Mandeville QOTD on Sociobiology

Bernard Mandeville was an early 18th century physician and author. Famously, he wrote The Fable of the Bees, collection of a poem and some essays on the theme of how private vices (properly channeled by societal institutions) turn into public benefits. Mandeville was quite insightful – for example, in his essay “A Search into the Nature of Society”, Mandeville notes that “Intrinsick Worth” is a tricky concept, given that what seems valuable or good in one culture may be seen as worthless or evil in another. Mandeville punctuates this discussion with a passage that I very much enjoyed on socialization (not his term) and the dangers of connecting natural law and social law:

“What Men have learn’d from their Infancy Enslaves them, and the Force of Custom warps Nature, and at the same time, imitates her in such a manner that it is often difficult to know which of the two we are influenc’d by.” (334)

A nice summary of the problems facing research in sociobiology? You be the judge.

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