An Analysis of self-love and sympathy with special reference to Bernard de Mandeville and Adam Smith

Çeşmeli, Işıl
Self-love and sympathy as two antagonistic views regarding human nature occupied an important place in eighteenth century philosophical milieu. First view, inherited from Thomas Hobbes was defended passionately by Bernard de Mandeville. In The Fable of the Bees Mandeville depicts main dynamics of civil society by anatomizing human nature, moral motivations of individuals and the structure of politics. His notoriety among eighteenth century moralists was due to his famous motto “private vices public benefits” and his assertion of selfishness as the basic motive of human nature. Adam Smith, contrary to Mandeville’s moral egoism, defends sympathy as a ground of moral judgments and draw attention to altruistic characteristic of human nature in The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759). Although Smith propounds a completely different theory that of Mandeville in his earlier work it seems very surprising that he mentions self-love as a basic motive of human beings in The Wealth of Nations (1776). In this study, the role of self-love on Smith’s moral theory and economic system and possible effects of Mandeville’s doctrines will be discussed. On the basis of differences between Mandeville’s and Smith’s theories of morals and Smith’s stance against moral egoism this study aims to show that Smith’s system cannot be considered as a reconstruction of Mandeville’s social theory and system of morals. This study also demonstrates that when Smith’s works are examined thoroughly it will follow that Smith succeeds in overcoming Mandeville’s moral egoism by reconciling sympathy with self-love.   


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Citation Formats
I. Çeşmeli, “An Analysis of self-love and sympathy with special reference to Bernard de Mandeville and Adam Smith,” Ph.D. - Doctoral Program, Middle East Technical University, 2017.