A Godless fable: atheism and the philosophy of Bernard Mandeville.




Corbeil, Patrick

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The Anglo-Dutch philosopher Bernard Mandeville (1670-1733) was among the most controversial figures writing in English in the eighteenth century. His satirical exploration of the nature of human sociability and economic prosperity infuriated his contemporary critics and deeply influenced the ideas of later Enlightenment philosophes. One of the most persistent questions about Mandeville's work concerns the sincerity of his declarations of Christian piety. Mandeville is commonly identified as a deist. This thesis explores the possibility that he was an atheist. The question is examined through an analysis of Mandeville’s major influences, most notably French Jansenism, Epicureanism, Scepticism, erudite libertinism, and Dutch republicanism. Key figures that Mandeville engaged with in his writings include Pierre Bayle, René Descartes, Shaftesbury, Thomas Hobbes, Pierre Nicole, and Pierre Gassendi. In the process of discussing Mandeville’s putative atheism, the methodological problem of researching and identifying atheism in early-modern Europe is explored.



Atheism, Bernard Mandeville, Deism, Dutch republicanism, Epicureanism, Erudite libertinism, Jansenism, Pierre Bayle, Pierre Gassendi, Pierre Nicole, René Descartes, Scepticism, Shaftesbury, Sociability, Thomas Hobbes