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mud, or allows his contempt for the actual to blind him to the ideal from which he started, and so degenerates into the cynic who is absorbed in a gloomy disgust of things as they are, missing both the serenity of the negative sceptic and the intellectual interest of the scientific sceptic, who finds it pleasant to note the sequence of appearances and register the shadows on the wall of his cave. Philosophers also sometimes take an unphilosophic pleasure in emphasizing the mean beginnings of things, and the respectable man, intolerant of the libels on human nature which are the common result of very different principles, classes all the libellers together, and so makes an ineffective reply.
Against the satirist and the cynic, whether of the court, the coffee house, or the tavern, it is legitimate to appeal to the plain man's experience of disinterested benevolent affections, which to him feel quite different from the products of calculating selfishness and are distinguished from such in his judgements of others. It is also very legitimate to urge that a fair interpretation of social institutions reveals elements in human nature which are not, proximately at all events, derivable from the individual's desire of private pleasure. It is further proper to point out that such an assertion as that moral virtue is 'the political offspring which flattery begot upon pride may be true of some men and some virtue, but if asserted of all men and all virtue becomes literally preposterous; and, lastly, it is more profitable to take with the satirist than with the sceptic the short way' of pointing out that in his very denial he asserts or assumes what he denies.
But against the selfish theory of the empirical sceptic it is vain to allege a counter-experience of unselfishness. For on the one hand the sceptic does not deny the universality
of the illusion of unselfishness or cavil at the genuineness of the plain man's testimony to his own feelings; he does not pretend that a superficial reflection on human nature is sufficient to expose its secret springs; but, on the other hand, he professes to trace the illusion itself to its origin in the operation of forces which are entirely selfish.
3. The satiric criticism of morals. It is hard therefore to be fair to the benevolent' theory which figures so largely in this period unless we appreciate the irritation and alarm caused to sober moralists by the cynicism of Hobbes and the satire of Rochefoucauld, Mandeville, and the tribe of dull imitators, such as James Esprit, and Sir Richard Blackmore. It must be remembered that the first half of the eighteenth century was a period when the authority of the Church was weak, when the wantonness of the Restoration had given place to a dull lewdness in high places; when the materializing influences of prosperity and wealth were strong, and spiritual ideals were smothered under respectability. In such an age, and from a practical point of view, the satirist and his wit, especially when it takes the form of paradox, are sometimes more dangerous to morality than the sceptic and his malice. The respectable person finds that when his cloak of smug pretence is stripped off he is no more naked than the statesman or divine, and sees no reason why he should be better clothed than such good company, while the disreputable person takes credit to himself for his superior frankness. The moralist therefore who takes more than a speculative interest in good conduct, may well be excused if he does not penetrate the disguise which conceals from him the blessings of a Mandeville.
Mandeville is certainly not an innocent writer, but he has been considerably misunderstood both by his contemporaries and by modern critics. His business is the exposure of humbug and hypocrisy, and he does his work consistently and thoroughly, though he dips his pen in a very nasty mixture and carefully poses as a very disreputable person. His taste is as abominable as his style is effective. The essentially satirical character of his work is however concealed by his constant indulgence in paradox, a method which enables him to give a maximum of offence, while keeping in the background a few unexceptionable principles to which he can appeal in case of need. It does not need much penetration to see that when he is maintaining the odious thesis of 'private vices public benefits,' he is really concerned to argue the converse, viz. that persons lauded as public benefactors often show small regard for the Christian code of morals which they profess, and no regard at all for the public interest for the promotion of which they take credit ; that material progress by no means implies equivalent spiritual advance. So the panegyric of prodigality is a vehicle for an assault upon the complacent cant which sees in the accumulation of private wealth the height of social virtue. But these are perpetual topics of the pulpit, and we may apply to this case a remark made long ago, and say that it is a mark of ataidevoia to require speculative validity and completeness as well as practical value in such exercises as sermons or satires. From the practical point of view it may have been desirable that William Law should undertake a serious refutation of Mande. ville's paradoxes, but in truth if any one takes them seriously and literally nothing but a stick will do him much good'.
See The True Meaning of the Fable of the Bees, Lond. 1726, 8vo, and Essays lowards a Critical Method, by J. M. Robertson, Lond. 1889.
Regarding Mandeville as a satirist, I see no reason to suppose, as some have supposed, that his introduc.ion of self-sacrifice' as the touchstone of merit was meant by l.im as a backhanded attack upon ascetic and theological ethics. It is so essential to his theory and is introduced with such aptitude that I do not think he meant or indeed could afford to play a double game with it. The private character of the satirist may lead us to suppose that his real regard for the principle was small, but it is no argument of theoretical insincerity in its use. His treatment of luxury does not stand on this footing but is evidently ironical, and finds a close parallel in the second book of Plato's Republic.
4. Mandeville's political theory of virtue. The name of Mandeville is particularly associated with the 'political' theory of the virtues, as originating in the 'artifice of politicians,' which represents Hobbism in its most artificial and least important form. It has however its place in the scheme of his satire proper. For many of us morals are little else than manners,' and, whatever their meaning for the race, for the individual they are only too often conventional and artificial, and the satirist is quite within his right in letting us know it. But as a general theory of virtue it is only an impertinence, though it has been treated by minor moralists as the most important and dangerous part of his work. Hume's few words of dismissal are quite effectual (Treatise, pp. 500, 578), and it is certainly not worth while setting up against it a theory of 'eternal fitnesses,' which can in no way be represented as the necessary alternative to the political theory. If a more detailed refutation be thought necessary, William Law has taken the right way with it, when he points out that you may as well ascribe man's erect position to the cunning flattery of politicians as his virtue;
the action of the politician being limited in both cases to emphasizing pre-existent tendencies, and coming in as a modifying influence only at a very late stage. It is also worth considering whether much which is attributed to the operation of flattery on pride is not implied in their very existence. The fallacy of the preposterous has a wide range, but nowhere can a better instance of it be found than in the artificial theory of society.
5. General character of British moral philosophy. I have dwelt at some length on the position of the satirist in morals because it is connected essentially as well as accidentally with what I believe to be the chief characteristic of the British school of moralists. I have already said that satire so far as it is an exposure of the sham rests upon and assumes a reality of some kind or other in virtue. The British moralists, whether sceptical or otherwise, ask, what is this reality? what is the meaning of the right and wrong, good and evil, to which the evil-liver pays the tribute of hypocrisy, that is, what does the ordinary man mean by them? The level of the plain man, and even the 'honest farmer,' is in the first instance adopted, not that of the saint in his cell nor that of the philosopher in his closet, and his experience is treated as supplying the material for further examination. Just as the satirist appeals to the intelligence of the plain man and is refuted by an appeal to his experience, so the moralists of this period start from the plain man and the common sense of plain men (afterwards to be elevated into the principle of a system) in their inquiry into the reality of virtue. They concentrate their attention on the phenomena of the normal moral consciousness in a cool and impartial manner which reminds us of Aristotle, and had not