The Origin of Virtue: Bernard Mandeville's Skilful Politicians

Cesmeli, Isil
Bernard Mandeville is well-known with his portrayal of selfish human nature and his design of prosperous society comprised of the vilest characteristics and the basest passions of mankind in his famous work, The Fable of the Bees. Long before the publication of The Fable in his satirical poem, "The Grumbling Hive", he narrates a parable based on a prosperous hive which is full of vicious bees. All fables show folly of mankind and urge people to self-analysis and lessoning in the end. Along the same line, Mandeville exposes how ridiculous and unreasonable to live in a flourishing society, pursue all benefits and still complain and grumble about vices. He comes up with a pessimistic theory of moral virtue from such a dark picture regarding human nature and viciously motivated moral agents. In the first volume of The Fable although Mandeville points out the significant role of "skilful politicians" in morally approved and blamed acts of mankind, in the second volume he gives a different account which shows how our moral distinctions evolve for ages. Aim of this paper is to examine Mandeville's theory of self-love in detail and discuss artificial roots of morality by touching upon comments of contemporary Mandeville scholars.


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Citation Formats
I. Cesmeli, “The Origin of Virtue: Bernard Mandeville’s Skilful Politicians,” BEYTULHIKME-AN INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF PHILOSOPHY, pp. 85–105, 2017, Accessed: 00, 2020. [Online]. Available: