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Bernard Mandeville (1670-17) was a doctor and a philosopher, whose work had a large impact on the course of 18th century social and political philosophy. In 1705, he published a poem with the title The Grumbling Hive. The poem told of a wealthy and powerful beehive whose inhabitants acted only in pursuit of gain and esteem. This same poem reappeared nine years later as part of The Fable of the Bees. According to Mandeville in his writings, there are most hateful qualities in men that make them sociable beings. These qualities include pride, vanity, self-interest, lust, and greed. Mandeville explained that these qualities make us fit to live in a large and flourishing society. In a state of nature, people only pursue their own desires, without thinking of the consequences for others. As such, a human being is a dangerous untaught animal, one that is too cunning and skillful to be subdued and brought to society by force. Happily, however, people have a characteristic that makes them fit for society. This characteristic is the value they place on themselves, and their wish to see this high opinion of themselves affirmed by others. Realizing this concept, leaders of small groups of men have constructed an image of a praiseworthy person who controls his passion in the interest of others. These skillful politicians then encourage people to conform to this image by heaping praise on all who act in accordance with it. And since it is to everyones benefit to preach up public-spiritedness, that they reap the fruits of the self-denial of others, other people readily join in. As Mandeville puts it, for the effort of controlling his destructive appetites, man is paid by his peers through the praise that he receives. Mandeville believes that we have come to call qualities such as pride and vanity vices because these qualities are selfish by nature. He finds that man is a compound of various passions, that all of them, as they are provoked, come uppermost, and govern him whether he will or not. The gratification of these passions is wholly selfish, Mandeville asserts. He defines vice as every thing, which, … man should commit to gratify any of his appetites, and virtue as every performance, by which man, contrary to the impulse of nature, should endeavor the benefit of others, or the conquest of his own passions out of a rational ambition of being good. However, since Mandevilles view of human nature portrays man as a selfish creature, wholly governed by his passions, peoples behavior will always be vicious and true virtue can have no role in managing peoples destructive desires.


Jean Jacques Rousseau (171-1788) was a philosopher, essayist, novelist, and musician. His most important work first came out in 1755 entitled Discourse on the Origin of Inequality. In this writing, Rousseau asserted that the philosophers who have examined the foundations of society have all felt the necessity of returning to the state of nature, but none of them has reached it. Rousseau believes that Mandeville is one of these philosophers because Mandeville has given no indication of a deep comprehension of the true nature of humans. Mandeville believes that emotions and passions such as pride and greed are a nature of men. Rousseau sees it from a different perspective. He believes that men in a natural state are devoid of these vices. In the state of nature morality is not an issue of the natural man. As he enters society, morality is abandoned by rationality as man tries to repress others. In a legitimate society, the government enforces morality by laws, and man acts morally neutral as if he was in the state of nature. The most hateful qualities that men exhibit are only present because of the environment that man is in. Rousseau believes that these vices are a part of the natural environment and not the nature of men. But since other philosophers have not been able to distinguish this difference, they have yet to understand the true meaning of the state of nature. Mandeville has felt the necessity of returning to the state of nature by explaining the correlation between private vices and public benefits. He argues that mans vices are the key to sociability and material success. In order for man to truly fit in with society, his actions will be vicious in motive in an attempt to benefit the public. Such actions will serve mans self-interest and do good for society. It is on this basis that Rousseau asserts that Mandeville has not yet reached the state of nature. Rousseau understands that man can be corrupted and vile in his interaction with other people. But such qualities are the fault of society, not man. According to Rousseau, Mandevilles examination into mans vices needs to be deeper in order for him to achieve the state of nature. By Rousseaus standard, the natural man is free of the vices that Mandeville claims that man has.







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