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to the ordinary deist doctrine that the sacred writings were mere forgeries. Virtue, like religion, was assumed to be a mere figment when it was no longer believed to come straight from heaven. Human cunning is the substitute for final causes.
41. Mandeville is, in this respect at least, as much opposed to Shaftesbury as to the theologians. with the orthodox in regarding Shaftesbury's scheme as too flimsy to influence human beings; though he differs from them in denying that any more powerful scheme can be set up in its place. With Shaftesbury virtue corresponds to a certain harmony pervading all the works of nature, and recognisable by the human intellect. With Mandeville it is a mere fashion, changing as rapidly as taste in dress or in architecture. Mandeville, like Shaftesbury, can talk of nature when it suits his purpose ; but the difference of their conceptions is characteristic. With Shaftesbury nature is an impersonal deity, of whose character and purpose we can form a conception, inadequate and yet sufficient for our world, by tracing out the design manifested in the marvellous order of the visible universe. With Mandeville nature is a power altogether inscrutable to our feeble intelligence. In a certain sense, indeed, we can see that she has formed animals for inhabiting this world; but, in fact, 'every part of her works, ourselves not excepted, are an impenetrable secret to us, that eludes all enquirers.'? Nature makes animals to feed upon each other; waste of life, cruelty, voracity and lust are parts of her mysterious plan; 'all actions in nature, abstractedly considered, are equally indifferent;'3 and cruelty and malice are words applicable only to our own feelings. Nature, in short, is a dark power, whose action can only be inferred from facts, not from any a priori theory of design, harmony, and order. 4 We know, because we see, that the passions of men, pride, lust, and cruelty, have been and still are the great moving forces which have shaped society as we see it, and brought out the complex structure of a civilised nation ; and, what is more, they are still the great moving powers, though we hide them under decorous disguises. Revolting as is the picture of
Mandeville, p. 209 et seq.
3 Ib. p. 441. • In the ‘Free Thoughts on Religion' (1720) Mandeville expressly says that the Manichæan theory is the most consonant to reason (p. 105).
2 Ib. p. 422.
human nature which results, Mandeville is very superior to Shaftesbury from a purely scientific point of view. He owes his superiority to a resolution to look facts in the face, instead of being put off by flimsy rhetoric ; whilst Shaftesbury contemptuously rejects the theory of the savage origin of man as inconsistent with the conception of a designing providence.' Mandeville anticipates, in many respects, the views of modern philosophers. He gives a kind of conjectural history describing the struggle for existence by which man gradually elevated himself above the wild beasts, and formed societies for mutual protection. He shows how the development of the military passions would gradually strengthen the rising order.? He discovers the origin of religion in the natural fetichism which induces young children to fancy that everything thinks and feels as they do themselves.3 He describes the slow growth of language ;4 and he makes the general remark, which is really instructive and significant, that many things which are ordinarily attributed to one man's genius are really the result of long time and many generations slowly and unconsciously co-operating to build up arts without any great variety in natural sagacity."
42. These and other observations, much in advance of the general speculation of the time, exhibit Mandeville's acuteness. His brutality and his love of paradox revolt us as a display of cynical levity. He ruthlessly destroys the fine coating of varnish which Shaftesbury has bestowed upon human nature, and shows us with a grin the hideous elements that are fermenting beneath. The grin is simply detestable; but we cannot quite deny the facts. Mandeville was giving up to the coffee-houses a penetration meant for loftier purposes. The man of science has this much in common with the cynic, that he must not shrink from tracing the origin of the fairest forms in repulsive substances. The fairest flowers, as Tucker says, may be rooted in dunghills, and the genuine observer must examine the dunghill as well as the flower. No object must be excluded from his laboratory because it is of ill savour and repulsive aspect. To say that all virtue can be analysed into brutal passion is, doubtless, a gross libel upon
1 Moralists,' part ii. sec. 4.
Ib. p. 409.
? Mandeville, p. 442, &c.
3 Ib. p. 361.
human nature ; and yet too many of our virtues are, in fact, barbarous passions decorously disguised, and we must not shrink from acknowledging that fact more than any other fact. There is, indeed, a common fallacy which Mandeville perversely encourages to give a higher flavour to his pages. People of the present day refuse to believe in our descent from apes, because they illogically infer that the admission would prove that we are apes still.
Mandeville assumes that because our virtues took their rise in selfish or brutal forms, that they are still brutality and selfishness in masquerade. The assumption is erroneous; but, from a scientific point of view, it has the merit of calling attention to the necessity of investigating primitive conditions of society, in order to account for our existing sentiments. And hence we may appreciate the unintentional co-operation of Shaftesbury and Mandeville. Shaftesbury as setting forth the 'dignified,' and Mandeville as exclusively dwelling upon the baser, aspect of our nature, are equally unsatisfactory. Neither optimism nor pessimism is a tenable form of belief; but the two opinions are rather complementary than antagonistic. When Shaftesbury finds an instinct which he cannot explain, he declares it to be inexplicable. When Mandeville finds it, he declares that it does not really exist. Shaftesbury and his followers kept before their countrymen the belief in a higher doctrine of morality than the popular theory of gross selfishness. Mandeville, by attempting to resolve all virtue into selfishness, stimulated the efforts towards a scientific explanation of the phenomena. With Shaftesbury we may admit the existence of a moral sense ; with Mandeville we may admit that it is not an ultimate and irresoluble instinct. The theory that virtue is divine recognises the transcendent importance and the independent force of the virtuous instincts. The theory that virtue is an invention is a crude form of the doctrine that, valuable as those instincts are, they are derivative, and that their origin may be the legitimate subject of scientific enquiry. The action and reaction of the opposing schools continued throughout the century, for each school ignored the element of truth contained in its opponent.
43. Although the names of Shaftesbury and Mandeville appear in most contemporary writings, neither of them became
the centre of any formal controversy, apart from the main current of discussion. They were, however, attacked by three writers of marked ability. In 1724 appeared Law's ‘Remarks on the Fable of the Bees.'' In 1732 Berkeley published the
Minute Philosopher,' the second dialogue of which refers to Mandeville, and the third to Shaftesbury. Many years later (in 1751) Brown published a formal Essay on the Characteristics,' in which Mandeville, too, comes in for a brief notice.
44. Law's pamphlet is, perhaps, the ablest of these attacks. With the controversial ability in which he had scarcely a superior in that time, he assaults some of Mandeville's singular paradoxes. He points out, for example, with admirable clearness, that an action is not the less virtuous because we are prompted to it by natural instincts or by acquired habits. It is virtuous ' because it is in obedience to reason and the laws of God, and does not cease to be so because the body is either formed by use or created by disposition, easy and ready for the performance of it. . . . Nay, all habits of virtue would, upon this foot, be blamable, because such habits must be supposed to have rendered both body and mind more ready and exact in goodness.'? The fallacy thus attacked is rather an outlying part of Mandeville's system, though he makes great use of it by giving a libellous tone to his remarks on human nature. Oddly enough, the cynic Mandeville asserts the reality of benevolent impulses in order to throw doubt upon human virtue. The more serious question remains, whether virtue is to be called real. Mandeville and Law follow the intellectual school in the assumption that, if virtue included an element of taste and observation, it was in some sense unreal.' Mandeville argues that the taste for philanthropy, humility, and chastity may vary like the taste for big or little buttons. The true answer would be that a taste for buttons is just as much the product of fixed laws as a taste for philanthropy; though as incomparably less permanent instincts are concerned, the taste is correspondingly variable. Assuming, however, that virtue would become purely arbitrary if admitted to depend on the changing elements of human nature, Law asserts, with great vigour, that ‘moral virtue is founded on the immu
· Law's pamphlet was republished in 1844, with a preface by Mr. Maurice. ? Law's Works, ii. 41.
table relations of things, in the perfectionsand attributes of God, and not in the pride of man or the craft of cunning politicians.'' The singular hypothesis indicated in the last phrase is attacked with admirable force. “Do but suppose all first principles to be invented,' he says, “and then it will follow that nothing could be invented in any science. If the primary reasons of mathematicians are mere arbitrary assumptions, the science disappears. “Were we not all mathematicians and logicians, there would be no such sciences; for science is only an improvement of those first principles which nature has given us.'? He ingeniously compares Mandeville's theory of the invention of virtue to an imaginary invention of an erect posture. The first legislators,' says his supposed theorist, having examined the strength and weakness of man's body, discovered that he was not so top-heavy but that he might stand upright on his feet; but the difficulty was how to raise him up. Some philosophers, more sanguine than the rest, found out that, though man crept on the ground, yet he was made up of pride, and that, if flattery took hold of that, he might easily be set on his legs. Making use of this bewitching engine, they extolled the excellence of his shape above other animals, and told him what a grovelling thing it was to creep on all fours like the meanest animals. Thus did these philosophers shame poor man out of his natural state of creeping, and wheedled him into the dignity and honour of standing upright to serve their own ambitious ends, and that they might have his hands to be employed in their drudgery.'3 The parallel is only too perfect. Law does not perceive that, beside the theory which represents man as wheedled into walking, and that which represents him as walking by an inherent and immutable necessity of his nature, there is the theory that the walking may have been evolved from the creeping animal by the operation of natural laws.
45. Berkeley's ‘Minute Philosopher' is the least admirable performance of that admirable writer. The most characteristic part is the attempt to erect a proof of theology upon his own peculiar metaphysical theory. The remainder consists for the most part of the familiar commonplaces, expressed in a style of exquisite grace and lucidity, but not 1 Law's Works, ii. 29.
2 Ib. p. 22.
3 Ib. p. 20.