J. Martin Stafford's Private Vices, Publick Benefits? [Book Review]

Hume Studies 25 (1):225-240 (1999)
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Abstract

Of those philosophers that Hume credits with having "begun to put the science of man on a new footing", Bernard Mandeville has received relatively little attention from contemporary philosophers and Hume scholars. In contrast, Mandeville was not so neglected in his own age, a point well-chronicled in F. B. Kaye's introduction to The Fable of the Bees, and substantiated, tangibly, by this collection of writings excellently assembled and edited by J. Martin Stafford. In the eighteenth century and, more particularly, in the decade between the publication of the 1723 edition of the Fable and Mandeville's death, numerous sermons, essays, letters, and books were published with the single intent of refuting what one eighteenth-century critic considered "so monstrous an Opinion", namely, that private vice might render a benefit to the public. What one discovers on reading these early critics is that it is not so much Mandeville's opinion that is monstrous as it is the incessant misinterpretations that are so often used against him.

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