The Dutch background of Bernard Mandeville's thought
Escaping the Procrustean bed of neo-Augustinianism
Keywords:Mandeville, commercial society, Johan and Pieter de la Court, Dutch commercial republicanism, French moral tradition
This paper argues that the neo-Augustinian outlook of the French moral tradition has been used for too long as a Procrustean bed, thereby depreciating the Dutch background of Mandeville's thought. In particular, Johan and Pieter de la Court were an important source of inspiration for Mandeville. In trying to come to terms with commercial society, the brothers developed a positive theory of interest and the passions, emphasizing the social utility of self-interest and honour in securing the health and wealth of the commonwealth. By combining elements from neo-Augustinian and Dutch commercial republican discourses, Mandeville devised a new logic for interpreting the nature and growth of commercial society, which was to inspire intense debate.