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Title: The 'private vices, public benefits' controversy : the response of the Scottish Enlightenment to Bernard Mandeville
Author: Furuya, Hiroyuki
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2003
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My dissertation deals with eighteenth-century Scottish moral philosophy, particularly its discussion of sociability. My dissertation draws attention to what I call the ‘private vices, public benefits’ controversy in Scottish social thought, and presents an aspect of the Scottish Enlightenment thought as a critical response to Bernard Mandeville’s paradoxical thesis, ‘private vices, public benefits’. My discussion first traces how Mandeville tried to show that the wealth of a modern commercial society was generated only from such vices as pride, vanity and ambition and that wealth and virtue were therefore contradictory each other. I present how Mandeville made his arguments concerning government and economic policies, such as a highly mercantilist policy of aiming at a favourable trade balance, based on his paradoxical thesis, ‘private vices, public benefits’. My dissertation next tries to present Francis Hutcheson’s moral and political theories as his criticism of Mandeville. I emphasise that Hutcheson’s moral theory argued that human nature was not vicious as Mandeville had argued, but was capable of approving moral virtue in benevolence and guaranteeing the moral neutrality of generating wealth. I then focus on Hutcheson’s political theory of duty, and present it as seeking the way of achieving both wealth and virtue by fulfilling the two sets of duties: the moral duty of being virtuous and the economic duty of being prosperous. My dissertation then traces how David Hume shifted the controversy from the issues concerning the moral legitimacy of human nature and commercial opulence towards the disputes of words. I examine how Hume’s moral theory argued that whatever useful to public benefits could not be called ‘vices’ but good and that human nature was capable of forming such true moral ideas as justice, public interest, political authority and industry in view of their utility as the standard of morals. I present Hume’s political and economic theory as aiming at the refinement of taste and seeking to purge rages from commerce so as to let the industry of private interests form the moderate ideas of public interests and political authority and pursue maximum utility.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available