Lewis Hoss

Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Seagrave, S. Adam

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Political Science


The paradoxical nature of Bernard Mandeville's The Fable of the Bees has led a number of scholars to offer competing interpretations of his social and political thought. In particular, his rigoristic definition of moral virtue, which juxtaposes a version of Christian asceticism with Enlightenment rationalism, has allowed for competing portrayals of Mandeville as either a Christian moralist or a Hobbesian empiricist. Contributing to this perplexity is the fact that his writings are also characterized by repeated appeals to Christian ethics, despite the fact that he is making a case for the benefits to be derived from vice. In this paper, I attempt to illustrate that Mandeville's apparent references to Christian theology are a crucial part of his naturalistic argument for the need to manage fundamentally vicious passions through moral education. Understanding that Mandeville acknowledges the social utility of Christianity contributes to a more coherent reading of his political thought and allows us to place him more prominently among 18th-century thinkers whose ideas were borne out in practice at the time of the American Founding. Furthermore, the argument for Mandeville's consistency presented here speaks to a more general ongoing debate over the compatibility between naturalism and religious belief.


Advisors: S. Adam Seagrave.||Committee members: Larry Arnhart; Andrea Radasanu.||Includes bibliographical references.


39 pages




Northern Illinois University

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