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249 10 From Naturalism to Reductionism Mandeville’s Passion and Hutcheson’s Moral Sense Before exploring how Shaftesbury’s “moral sense” theory is consolidated by Francis Hutcheson and, eventually, critiqued in Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments, some consideration will have to be given to Mandeville’s revival of Locke’s anti-metaphysical conception of the will, viz., as a strictly empirical and unrelentingly hedonistic “passion.” First published in 1714, his Fable of the Bees greatly expands the critique of virtue ethics that Mandeville had first presented in his 1705 satirical poem, “The Grumbling Hive.” Beginning in 1723, the Fable’s second edition secured it and its author considerable notoriety, including its presentation by the Grand Jury of Middlesex as a public nuisance. Like Joseph Addison’s and Richard Steele’s Tatler and Spectator, Jonathan Swift’s satires, Daniel Defoe’s economic writings , Joseph Butler’s Analogy and, eventually, David Hume’s Essays, Mandeville’s Fable attests that during the early decades of the eighteenth century “Britain’s intellectual sphere had turned into a competitive market for ideas, in which logic and evidence were becoming more important and ‘authority’ as such was on the defensive.” For the first time, “the word innovation, traditionally a term of abuse, had become a word of praise.”1 Further editions, again revised and enlarged, followed in rapid 1. Mokyr, Enlightened Economy, 31; Gay, Enlightenment (vol. 2), 3. 250 progressive amnesia succession (in 1725, 1728, 1729, 1732, and 1733, the year of Mandeville’s death), along with translations into French (1740 and 1760) and German (1761). Even before Mandeville, the Jansenist Pierre Nicole (1625–1695) had already hinted at the possible alignment of virtue and self-interest in an essay “Of Charity and Self-Love” and, in so framing the question, had prepared the ground for a strictly secular conception of virtue. Characteristically, Nicole forgoes the Latinate virtū in favor of the French honnêteté, a word “evocative of the tradition of courtly civility, of outward courtesy with its preoccupation with form.”2 The shift toward a more empirical tone and, consequently, toward a more skeptical or outright suspicious appraisal of virtue coincides with a deliberate retreat from moral philosophy as a metaphysical enterprise . In its place arise the eighteenth-century’s twin preoccupations with the anatomy and classification of contingent and frequently overlapping types of sentiment, and the quasi-behaviorist analysis of autonomous selves as they traverse rapidly changing social spaces in the manner of Democritus’s atoms. Few eighteenth-century works offer a more vivid illustration of what Roy Porter has characterized as the “switch from asking how can I be good to how can I be happy” than Mandeville’s Fable of the Bees.3 To which it should be added that the Fable effects yet another crucial shift, viz. from a conception of knowledge as intrinsically “responsible” and deeply implicated in some metaphysical framework or other, to one of knowledge as efficient causation and as a quasi-instinctual instrument of “power.” The latter view, of course, was hardly new and had already been advanced in those very terms by Hobbes. Yet beginning with the economic manifestos and moral polemics of the early eighteenth century, intellectual argument seems to be asphyxiated by its excessive commitment to deductive reasoning. Increasingly, being committed to one view eo ipso means rejecting, rather than dialectically engaging , other perspectives. The quest for economic advancement, which as J. G. A. Pocock has shown was bound to transform the very substance of personality by a proliferation of speculation, innovation, and ingenuity (all terms undergoing rapid reappraisal after 1700), appears all but incommensurable with languages counseling moral and ethical self-discipline. Still, there is no shortage of religious, political, and rhetorical institutions, modes, and genres urging the importance of virtuous selfgovernance and extolling a civic-republican commitment to the common weal. In2 . Herdt, Putting on Virtue, 255. As Herdt goes on to note, “there is little sense of the Christian as loved by God and summoned by God into the fellowship of the divine life. Where the capacity for true virtue is understood as contingent on the reception of supernatural grace and where ordinary participation in the sacramental means of grace does not lend assurance that this grace has been given, the stage has been set for anxiety and suspicion directed at the apparently graced and apparently virtuous” (256). On Nicole, see ibid., 249–261, and also Schneewind, Invention, 275–279. 3. Porter, “Enlightenment in England,” 14. From Naturalism...


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