Western Lit II Lesson 75: “In What Way Did Mandeville Lay the Foundation For Darwinism?”

     Bernard Mandeville was a dutch philosopher and author, although he spent most of his life in England and wrote in English. Though he initially pursued a medical career, writing became his calling.

     Mandeville went against the common Christian idea that God gave humans morality and societal structure. He believed society became what it is today through natural development, caused by humans’ self serving interest, as illustrated in his most famous work, The Fable of the Bees, in which he uses bees to represent his ideology. In the story, the bees are working in an orderly and well-maintained society, until they become virtuous creatures, then they settle into lives that are not self-serving, and thus do not serve the common welfare. Since the bees have stopped working, the hive falls apart and no one benefits. 

     Charles Darwin was a scientist, he was most well known for his work in developing the theory of evolution and studying natural selection. The theory of evolution states that through natural selection, every living being evolved from one common ancestor. Essentially, one creature mutates, and if that mutation is on the reproductive cells, it can be passed down. If it is beneficial to the organism and helps it survive longer and produce more, eventually creatures with that mutation are separated and through many more mutations eventually become a new species. This was contrary to the Christian story of Genesis, in which humans are created by God first making Adam, then using Adam he created Eve, and together they began the human population.

     Mandeville did not really lay the foundation for Darwinism for a few reasons, but first, the reason someone might think he did. Mandeville believed not in an already set God-created society which was born completely functional and intact, which is what most Christians of the time believed. Instead he believed humans developed their own society over a long period of time. Darwin believed the same thing, but in a more biological context. He believed humans developed naturally through natural selection, rather than simply being placed on Earth by God.

      The reason Mandeville did not really lay the foundation for Darwinism is because Darwinism was created through scientific processes and research. The development of Darwin’s theories were in a completely separate field. Another reason is that Mandeville’s observations were likely not as far out in his time. The diversity of different cultures and the difference between society as it was then, and society as it was say a thousand years before was evidence in Mandeville’s favor, Darwin’s theory was brand new, and not something anyone could just come up with themselves.

      Though there were many similarities between the two men’s theories,both believed in human development rather than the accepted christian idea of god just creating everything as it was, and Mandeville may have even had some influence over Darwin, to say he laid the foundation for Darwinism is just incorrect. They built two very similar but very separate houses. 


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