• A defense of a Mandevillean conception of virtue

      Brydges, Caitlin (2019-05)
      Bernard Mandeville stood in dire opposition to the 18th century Augustinian moral tradition with his work The Fable of the Bees in which he argued that private vices can be public benefits. In response to his paradox, many of his contemporaries responded with resistance and criticism. In my thesis I respond to two such criticisms; one is by George Berkeley, and the other is by Francis Hutcheson. Each of their critiques represents a large body of other criticisms of Mandeville, and I defend Mandeville’s writing against both these responses on account of their misunderstandings of his work. Both of these criticisms attempt to evade the ultimatum Mandeville implicitly puts forth in his poem: embrace a rigorous standard of virtue at the cost of industry or abandon virtue in pursuit of economic prosperity. I attempt to reconcile the ultimatum with a Mandevillean reframing of virtue. This conception rejects the rigorous standard of virtue insofar as it does not require complete and total self-denial as a prerequisite for virtue; virtuous actions in this conception can have a self-regarding element. Through this reframed understanding, society can maintain virtuous conduct and economic prosperity.