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Robin Douglass: Mandeville on Pride, Hypocrisy and Sociability

When:We 01-05-2019 15:15 - 17:00
Where:Room Omega

Colloquium lecture by Robin Douglass (King's College, London), organized by the Department of the History of Philosophy

Bernard Mandeville argues that pride is the dominant passion in explaining human sociability; it is ‘the hidden Spring, that gives Life and Motion’ to all our actions. Pride involves overvaluing and imagining better things of ourselves than any impartial judge would allow, and to satisfy our pride we constantly seek social approval, or recognition, from others. This paper focuses on Mandeville’s moral psychology and offers a sympathetic exposition of his reasons for attributing such explanatory power to pride. In particular, I focus on how pride (and shame) can lead us to conform to social and moral norms by concealing our otherwise unsociable and selfish passions. Mandeville’s analysis is deeply unsettling, I argue, for he not only exposes the extent to which we are all motivated by pride, but also shows that our moral aversion to the passion is well-founded (i.e. based on a naturalistic analysis of our moral sentiments and judgements). Mandeville thus presents us with a morally compromised vision of human nature and sociability, where social standards about how we should behave exceed what could be realistically expected given human psychology. It is for this reason, he argues, that we could only ever have become sociable by learning to be hypocrites. I defend Mandeville from some important lines of criticism (e.g. Adam Smith on the love of praise and love of praiseworthiness; David Hume on well-regulated pride) and suggest that recent research from social psychology offers some support for his account.

Robin Douglass is Senior Lecturer in Political Theory at King’s College London. He is the author of Rousseau and Hobbes: Nature, Free Will, and the Passions (2015), and co-editor of Hobbes on Politics and Religion (2018), both published with Oxford University Press. He is currently writing a monograph on the political philosophy of Bernard Mandeville.