Mandeville, Bernard De
Mandeville, Bernard de a skeptical writer inthe English tongue, was born of French extraction about 1670 at Dort, Holland, and went to England near the opening of the 18th century. He practiced medicine in London, but does not appear to have had much success as a physician, and depended mainly on his literary activity for the means of support. He died in 1733. In the article DEISM SEE DEISM (q.v.) the name of Mandeville has not been inserted "because his speculations" (see works below), as Farrar says (Crit. Hist. of Free Thought, p. 135, note 65), "did not bear directly on religion." Upon morality, however, Mandeville exerted so great an influence that we cannot pass him unnoticed. His attacks on Christian morals already reveal him to have been a champion of Deism. The doctrines laid down in several of his works is nothing more nor less than a further elucidation of the assertion of Bayle (in Pensees diverses), that Atheism does not necessarily make man vicious, nor a state unhappy, because dogmas have no influence on the acts of men. Superficial observation of society led Mandeville to the belief that many institutions of public weal derive their strength and support from prevailing immorality. This view he developed in a poem entitled The Grumbling Hive, or Knaves turned Honest (1714), to which he afterwards added long explanatory notes, and then published the whole under the new title of The Fable of the Bees. However erroneous may be its views of morals and of society, it bears all the marks of an honest and sincere inquiry on an important subject. It exposed Mandeville, however, to much obloquy, and, besides meeting with many answers and attacks, was denounced as injurious to morality. It would appear that some of the hostility against this work, and against Mandeville generally, is to be traced to another publication, recommending the public licensing of stews, the matter and manner of which are certainly exceptionable, though it must at the same time be stated that Mandeville earnestly and with seeming sincerity recommends his plan as a means of diminishing immorality, and that he endeavored, so far as lay in his power, by affixing a high price and in other ways, to prevent the work from having a general circulation.
Mandeville subsequently published a second part of The Fable of the Bees, and several other works, among which are two entitled 'Free Thoughts on Religion, the Church, and National Happiness, and An Inquiry into the Origin of Honor and the Usefuless of Christianity in War." The Fable of the Bees, or Private Vices Public Benefits, may be viewed in two ways, as a satire on men and as a theory of society and national prosperity. So far as it is a satire, it is sufficiently just and pleasant; but viewed in its more ambitious character of a theory of society, it is altogether worthless. It is Mandeville's object to show that national greatness depends on the prevalence of fraud and luxury; and for this purpose he supposes a 'vast hive of bees,' possessing in all respects institutions similar to those of men; he details the various frauds, similar to those among men, practiced by bees one upon another in various professions; he shows how the wealth accumulated by means of these frauds is turned, through luxurious habits, to the good of others, who again practice their frauds upon the wealthy; and, having already assumed that wealth cannot be gotten without fraud and cannot exist without luxury, he assumes further that wealth is the only cause and criterion of national greatness. His hive of bees having thus become wealthy and great, he afterwards supposes a mutual jealousy of frauds to arise, and fraud to be by common consent dismissed; and he again assumes that wealth and luxury immediately disappear, and that the greatness of the society is gone. It is needless to point out inconsistencies and errors, such, for instance, as the absence of all distinction between luxury and vice, when the whole theory rests upon obviously false assumptions; and the long dissertations appended to the fable, however amusing and full of valuable remarks, contain no attempts to establish by proof the fundamental points of the theory. In an 'Inquiry into the Origin of Moral Distinctions,' contained in The Fable of the Bees, Mandeville contends that virtue and vice, and the feelings of moral approbation and disapprobation, have been created in men by their several governments, for the purpose of maintaining society and preserving their own power. Incredible as it seems that such a proposition as this should be seriously put forth, it is yet more so that it should come from one whose professed object was, however strange the way in which he set about it, to promote good morals; for there is nothing in Mandeville's writings to warrant the belief that he sought to encourage vice" (English Cyclop. s.v.). This book was translated into French, as well as the other writings of Mandeville, and contributed in no small degree to the corruption of French society, and helped forward the sad days of the Revolution. Schlosser (Hist. of the 18th
and 19th Cent.) is quite severe on Mandeville. He says that "Mandeville was a man wholly destitute of morality, and without any insight into the nature of man or the connection between bodily and mental soundness and well-being." See Life by Dr. Birch; Blackwood's Magazine, 2:268, 442; 27:712; Allibone, Dict. of Brit. and Amer. Authors, s.v.; Schröckh, Kirchengeschichte s. d. Ref. 6:204 sq.; Henke, Gesch. d. christl. Kirche, 6:85 sq. (J. H. W.)