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An Enquiry into an Origin of Honour; and the Usefulness of Christianity in War   By: (1670-1733?)

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By the Author of the FABLE of the BEES. [Bernard Mandeville]


I take it for granted, that a Christian is not bound to believe any Thing to have been of Divine Institution, that has not been declared to be such in Holy Writ. Yet great Offence has been taken at an Essay, in the First Part of the Fable of the Bees , call'd An Enquiry into the Origin of Moral Virtue; notwithstanding the great Caution it is wrote with. Since then, it is thought Criminal to surmise, that even Heathen Virtue was of Human Invention, and the Reader, in the following Dialogues, will find me to persist in the Opinion, that it was; I beg his Patience to peruse what I have to say for my self on this Head, which is all I shall trouble him with here.

The Word Morality is either synonimous with Virtue, or signifies that Part of Philosophy, which treats of it, and teaches the Regulation of Manners; and by the Words Moral Virtue, I mean the same Thing which I believe Every body else does. I am likewise fully persuaded that to govern our selves according to the Dictates of Reason, is far better than to indulge the Passions without Stop or Controul, and consequently that Virtue is more beneficial than Vice, not only for the Peace and real Happiness of Society in general, but likewise for the Temporal Felicity of every individual Member of it, abstract from thee Consideration of a future State, I am moreover convinced, that all wise Men ever were and ever will be of this Opinion; and I shall never oppose Any body, who shall be pleased to call this an Eternal Truth.

Having allow'd and own'd thus much, I beg Leave to make a short Grammatical Reflection on the Sounds or Letters we make use of to express this rational Management of ourselves: For tho' the Truth of its Excellency is Eternal, the Words Moral Virtue themselves are not so, any more than Speech or Man himself. Permit me therefore to enquire which Way it is most probably, they must have come into the World.

The Word Moral , without Doubt, comes from Mos , and signifies every Thing that relates to Manners: The Word Ethick is synonimous with Moral , and is derived from [Greek: ithik], which is exactly the same in Greek , that Mos is in Latin . The Greek for Virtu, is [Greek: arete], which is derived from [Greek: ares], the God of War and properly signifies Martial Virtue. The same Word in Latin , if we believe Cicero , comes from Vir ; and the genuine Signification likewise of the Word Virtus is Fortitude. It is hardly to be conceived, but that in the first Forming of all Societies, there must have been Struggles for Superiority; and therefore it is reasonable to imagine, that in all the Beginnings of Civil Government, and the Infancy of Nations, Strength and Courage must have been the most valuable Qualifications for some Time. This makes me think, that Virtus , in its first Acceptation, might, with great Justice and Propriety, be in English render'd Manliness ; which fully expresses the Original Meaning of it, and shews the Etymology equally with the Latin ; and whoever is acquainted with that Language must know, that it was some ages before the Romans used it in any other Sense. Nay, to this Day, the Word Virtus by it self, in any of their Historians, has the same Signification, as if the Word Bellica had been added. We have Reason to think, that, as First, Nothing was meant by Virtus , but Daring and Intrepidity, right or wrong; or else if could never have been made to signify Savageness, and brutish Courage; as Tacitus , in the Fourth Book of his History, makes use of it manifestly in that Sense. Even Wild Beasts, says he, if you keep them shut up, will lose their Fierceness. Etiam sera animalia, si clausa teneas, virtutis obliviseuntur .

What the Great Men of Rome valued themselves upon was active and passive Bravery, Warlike Virtue, which is so strongly express'd in the Words of Livy: Et facere & pati fortia Romanum est... Continue reading book >>

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