The Dutch background of Bernard Mandeville's thought: Escaping the Procrustean bed of neo-Augustinianism

Rudi Verburg*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This paper argues that the neo-Augustinian outlook of the French moral tradition has been used for too long as a Procrustean bed, thereby depreciating the Dutch background of Mandeville's thought. In particular, Johan and Pieter de la Court were an important source of inspiration for Mandeville. In trying to come to terms with commercial society, the brothers developed a positive theory of interest and the passions, emphasizing the social utility of self-interest and honour in securing the health and wealth of the commonwealth. By combining elements from neo-Augustinian and Dutch commercial republican discourses, Mandeville devised a new logic for interpreting the nature and growth of commercial society, which was to inspire intense debate.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)32-61
Number of pages30
JournalErasmus Journal for Philosophy and Economics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Commercial society
  • Dutch commercial republicanism
  • French moral tradition
  • Johan and Pieter de la Court
  • Mandeville

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