theme of the Fable, that by skilful management human failings may be turned to the public advantage. — Mandeville’s apparent hostility to Spinoza may have been simply a reflection of Bayle’s attitude (see, for instance, the article on Spinoza in Bayle’s Dictionnaire).
2 See the index to commentary under these names and under Anticipations.
1 There were before Mandeville only embryonic and
fragmentary considerations of the growth of society from the evolutionary point of view which he adopted. Of the
ancients (Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound, lines 442–506; Critias [in Sextus Empiricus, Adversus Physicos
ix. 54]; Plato, Statesman 274 B; Aristotle, Politics 1. ii; Moschion,
Fragmenta vi. 9 [Poetarum Tragicorum Græcorum Fragmenta, pp. 140–1, in Fragmenta
Euripidis, ed. Wagner and Dübner, Paris, 1846]; Lucretius, De Rerum Natura, bk. 5; Horace,
Satires 1. iii; Diodorus Siculus 1. i; and Vitruvius, De Architectura 11. 33 i), Lucretius
was the most elaborate. The moderns until Mandeville added comparatively little. There was either no or slight
anticipation of Mandeville in Mariana (De Rege et Regis Institutione, bk. 1, ch. 1), Vanini (De Admirandis
Naturæ . . . Arcanis), Temple (Essay upon the Original and Nature of Government), Matthew Hale
(Primitive Origination of Mankind), Bossuet (Discours sur l’Histoire Universelle, ed. 1845, pp.
9–10), Fontenelle (De l’Origine des Fables), or Fénelon (Essai Philosophique sur le Gouvernement
Civil, ch. 7); nor was he anticipated in other works dealing more or less with the development of society, such as
those of Machiavelli, Bodin, Hooker, Suarez, Grotius, Selden, Milton, Hobbes, Lambert van Veldhuyzen, Pufendorf,
Filmer, Locke, Thomas Burnet, or Vico.
Most of these thinkers were caged, in a way that Mandeville was not, by theological prepossessions. They failed to realize, as he realized, how little society was deliberately ‘invented’. And they were interested rather in educing morals than in analysing facts. I have found no predecessor — not even Hobbes — even remotely rivalling the account of social evolution given by Mandeville in Part II of the Fable.
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