Is Everyone Self-Interested? Hume versus Mandeville

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Fernando Morett
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David Hume has been largely read as a philosopher but not as a scientist. In this article I discuss his work exclusively as a case of science; in particular as a case of early modern science. I compare the combined moral psychology of self-interest and sympathy he argues for with the moral psychology of universal self-interest from Bernard Mandeville, presenting the controversy between the two as a case of theory choice under the normative methodology of the vera causa from the eighteenth century, using inductive support, experimentum crucis and simplicity as criteria. On all three criteria I conclude that Mandeville’s theory of universal self-interest wins the controversy.

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