Private vices, public benefits : Dr. Mandeville and the body politic
This thesis examines the relationship between Mandeville's medical and non-medical thought, to assess the relevance of the former for an understanding of the latter. By locating his medical text, A Treatise of the Hypochondriack and Hysterick Passions, within the context of an early modern discourse on the nature and treatment of melancholic and nervous disorders, three distinctive features of his medical thought and practice are identified, namely: his commitment to the physiological principles of iatromechanism; his adherence to the precepts of Hippocratic medical practice; and his use of the talking cure in the treatment of hypochondriacal disorders. Those aspects of his medical thought and practice are then taken up and explored in an analysis of his philosophical and polemical performances in The Fable of the Bees. First, it is argued that The Fable of the Bees contains a systematic and coherent theory of man and society, the key elements of which were dictated by Mandeville's reductive and physiological understanding of man as a sentient and passionate machine. It is further argued that the mechanistic and homeostatic principles which informed his model of human functioning also informed his similarly reductive account of both the evolution and the contemporary functioning of the body politic. To distinguish Mandeville's from other reductive social theories, his adherence to the methodological precepts of Hippocratic medicine and his understanding of the development of its rules of diet and regimen are invoked to explain his distinctive and evolutionary account of the social institutions which made civilization and its flourishing possible. Finally, Mandeville's contrasting polemical and rhetorical performances in Parts I and II of The Fable of the Bees are explained by reference to his understanding of the medical art of diagnosis and curing in general and his use of the talking cure in particular.