Jeffrey Hopes
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Self-love in Mandeville and Hutcheson
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Francis Hutcheson’s first two works, An Inquiry into the Original of our Ideas of Virtue and Beauty (1725) and An Essay on the Nature and Conduct of the Passions and Affections (1728) are to a considerable extent a refutation of the theories of self-interest and self-love developed by Bernard Mandeville, notably in the 1723 edition of The Fable of the Bees. Hutcheson’s attempt to prove the existence of a moral sense and so to defend Shaftesbury against Mandeville’s cynicism regarding the desirability of self-denial and altruistic behaviour, does not deny the existence of self-love as a motivating force in human behaviour, but attempts to subordinate it to the moral sense with which it can be made to work towards general human happiness. This chapter examines Hutcheson’s critique of Mandeville and seeks to show how the debate on self-love raises the issue of the definition of the self, one that Hume would address in the Treatise of Human Nature (1739-40). While more often discussed in the context of Locke’s theory of personal identity and of the sceptical philosophy of Berkeley and Hume, the self is also a central issue of moral philosophy where it functions as a reflexive and relative rather than an absolute entity, thus anchoring it in questions of ethics, social behaviour and religious belief.

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