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Augustinian Motifs in Mandeville’s Theory of Society

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Abstract

In the eighteenth century, the Dutch-born satirist Bernard Mandeville was generally associated with deism and atheism. Nowadays scholarly opinions about his theological outlook are strongly divided. Instead of reassessing what Mandeville really believed, this article focuses on three theological motifs that recur in Mandeville’s Fable of the Bees. These typically Augustinian ideas concerning the fall of man, the two faces of evil, and the distinction between worldly and real happiness deserves more attention than they have hitherto received. Even if E. G. Hundert is right that Mandeville “abandoned the Augustinian premises” of the Calvinists and the Jansenists, he clearly did not forsake all of them. I argue that the three motifs are part of a framework within which Mandeville develops his theory of man and society. Interestingly, Mandeville’s well-known thesis “private vices, public benefits” also seems to build on these Augustinian ideas.

Joost W. Hengstmengel, "Augustinian Motifs in Mandeville's Theory of Society," Journal of Markets & Morality 19, no. 2 (Fall 2016): 317-338


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