Jack Edmunds (KCL) - 2018-19 Students

The Reformist Intentions of Bernard Mandeville

The main purpose of my study is to situate Bernard Mandeville (1670-1733) in the context of his contemporary satirists and social reformers. My focus extends beyond his literary interlocutors, as I also pay close attention to the social and political context in which Mandeville intervened. My research questions whether Mandeville performed the moralistic function of the conventional satirist and whether, as has been argued, his philosophy precludes the possibility of moral reform. I centre under-studied texts in my analysis, particularly A Modest Defence of Publick Stews (1724), An Enquiry into the Frequent Executions at Tyburn (1725) and A Treatise of a Hypochondriack (1711). In doing so, I aim to test the hypothesis that Mandeville desired for his psychological insights to be practically applied. I explore the plausible contention that, notwithstanding his delight in paradox, Mandeville was committed to a substantive programme of social and moral reform. Given Mandeville’s prominent status as an early theorist of the capitalist order, and as a pioneer of the science of man, my research is of wider significance and may impact our understanding of his intellectual heirs.

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