Journal article

The Fables of Pity: Rousseau, Mandeville and the Animal-Fable

Sean Gaston

Derrida Today | Edinburgh University Press | Published : 2012

Abstract

Prompted by Derrida's work on the animal-fable in eighteenth-century debates about political power, this article examines the role played by the fiction of the animal in thinking of pity as either a natural virtue (in Rousseau's Second Discourse) or as a natural passion (in Mandeville's The Fable of the Bees). The war of fables between Rousseau and Mandeville – and their hostile reception by Samuel Johnson and Adam Smith – reinforce that the animal-fable illustrates not so much the proper of man as the possibilities and limitations of a moral philosophy that is unable to address the political realities of the state.

University of Melbourne Researchers