Mandeville’s argument in The Fable, a contradictory defense of the usefulness of vices (which means immoral or wicked behavior), is based on his definition of all actions as equally vicious in that they are all motivated by self-interest. Yet while the motives must be vicious, the results of action are often socially beneficial, since they produce the wealth and comforts of civilization.
I think that Mandeville laid the foundation for Darwinism in terms of social order, by that I mean Darwins idea of natural selection for example. Natural selection is basically the idea that those that are smart to survive have the capability to do so and those who aren’t don’t have the capability to survive. Mandeville stated that the wealth of nations was based on immoralities such as greed (or how he words it avarice) and prodigality. He strongly believed that every man acted only to pursue his own self interest, however that was crucial to society and the economy. Darwin’s viewpoint of this is that people that act in their own self interest, will eventually lead to a survival of the fittest type society/economy. Both of the men have a similar viewpoint, don’t they?
Mandeville simply wanted to explain the origin of morality and the development of the social order as being entirely the result of natural processes within the physical world, and not by means of a planned, purposeful fate. On the contrary, Charles Darwin wanted to explain the orderliness of the biological world strictly in terms of naturalism.
The Fundamental question of Mandeville’s philosophy: What are the main causes of the wealth of nations? Mandeville’s answer to this issue made a fundamental break with the prevailing social and moral philosophy of his era: it placed the original responsibly of creating the wealth of nations of individuals who pursue their self interest, rather than on any sort of divine involvement, like relying on Gods help for example. Mandeville believed that human behavior, in its broad spectrum, could be traced back to the passions of pride and vanity, their effects, and the efforts made to control, hide, and gratify them. In contrast to the common belief that personal virtue and civic engagement are necessary to the well-being of the society.
The parallels between Darwinian evolution and Mandeville’s social and economic thoughts are easily seen; Mandeville says, “culture, was the result of individual strivings which had no such end in view, but which were channelled to serve such ends by institutions, practices and rules, which also had never been deliberately invented but had grown up by the survival of what proved successful.” This is exactly applied to Darwinian evolution, the principle of natural selection, however it just so happens to apply to economics and sociology. The Idea of the spontaneous natural order originates in western philosophy with Mandeville. The idea of natural selection is in my opinion what Mandeville laid the foundation for Darwinian evolution.
Mandeville’s philosophy gave great offence at the time, and has always been condemned as false, cynical and degrading. His main thesis is that the actions of men cannot be divided into lower and higher.
Thanks for reading this essay. I hope you liked it or learned something new from it. Ill be posting more soon and have a great rest of your day!