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Forces of Secularity in the Modern World

Volume 1


Stephen Strehle

Stephen Strehle is a leading scholar of church/state issues. In this volume, he focuses his rigorous historical analysis and philosophical acumen upon a topic of great interest today and source of cultural wars around the globe—the process of secularization. The book starts with a discussion of early capitalism and how it saw the real world functioning well-enough on its own principles of individual struggle and self-interest, without needing religious or moral principles to meddle in its affairs and eventually dispelling the need for any intelligent design or providential orchestration of life through the work of Darwin. The book then discusses the growth of the secular point of view: how historians dismissed the impact of religion in developing modern culture, how scientists conceived of the universe running on self-sufficient or mechanistic principles, and how people no longer looked to the providential hand of God to explain their suffering. The book ends with a discussion of how the Deist concept of human autonomy became a political policy in America through Jefferson’s concept of a wall of separation between church and state and how the US Supreme Court proceeded to dismiss the importance of religion in shaping or justifying the values of the nation and its laws. The book is accessible to most upper-level and graduate students in a wide-variety of disciplines, keeping technical and foreign words to a minimum and leaving scholarly details or debates to its extensive notes.

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Chapter One: The Rise of Acquisitive Capitalism in France

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The Rise of Acquisitive Capitalism in France


The modern world brought a challenge to the religious and ethical categories of the metaphysical past in understanding how life worked in the real world and evolved on its terms, apart from outside rational intervention or moral restraints. Many advocates of an early form of capitalism came to argue that the economy worked well through its natural laws, apart from the government interfering with the basic flow of commerce; that questionable motives like self-interest often worked for the benefit of society and fueled the economy, alleviating any religious onus to cleanse the world from sin; that value was best determined by the law of supply and demand, freeing society from moral considerations in finding a just price or wage. This new type of economic thinking suggested the possibility of interpreting life in general as a secular process. It found little need to follow a metaphysical standard or posit that a miraculous force is intervening in the course of things to provide the world with design, purpose, or direction, and allowed life to use its efficacious means of producing results, regardless of intent or foresight. Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution looked to the economic insights of the early capitalists and thought of life developing in a similar manner through the happenstance of individual struggle or self-interest. Social Darwinism combined the new economic and biological theories, showing their mutual dependence and proclivity to excise the need for religious categories from the modern world. While some continued to use and merge the old religious terms with these theories, the new ← 21 | 22 → type of capitalistic thinking in its most literal form showed little need for moral categories to correct the way life evolved on its terms, or interject the existence of God to meddle into the affairs of what worked best from its chaotic proclivities toward higher forms. The old religious categories proved ineffectual in describing or enhancing the actual processes of life in the real world. Hereafter the secular capitalists could justify pursuing their own self-interest, or struggling for their existence and amelioration without suffering any severe pangs from a moral or religious conscience, believing it all worked out in the grand scheme of things, apart from any antecedent design or individual intent and motive.

Christian Altruism

Of course, there were other ways of understanding and deconstructing capitalism in the modern world. Max Weber, the great sociologist of the last century, devoted a couple of famous articles in 1904–5 to the subject, rejecting the Marxist propensity to reduce all ideology to materialistic interests and interpreting capitalism in terms of a religious calling—at least in the early stages of its maturation. His interpretation emphasized the importance of the “Protestant work ethic” as providing the spiritual matrix for the development of capitalism, highlighting its exhortation to spurn an idle and cloistered life of monastic contemplation and serve God within the community through one’s profession (Beruf) or calling in the business world. In particular, the Puritans embodied this “worldly asceticism” of modern capitalism by emphasizing Luther’s priesthood of the believers and its special calling of each believer to fulfill their mission within the “hustle and bustle” of everyday life. Their divines rejected any sacramental means of cheap grace in receiving forgiveness and obtaining a propitious standing before God and encouraged the faithful to find assurance through working hard within the community—the true and only sign of divine grace and election. They found salvation outside of religious rituals in active community engagement and considered idleness the root of all evil, even the idleness of religious speculation, contemplation, and devotion. They especially despised the rich of their community for squandering their lives on frivolous entertainment like “sporting or gaming,” exhorting them to repent of narcissistic pursuits and invest their time and capital in helping create a better world for others. The Puritans’ form of capitalism shunned a life of pursuing self-interests in exercises of individual religious piety or hedonistic amusements of self-indulgence, preferring their people to lead an austere life of self-discipline and pursue altruistic and utilitarian goals of useful service in improving the society, believing that God’s people were involved in a historical process of creating a better world for their children.1 ← 22 | 23 →

The Puritans reflected the spirit of capitalism not merely through hard work or worldly asceticism—the hallmark of Weber’s treatment—but also through their willingness to surrender present day security, take risks, and create something new and better in the future. They believed that change was good, the future was good, and they possessed a manifest destiny before God to bring all good things to pass. They were part of a historical process that would culminate in the dawning of the Kingdom of God.2

This vision of capitalism is rooted in the Christian concept of altruism or self-sacrifice and presents a clear alternative to the typical acquisitive image of capitalism associated with modern secular times and its emphasis upon self-interest.3 The difference is similar to the way in which Anders Nygren opposes two basic concepts of love in Paul and Plato within his classic, two-volume work on the subject, Agape and Eros (1930–36).4 Following the analysis of Friedrich Nietzsche, he says that Christianity brought a “transvaluation” of ancient values through its central doctrine of agapē or self-sacrificing love, overturning the Graeco-Roman emphasis upon eros or self-love.5 The original Pauline doctrine of agapē contradicted the eros-motif of Plato and the later schools of Platonism in the most uncompromising terms, even if the church ended up producing a synthesis between them in the course of time through the process of Hellenization.6 Eros was “essentially and in principle self-love.”7 Eros was an egocentric, acquisitive longing to possess an object of desire, motivated by the will to obtain individual eudaemonia or happiness through something valuable or worthy of esteem. The eros-motif of Neo-Platonism emphasized climbing a “ladder” upward to the heavenly realm in longing for complete union with the divine as the true object of human happiness.8 The divine reality remained aloof from the process of history and encased within a self-satisfied state of blessed eros, while the soul remained entrapped within an imperfect state, longing to satisfy its needs and ascend toward the ultimate reality for its natural and complete fulfillment.9

Nygren argues that Paul rejected this concept of eros when he put forth agapē as the central teaching of Christianity and the cross of Christ as the clearest example of its sacrificial nature (Rom 5:6–8).10 He says that agapē emphasizes the love of God and understands it as a creative act, which creates fellowship with others ex nihilo, “indifferent to value” in the objects of its affection and unmotivated by the attractiveness of others.11 Human beings only reflect the divine image by creating new relationships in the same spontaneous manner and proceeding to love others outside their worth as neighbors or enemies.12 Agapē does not look for some divine spark of value within others as if finding something worthy of esteem.13 It does not even long for God as the most satisfying object (Summum Bonum) of all as if seeking to obtain something from God.14 “Agape recognizes no kind of self-love as legitimate” and “spells judgment on the life that centres round the ego and its interests.”15 ← 23 | 24 → Self-love is the natural perversity of human beings, and agapē requires the death of self-centeredness to find the true self within the death and resurrection of Christ.16

According to Nygen, this NT concept of agapē was corrupted through the pervasive influence of Hellenism in the church, and the chief culprit for infecting the Christian faith with eros was Augustine due to the enormity of his stature and influence.17 Much like the Neo-Platonists, Augustine thought of love as acquisitive or directed toward the object of its longing, with humans finding their ultimate fulfillment in possessing God as the Summum Bonum.18 Augustine took this concept and forged an unholy alliance with the biblical concept of love. Neo-Platonism was only “able to show him the object of his love and longing, but not the way to gain it,”19 forcing Augustine to combine divine grace or agapē with eros to obtain the ability to ascend unto the heavens and lay hold of God.20 His entire Confessions testify to this synergistic concept of salvation, where divine grace liberates him from the “wrong love” or cupiditas of worldly existence and allows him to ascend unto the heavens with a “right love” or caritas, oriented towards the things of God.21 In Augustine, love never sacrifices itself and always seeks its own, even if its own good is found within God, the ultimate ground of human happiness or eudaemonia.22 Augustine only equivocates at this point when he treats self-love (amor sui) as the sin of pride (superbia),23 but in these places he speaks of an ego-centric love of self, which tries to live in autonomy from divine grace, much like the teaching of Pelagius, which Augustine so unequivocally opposed and condemned in a series of works and councils.24 Most often the love of God and love of self are related;25 “For the self, Augustine would have us love is never the self in itself, but always the self in God;”26 Without the love of God, self-love would be nothing but self-hatred.

The human mind is so constituted that it is never forgetful of itself, never fails to understand itself, never fails to love itself. But because one who hates another is anxious to hurt him, it is not unreasonable to describe the human mind as “hating” itself when it hurts itself. Certainly it does not know that it wills itself evil, for it does not think that what it wills is harmful. But it does will evil all the same, since it does will what is harmful. Hence the Scripture: “Who loveth iniquity, hateth his own soul.” So that if a man knows how to love himself, he loves God; but if he does not love God, even granting that self-love which is naturally instinct within him, yet he may be described not inappropriately as hating himself, since he does what is inimical to himself and persecutes himself like an enemy.27

Let us, then love not ourselves, but Him; and in feeding His sheep, let us be seeking the things that are his, not the things which are our own. For in some inexplicable way, I know not what, every one who loves himself, and not God, loves not himself; and whoever loves God, and not himself, he it is that loves himself.28 ← 24 | 25 →

Of course, Augustine was circumspect enough to understand the difficulty of discerning one’s motives, never knowing for certain throughout his career whether he was succumbing to the temptation of pride or truly loving his neighbor and self with true caritas unto God.29


The Augustinian tradition provided some openings for those who wished to speak of self-love positively, but self-denial and self-sacrifice remained the central teaching of the church in light of the NT’s emphasis on the suffering of Christ and his call to discipleship (Lk 9:23–25). The Puritan form of altruistic capitalism certainly worked within the basic NT theme of leading a life dedicated to self-sacrifice in serving the community, and even the early form of acquisitive capitalism found its emphasis upon self-love an unsettling aspect of the real world and recognized a higher calling of virtue in serving others as the fundamental message of the gospel. This moral concern was particularly acute among the Jansenists, who provided much of the early inspiration for acquisitive capitalism. The Jansenists were a sectarian group of Catholics, who emphasized the Augustinian doctrine of sin and grace in northern France and southern Netherlands. They were faithful to this aspect of his theology, but most of them were less empathetic with his ideas on eros and thought that true Christian piety involved the annihilation of the ego and deflected any reference to their person, preferring to substitute the indefinite French pronoun on and refer to their group as a whole when espousing a certain set of beliefs.30 Blaise Pascal found the word “I” or “mine” hateful to Christian sensibilities and preferred to annihilate himself in looking to find true happiness within the God of all glory and grace.31 Pasquier Quesnel contrasted “charity” with “self-love” throughout his comments on Paul’s great chapter on love in 1 Corinthians 13. Charity “labours to forget her-self,” while “self-love, always intent on her own interests, forgets those of God and her neighbor,… always under the agitation of her own passions,… always ready to take fire against her brother upon the least occasion.” He thought self-love would not survive the eschaton for “no-thing will remain of that, but what may serve to torment the damned.”32 However, this emphasis upon self-sacrifice presented the Jansenists with a spiritual crisis when turning to analyze the ways of the present world and recognizing the effectual nature of self-interest in stimulating its everyday state of affairs. This meant that the real world of economic and social relations seemed to work on different principles than the simple demands of Christian piety, creating a dichotomy between faith and reason for those Jansenists who accepted the acquisitive nature ← 25 | 26 → of everyday existence and its role in stimulating intercourse and exchange. Eventually, many of those who suffered under the strain became more secular in the course of time and found it necessary to abandon the ideal world altogether, often embracing the way things happen to be in the real world of avarice and selfishness and leaving God-talk to the irrelevant metaphysical language of the past.

The earliest forms of this capitalistic system provided a path toward secularism by wrestling with religious scruples, displaying the equivocal judgment of the church towards self-interest, and leaving reason with more space to exercise an autonomous skepticism toward the faith. These tendencies are already seen within the works of Pierre Nicole (1625–1695), an early advocate of acquisitive capitalism and zealous apologist for the Jansenists. Nicole promoted the cause of the Jansenists by helping to edit their polemical works and produce with Antoine Arnauld some pro-Jansenist tracts defending Augustinian theology and its application to contemporary issues inside and outside the church. His most lasting contribution was a series of essays, entitled Essais de morale, which covered a whole range of moral, social, and political topics and helped promote future interest in a burgeoning genre of literature upon Christian living.

His Essais de morale is particularly important since it contains many elements of early acquisitive capitalism and must be considered a significant impetus in stimulating the movement, if not its founding document.33 In Essais de morale, Nicole follows the Augustinian emphasis upon the total depravity of human beings, stressing the impurity of their motives in light of Adam’s fall into sin.34 He thinks of humankind as so depraved that desire (cupidité) and self-interest (amour-propre) have replaced the noble motive of charity (charité) in determining how human beings function in society and calculate their actions.35 Humans present only an outward appearance of lofty motives and great humility when offering their services for the community to mask their true underlying desires, which usually long for the esteem of others, even when performing the most philanthropic endeavors.36 Even so, inward motivations make little outward or practical difference in society. Both charity and self-interest engage in the same types of activities and carry the same effect in causing people to act civil, kind, just, and honest. Self-interest recognizes the need to treat others in a merciful and just manner as much as charity if it wants to remain in good standing within the community.37

If charity extends its benefits to those of whom it expects nothing, even to enemies alike, but it only regards their good, and not its own interest, self-interest does the same, because it knows that the more the benefits appear disinterested and exempt from all need for investigation, the more they attract a general affection, by the hope they give everyone in order to receive in like manner.38 ← 26 | 27 →

“Enlightened” self-interest or cupidity lives in a reciprocal relationship and only gives to receive goods and services from others, but this is all that is necessary for society to function. It can serve as the basis of all human commerce, circulating and exchanging goods and services in meeting the needs of each other, without resorting to acts of charity.39

Because of this observation, Nicole finds it unnecessary to impose a religious or moral order upon others in society and develops a laissez-faire attitude toward the economy. He might condemn self-interest as an inward vice and corruption in the eyes of God, but he also remains convinced of its utility in the everyday workings of the social network, as long as its excesses are regulated or managed by the government when it becomes “unenlightened” or turns into a “wild animal,” “full of cupidity.”40 In treating social morality in this cavalier manner, his approach presented a tension between the admonitions of the Christian faith and the practical realities of worldly existence, bringing the charge of Pyrrhonism or skepticism against him. The obvious dichotomy between the two realms was disconcerting to many of his critics, but he remained firm in his convictions and faithful to the authority of Scripture and the church—more willing than most to distinguish faith and reason, engage in open and honest discussions about issues, and recognize the limits of human sagacity in probing these and other questions.41

The basic themes of Nicole’s concept of capitalism must have resonated within much of the Jansenist movement for the same themes are found in several leading Jansenist authors at the time. Jean Domat (1625–1696), the renowned French jurist, was a friend of Pascal and sympathetic to the spiritual and theological mission of Port-Royal. In his works, he makes some capitalist-type comments like Nicole, maintaining that self-interest (amour-propre) brings about positive results in society; fear promotes obedient subjects; avarice stimulates the economy, and pride and the love of luxury engender “most of the progress in the arts and sciences.” One might think that self-interest and its many vices would tend to destroy the social fabric of human relations, but divine providence can bring good out of evil and use the devices of humankind to serve its purposes; in this case, creating a bond in society of mutual dependency out of selfishness in meeting the needs of each other.42 Domat follows Nicole in this regard and creates the same division between the temporal and the spiritual realms to justify a policy of restraint in trying to cleanse the world from sin. The heavy-handed measures of government only become necessary when passions no longer prove useful in serving the community and proceed toward excessive or criminal behaviors in defrauding and pillaging one’s neighbor.43

Another good example of early acquisitive capitalism was Pierre de Boisguilbert (1646–1714). He was educated at the Petites Écoles of Port-Royal and continued expressing the religious and cultural sentiments of the Jansenists throughout his life, ← 27 | 28 → finding particular inspiration in the writings of Pierre Nicole.44 His writings display the dominant themes of Nicole and early acquisitive capitalism in emphasizing the pervasive nature of individual self-interest in commerce and its “reciprocal utility” in bringing about harmony within society.45 However, unlike Nicole and Domat, he brings a fuller and more rigorous discussion of specific economic issues to the movement and receives considerable praise from later economists like the physiocrats for discussing and forwarding the “advantage of the freedom of trade,” the “advances required for useful work,” the “role or expenditure” or circulation of wealth, and so many other proto-capitalistic themes.46 Much like the physiocrats he thinks of the universe as a perfect machine, with a “natural state” of optimal equilibrium, where money and wealth circulate in a liberal and perpetual movement, investing in the economy and exchanging hands, creating equilibrium by giving to some who lack and taking from others who possess a surplus.47 In this natural state, the government has no special role to play in developing the fundamental rules of the game and finds its place relegated to a subordinate role of managing what is given in nature. Boisguilbert thinks that any heavy-handed regulation of the market place and burdensome system of taxation only serves to disrupt the flow of nature and cause problems for everyone, especially those at the bottom and edges of society. It is not government policies but free trade and free competition that neutralize extreme fluctuations and prevent disequilibrium within the market.48 No miraculous intervention is needed from the heavens above or the earth below. As long as nature is “left alone” to the laws of secondary causality, divine providence will keep the equilibrium in place, and everyone will receive the necessities of life.49

The fissure between faith and reason grew in the course of time as the world seemed to function on its principles of causality, without any need for miraculous intervention, and function in a way that defied and disturbed the simple religious categories of the church. No longer was reason employed as a mere servant of faith, following the medieval dictum of Augustine and Anselm (fides quaerens intellectum) and using its resources to substantiate what was already believed; but reason became an autonomous avenue of truth or skepticism that might question the faith and eventually abandon the faith, proceeding from the self-reliance of Deism to the unbelief of atheism and secularism.

Pierre Bayle

Leading the way toward a more independent and skeptical use of reason was a Huguenot refugee by the name of Pierre Bayle (1647–1706), author of the single most popular work of the eighteenth century, Dictionnaire historique et critique ← 28 | 29 → (1696). Bayle exercised much influence over the philosophes of the Enlightenment in leading them to question the authority of priests and dogmatic rational formulas of theology in the name of religious toleration. He also exercised considerable influence over important proto-capitalists like Bernard Mandeville, who used Bayle’s concept of faith and reason to question the wisdom of imposing ascetic or altruistic Christian standards on others when the economy often employed “private vices” to produce “public benefits” for society.50 Both Bayle and Mandeville remained pious Christians in the midst of their doubts and continued to submit their ultimate understanding unto the revelation of God, but they also were rigorous enough in their application of reason to represent its results with integrity, admitting a number of problems in regard to their faith, causing distress within their souls and leading some to abandon the faith altogether.

Bayle’s skepticism traverses a whole range of topics and issues within his famous Dictionnaire, making it difficult for the reader to miss this fundamental disposition of the author. In his more impious moments, he dismisses the typical religious appeal to divine providence as eschewing a serious response to the problem of evil in the world and questions the possibility of constructing a credible theodicy that truly addresses the problems of critics. He also questions the standard cosmological proofs of rational piety in the same context, finding them ultimately unconvincing in their attempt to establish the existence of God through the rigors of philosophical analysis.51 Usually, he finds solace within the authority of special revelation and the grace of God and deprecates the power of human sagacity to probe the secrets of the Almighty. Only on certain occasions does he risk his source of solace and speak of the Scripture with the same candor and critical analysis as other matters of natural philosophy and worldly concern. The most infamous occasion was an article on “David,” which he had to amend in later editions due to the public outcry. In the original article, he speaks of David in Machiavellian terms, showing the unscrupulous and “exceedly wicked” means he used in establishing his kingdom—all to reassure present-day monarchs about the impossibility of following “strict moralists” in exercising their office.52 Here he thinks much like a proto-capitalist in recognizing the societal benefit of unseemly motives and actions and goes on to speak of self-interest in much the same way as a Jansenist. For example, he insists on some occasions that atheists can act as good and moral citizens since people tend to seek honor in their daily lives and have no need of God to motivate them in finding recognition among their fellow citizens. To substantiate the point, Bayle cites Augustine’s reference to “pagans” who act from self-interest (l’amour-propre) in their worldly lives as committing “glorious sins” when accomplishing mighty and magnificent feats.53 In fact, Bayle finds humans, in general, to be motivated by the “love of praise, the ← 29 | 30 → fear of disgrace, the natural temper, punishments and rewards in the magistrates hands,” and other like-passions.54 While true virtue emanates from the love of God, self-interest and other vices of depraved humanity are sometimes more useful in promoting the welfare of the state than the strict and austere virtues of Christian piety.55 Of course, Bayle and the early capitalists give ultimate credit to divine providence, which can make the wicked deeds of human depravity serve the good purposes of society,56 but they all seem to feel a certain vexation within their souls in recognizing the disturbing reality of the world and its vice-laden modus operandi.

Outwardly, Bayle lets none of this disturb his faith. For the most part, Bayle tries to remain triumphant in his profession and insulate it from criticism by making religion a matter of the heart and claiming that reason cannot measure or penetrate its mysteries.57 In this context, he finds it necessary to give up the pretenses of philosophical hubris and endless rational disputes to find solace within the miraculous power of divine grace and enter the kingdom of God, just like a child.58 Here he resorts to his Reformed understanding of faith with its emphasis on the irresistible grace of God and the total inability of human beings to find God or penetrate divine mysteries through their own capacities, making a great divide between faith and reason.59 Only God can reveal God; only revelation can provide final answers. Otherwise, grace would not be grace. This position might limit his ability to offer a critical analysis of faith and reform its beliefs and practices, but it also liberates his philosophical musings from serving the dogma of the church and allows for some open-ended analysis of questions, knowing that the limitations of reason can never damage or destroy what is most sacred to him, even when it entertains some disturbing thoughts.

French Authors

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, many French authors became obsessed with the dark side of human nature and the disturbing reality that much of human activity was motivated by baser passions and dominated by self-interest.60 Among the earliest representatives of this genre, none captured a larger audience than François de La Rochefoucauld’s literary masterpiece Maximes (1665), which endured and developed a number of editions, alterations, and additions during his lifetime. In the work, he finds human beings completely self-absorbed or centered around the “assertiveness, acquisitiveness, and aggrandizement of the ego.”61 He says self-love is a “part of every aspect and circumstance of life.”62 “We would rather ← 30 | 31 → run ourselves down than not speak of ourselves at all.”63 “Whatever fine words we may apply to our affections, they all too often derive from selfishness and vanity.”64

La Rochefoucauld’s dark view of humankind works within the same Augustinian understanding of total depravity as the Jansenists.65 He sees humans as fallen from the original design of creation and filled with inward corruption or concupiscentia, tainting all their activities and permeating their body, soul, and spirit, just like this Catholic tradition.66 He says, “We should often be ashamed of our noblest actions if the world but knew all the motives that helped shape them.”67 “We can say of all our virtues what an Italian poet has said of virtues in women, that it is seldom more than the art of appearing virtuous.”68 “[Our] virtues are swallowed up by self-interest as rivers are lost in the sea.”69

In this work, La Rochefoucauld thinks of self-love (amour-propre) as refracted into a whole array of diverse passions that serve its one singular interest.70 These passions are produced incessantly within the human heart and interpreted as “varying temperatures of the blood,” stimulating and controlling every aspect of life in a material and self-serving manner.71 In fact, he often relates love to the self-interest of eros by speaking of it as a passionate, romantic, and capricious feeling that simply strikes the human heart with its arrow. He excuses the indiscretions of its victims from personal responsibility, claiming that humans have no will-power to withstand its corporeal lusts and self-serving desires.72 Humans have no spiritual ability to transcend this material world and experience a pure love that exists outside their passions.73 They can never separate “personal” or “mutual gain” from developing a friendship with another person, and even find the “misfortunes of our dearest friends…something not entirely displeasing.”74

Of course, many considered La Rochefoucauld’s portrait of the human condition horrid and pointed to the many good deeds individuals perform every day in society, but he rejected this rejoinder as shallow and remained skeptical and disillusioned about the true motivations of most people throughout the various editions of his work. He thought it was necessary to probe deeply within the human psychē in a Freudian-like manner to find the darker and more disturbing truth about human nature.75 Through this psychoanalytic process, La Rochefoucauld sought to unveil the ugly, insidious truth about most people, finding them all filled with hypocritical and ulterior motives, even while standing for justice, seeming humble, exhibiting courage, and promoting philanthropic causes. He says, “We give praise only that we may get it”; “We refuse praise from a desire to be praised twice”; “We behave politely to be treated politely, and to be considered polite”; “We help others to make sure they will help us under similar circumstances.”76 He defines humility as a “stratagem of pride” employed to bring domination over ← 31 | 32 → others; gratitude as a way of obtaining greater benefits; and magnanimity as the “noblest means of gaining praise.”77

The emphasis upon self-interest took a more decided turn toward secularism in the eighteenth century among the philosophes and reached its most strident expression in the atheistic and materialistic philosophy of Claude Adrien Helvétius (1715–1771), a Parisian-born stalwart of the Encyclopedists, who represented the extreme edges of their philosophy. Helvétius embodied much of philosophes’ vitriol toward the church, accusing its priests of subjecting the people to their power, blaming them for all the intolerance and ignorance in society as peddlers of metaphysical dogma, and charging them with the destruction of the state by enslaving the king to their good pleasure.78 His most caustic work was De l’esprit or Essays on the Mind, published in July of 1758. The philosophes failed to rally behind the work, believing Helvétius was premature in publishing its controversial opinions, even if they sympathized with much of its spirit and most of its ideas.79 The Parlement and the Sorbonne immediately condemned the work upon its publication for promoting irreligion, forcing Helvétius several times to retract his temerity for publishing the book in the first place despite receiving prior approval.80 The church spelled out the charges as “decimating the foundations of the Christian religion,” “adopting the detestable doctrine of materialism,” “destroying the dignity of man,” “annihilating the first notions of justice and virtue,” “substituting for sound moral doctrine [an emphasis upon] interest, passions, pleasures,” “favoring atheists, deists, and all types of unbelievers,” “containing a great number of hateful statements against the church and its ministers,” and so forth.81 The church associated De l’esprit with the Encyclopédie as expressing the same essential message in a more brazen form and moved to ban both of them through the power of the state, but only succeeded for a short time and ended up spreading the notoriety of the philosophes’ perspective in the attempt to suppress it. In the aftermath, Helvétius avoided personal reprisals, Diderot completed the Encyclopédie, and De l’esprit became one of the most celebrated works of the era, honored with numerous editions and translations throughout Europe.82

Helvétius’ main concern is self-interest. He follows La Rochefoucauld and Mandeville in making self-interest (amour-propre) the principal motive of human action—both in De l’esprit and his other great work, De l’homme or A Treatise on Man (1772).83 “If the physical universe be subject to the laws of motion, the moral universe is equally so to those of interest. Interest is, on earth, the mighty magician, which to the eyes of every creature changes the appearance of all objects.”84 It is the “only sentiment that is engraved in our hearts in infancy.” It is the principal motivation behind the formation of moral, legal, civic, and social institutions.85 All human passions and desires only represent the “application of self-love to particular objects”86: “We esteem only such ideas as are analogous to our own”; ← 32 | 33 → “We help others” only to ensure “they will help us under similar circumstances.”87 Compassion is merely an act of self-love in recognizing the suffering of oneself within others, not an altruistic act or expression of concern for the welfare of fellow human beings.88 What distinguishes individuals in society and “most commonly sets them apart” is the pursuit of “honour” or the “passion for glory,” which Helvétius places above other self-interests as the “most desirous” motivation of them all—much more than the accumulation of wealth. Here he reiterates the sentiment of Mandeville on the subject and provides inspiration for the like-minded opinion in Adam Smith.89 In these and other similar comments, Helvétius works within the acceptable limits of a controversial tradition and its teachings without pushing the edges too far.

Helvétius only incurs the wrath of authorities when he dares to push the envelope further and proceed in a more secular direction than many of his predecessors and immediate successors in interpreting the position. He does so by proceeding to reject the orthodox doctrine of human depravity and think of people as redeemable through better social legislation and public education, not the work of Christ.90 “No individual is born good or bad.”91 Self-interest is described as the one inherent “sentiment that is engraved in our hearts,” and it has no specific inclination toward evil. It has the potential to proceed in any direction, good or bad, given a certain set of circumstances and particular focus upon certain objects.92 In fact, self-interest is the same inherent force in all people and only develops in different directions through the varying objects or opportunities presented to it in the environment and surrounding culture.93 Helvétius attributes the inequalities between people and their intellectual development to the “effect of the difference of situation in which chance has placed them” and their passionate attention to the opportunities at hand. It is human passion excited by chance that sets people in motion and explains their differences in social, moral, and intellectual achievement.94 All humans have the same aptitude to discover and comprehend the “highest truths” of the world around them, just like Isaac Newton, given the proper set of fortuitous circumstances, including an apple falling out of a tree.95

Helvétius ends up deifying human potential in the process, rejecting the typical strictures upon finite capacities, undermining the orthodox belief in human depravity, and proceeding to make the moral calling an expression of human nature, not the will of a transcendent deity. He rejects the Christian call for self-sacrifice and other ascetic practices that emasculate egoistic and primitive pleasures in the name of some higher ideal.96 Self-love is liberated from its slavery to the Christian concept of corruption and now becomes much the opposite—the “only basis on which we can place the foundations of an useful morality.”97 In this way, Helvétius lays the foundation for a new theory of ethics, representing an early form of the social ← 33 | 34 → utilitarianism that became so popular during the French Enlightenment, making the greatest happiness principle the calculating sum of all moral behavior, and so transforming “egoistic self-love into socially useful self-love.”98 He argues that the “love of self produces the desire for happiness,” developing from our corporeal sensibilities and controlling “our actions, our thoughts, our passions, and our sociability” in concert with one another, and so making the “happiness of the majority” the object of ethics.99 This means that laws must be constructed or abolished in a society based upon the “supreme law” of public utility.100 Helvétius rejoices over this new “science of morals” as it eliminates the need for philosophical or metaphysical speculation, rests upon a firm empirical basis within corporeal sensibility, and makes what is just or unjust a simple calculating sum of mathematics.101 Ethics no longer needs religion as a motivating factor in prescribing or proscribing human conduct through its tactics of fear; it no longer needs to look outside of human interest and happiness for answers in a special revelation of God and a divine law inscribed within nature and the hearts of human beings.102 Humans are more or less a social construction, forged through the power of government, and do not need special divine grace to redeem them or make them virtuous citizens.103 Human self-interest has its own ethical and salvific quality in serving the public good.104

Helvétius went on to interpret all of life in these secular and materialistic terms.105 Like most philosophes, he was enamored with the abstract physical laws of Isaac Newton and the epistemology of John Locke and the British empiricists, but he clearly went beyond his constituency and other Anglophiles by attempting to apply and expand British concepts to the human race in a thoroughgoing manner.106 As a result, he reduced human ideas to an external material impulse, pleasure to corporeal sensations, and proceeded to deny altogether the presence of innate ideas within the mind, the freedom of the will to generate responsible behavior, and the existence of an immortal soul or any other transcendent reality.107 Many philosophes like Rousseau and Diderot shuddered to proceed so far in destroying human dignity and considered his positions an extreme caricature of the “enlightened” philosophical tendencies in the era,108 but his radical stance certainly represented the main current of the time in bold relief as it was sweeping Europe and proceeding toward a more secular future.


In the middle of the eighteenth century, the new field of economics began to emerge, developing more scientific and mathematical rigor under the work of the physiocrats, a closely aligned association of early capitalists in France. François ← 34 | 35 → Quesnay, a royal physician, often receives credit for founding the group through his role in writing some leading economic articles in the Encyclopédie (1757) and his authorship of its most celebrated scientific work, Tableau économique (1758/59),109 but he clearly collaborated in forging the movement with many other noteworthy figures like Vincent de Gournay, Marquis de Mirabeau, and Mercier de la Rivière.110 Of these three, Mirabeau served as the most direct collaborator in forging the movement with him, writing its early best-seller, L’ami des homes, ou traité de la population (1757), and working with Quesnay on La philosophie rurale (1763), one of the movement’s great works.111 Over a decade later the group reached its zenith of power when Anne-Robert-Jacques Turgot brought physiocrat policy to the government as the finance minister of France, even though the outward political success was short-lived. Turgot and the physiocrats were still ahead of their times in bringing “enlightened” policy to pre-revolutionary France and lost power when the rich and powerful complained about the erosion of their privileges and interference in their monopolies under his tenure, leading to his dismissal a couple of years later in 1776.112 The prominence of the physiocrats waned after this time,113 but their legacy continued to inspire future economists like Du Pont de Nemours and Adam Smith long after their heyday. Du Pont carried the physiocrat legacy for the next several decades on the world stage, spreading the message in France, Europe, and America as the “first important case of a professional economist turned policy maker.” Du Pont claimed that he developed much of his economic insights on his own, but he admitted his excitement when first reading Quesnay’s articles and great work in finding some support out there, and crystallized and refined his thinking through reading these and other works of the physiocrats.114 Du Pont and the physiocrats were never alone in developing their economic concepts but belonged to the process of history and served a common tradition of ideas that were circulating throughout France, drawing particular inspiration from the native-born emphasis upon self-interest and the monumental success of Britain in creating an economy based on early capitalist principles.115

Of course, the physiocrats thought of their work as creating a “new science” of economics.116 The Tableau was celebrated as a milestone in economic theory because of its attempt to bring a new academic rigor and forge a new discipline of study, even if its zigzag arithmetical chart was obscure and difficult to follow, even among the faithful.117 Before the Tableau, the area of economics was deprecated as un-“disciplined,” filled with unproven and flaccid hypotheses, coming mainly from loose and unreliable mercantilist intuitions, with its presentiments toward strong central government, large companies and guilds, the acquisition of bullion, the accumulation of wealth at the expense of others, and the policy of increasing exports, not imports through exacting duties upon them.118 ← 35 | 36 →

The physiocrats wanted to challenge this old way of thinking with a new scientific system based on the facts of experience, although they brought their own set of metaphysical commitments and intuitions to their analysis, just like most scholars in working to forge a system.119 Quesnay tried to base his theory upon “physical experiment” and avoid the Cartesian penchant for deductive system building, but the majority of the physiocrats were less inductive in methodology and wanted a complete systematic framework in presenting physiocracy as a total science of society.120 After all, their creed was based upon the “natural and immutable order” that encompassed all of life and served as the “archetype of all governments” and social arrangements, that illumined the hearts and minds of humankind, allowing them to deduce all possible truth from it and let “nature rule” (physiocratie).121 The physiocrats looked at the natural order as containing both physical and moral laws, intertwined and working together to the advantage of society. The “regular course of every physical event of the natural order” and the “rule of every human action of moral order conformable to physical order” are “most advantageous to mankind”; “They are immutable, irrefragable, and the best laws possible,” “the best foundation of the most perfect government,” working together for the material benefit of humankind and allowing the physiocrats to develop a total systematic view of life, covering all of its aspects and disciplines—the laws of nature and the laws of human society.122

The physiocrats saw the natural order as living in harmony between the interests of the one and the interests of many. Like Helvétius, they represented a most positive view of self-interest within the Jansenist tradition in merging the two interests, believing a well-ordered society arises behind the conscious plan of individuals and the pursuit of their own special interests—at least in most cases.123 Individuals might think they are working solely in terms of their own particular goals and designs in pursuing what is best for themselves in each particular case, but they are unconscious of the ultimate effect of their actions and end up working for others in the grand scheme of divine providence. Individuals might think they are fixing their own value on commodities and setting their own prices through an act of free will, but God is working all along, above and beyond their designs, in balancing all values against each other and setting the natural level within an overall plan of equilibrium.124 Prices of goods and the rate of interest are balanced by the law of supply and demand, rising or falling naturally, in accordance with the market value.125

This concept of natural equilibrium led the physiocrats to denounce government interference in the market place with pet slogans like “laissez faire” or “laisser aller,” which became part of the popular parlance of capitalism.126 They felt it is best for the government to follow a policy of free trade as much as possible, ← 36 | 37 → since “prices will always be regulated by competition of trade in the commodities,” allowing all to prosper in the end—both buyer and seller.127

All duties on exports and imports, all prohibitions and regulations which constrain external and internal commerce diminish the wealth of the State and the revenues of the sovereign; all imposition of duties prejudicial to commerce and the production of goods is destructive imposition.128

The general freedom of buying and selling is therefore the only means of assuring, on the one hand, the seller of a price sufficient to encourage production, on the other hand, the consumer, of the best merchandise at the lowest price.129

What is called the arrangements—i.e., fixing the number of pieces of woollen cloth a manufacturer can make and ship to the Levant, fixing the price and the number of people who may sell it—necessarily tends to diminish the number of merchants, manufacturers and workers, and ruins our wholesalers by depriving them of their calculating spirit and of the necessity to calculate. Therefore those arrangements tend to increase the number of beggars in our country.130

These and other ideas proved valuable over the course of time in helping future economists understand some basic principles, but they were never able to embody the total picture. Their ideas were never able to produce what they desired—a final and complete system of fundamental axioms, or even a single proposition that withstood all further scrutiny as an indubitable fact, suffering the same fate as the Cartesian system, or any other system offering its basic concepts as the building block of everything else. Their “new science” certainly helped promote the importance of economic theory by challenging Mercantilist assumptions and forwarding concepts that recognized the self-regulating nature of the economy, providing some valuable insight over time in understanding its inner workings and positive results for society—at least within certain limitations; but some of their ideas seemed incredulous to later generations. Perhaps, the most nonsensical was one of their leading ideas, that the source of wealth in a country is its agriculture, especially its wealthy farmers, which Quesnay and the physiocrats justified with copious “scientific” analysis.

These poor cultivators, of such little use to the state, do not represent the true laborer, the rich farmer, who cultivates land on a large scale, who governs, who commands, who multiplies the expenses to increase his profits, who does not neglect any means or personal advantage yet produces the general welfare, who employs in a useful manner the inhabitants of the countryside, who can choose and wait for a propitious time to deliver his grains, to buy and sell his livestock.… ← 37 | 38 →

Manufacturing and commerce maintained by the deranged need for luxury accumulate men and wealth in the large cities, prevent the appreciation of property, devastate the countryside, inspire scorn for agriculture, augment excessively the expenses of private individuals, harm the support of families, prevent the propagation of mankind, and weaken the state.

      The decline of empires has often closely followed a flourishing state of commerce. When a nation spends on luxuries what it gains from commerce, the only result is the circulation of money without any increase in wealth. It is the sale of superfluities that enriches the subjects and the sovereign. The products of our land must be the primary material for manufacturing and the object of commerce: any other kind of commerce which is not based on these foundations has little security; the more luster commerce acquires in a kingdom, the more it stimulates the emulation of neighboring nations, and the more it is shared.… Commerce at home is necessary to obtain the necessities of life, to maintain the production of luxuries, and to facilitate consumption; but it contributes little to the power and prosperity of the state. If a part of the immense wealth that it retains and whose use produces so little for the kingdom were to be distributed to agriculture, it would produce revenues that are much more real and considerable.131

Many later economists found this dogged belief responsible in part for impeding the modern industrialization of the country, undermining the importance of manufacturing and monetary transactions in the economy, and dishonoring the labor of artisans, craftsmen, and merchants.132

Furthermore, the physiocrats were not always so wise or prescient in their counsel and sometimes spoke from the provincial perspective of their world, displaying little comprehension of capitalism’s radical implications for shaping society in the future. They tended to accept the present political and social order, never providing a serious or direct challenge to the basic structure of their world: the divine right of monarchical authority, the landowner as the king of the economy, the seigneurial system of privileges and its feudal property arrangements, and the monopolistic practices of guilds, except in certain instances.133 They never expanded their vision or spoke of any revolutionary impulses within their laissez-faire economic system, leaving most of these implications to their British and American counterparts, who combined them into one movement.134 Like most of the philosophes, they followed the typical political beliefs of the Ancien Régime and submitted intellect and will to justify the sovereign authority of kings, seeking only to transform it into a “legal despotism” by limiting interference in the lives of the people and checking it by the rule of natural and positive law.135

Nevertheless, they were purveyors of a tradition that exerted an enormous influence beyond their limited purview. They continued to espouse a belief in ← 38 | 39 → divine providence to balance out the prices and interests to meet the needs of the entire society, but their laissez-faire economic policy contained a more secular message for future generations in eliminating the need for divine or moral intervention, seeing that life worked well-enough on its principles and required no further assumptions to explain its mechanism and results. The merging of individual and societal interests found a more consistent application in the atheistic and utilitarian schema of Helvétius, who was able to eliminate the paradox between the two by denying the depravity of self-interest and espousing the greatest happiness principle. This more secular and utilitarian approach will encompass the French Revolution and much of the world to come, allowing humankind to calculate its activities apart from divine revelation, or a transcendent Word from on high to discriminate between its interests, seeing that the “voice [or interest] of the people is the voice of God.”136 The schema will no longer need to follow Kant and presuppose the existence of God or some outside force to reconcile virtue and happiness together since these two aspects of the summum bonum are the same.137 In Britain, self-preservation will become the mechanism for the evolution of the species, merging biology and economics and exorcizing the need for divine intervention in the process of life, in general, to explain the development of order and complexity in the world—all evolving from the self-interest or chaos of individual struggle.


1. For a complete discussion of this matter, see chaps. 5 and 6 of Stephen Strehle, Egalitarian Spirit of Christianity: The Sacred Roots of American and British Government (New Brunswick, NJ and London: Transaction Publishers, 2009).

2. Strehle, Egalitarian Spirit of Christianity, 213. See chap. 6 of the same book for a discussion of Puritans and their role in developing the modern concept of progress. Weber’s understanding of capitalism’s development also emphasizes the rational use of capital—balance sheets, efficient production, large turnover, consumer prices, and the division of labor as significant factors. Max Weber, “The Author Defines His Purpose,” in Protestantism and Capitalism, R. W. Green (ed.) (Boston: C. Heath and Co., 1959), 2; The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Talcott Parsons (trans.) (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1958), 25, 64, 67; Manfred Brocker, “Max Webers Erklärungsansatz für die Enstehung des Kapitalismus,” Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenschaft 43, no. 6 (1995): 495. However, his treatment fails to discuss the importance of finance, investment, and the charging of interest in developing capitalism or the rationalization of the money system. Of course, this oversight leads him to neglect the place of the Jews in developing modern capitalism. Jews were among the first in the western world to recognize the importance of commercial speculation, or the “merchant” who sits “on his sofa” and “promotes, occasions, or facilitates anything that may tend to the benefit or comfort of his fellow-creatures.” Moses Mendelssohn, ← 39 | 40 → “Response to Dohm (1782),” in Jews in the Modern World, Paul Mendes-Fohr and Jehuda Reinharz (ed.) (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980), 40. During the Middle Ages, the Jews became a merchant people, stimulating transregional trading networks and lending money at interest. Sometimes their rates of interest ranged from 33 to 60 percent per annum due to the scarcity of capital and high risk of moneylending. The rates often stigmatized capitalism when debts tended to mount during hard times and facilitated anti-Semitic sentiments among the Gentiles, who characterized the Jewish people as lazy, non-productive, avaricious, and selfish. The church lent its authority to the burgeoning anti-Semitism by proscribing usury at the time and helping to taint the practice among the critics of capitalism to the present day. John Calvin and the Swiss theologians provided the first important voices challenging the overall position of the church and helped ease the ecclesiastical stricture on the practice among Puritans and the modern capitalistic world. Strehle, The Egalitarian Spirit of Christianity, 186–91; Jerry Z. Muller, Capitalism and the Jews (Princeton, NJ and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2010), 4–8, 15–17, 21–22, 25, 28–32, 52, 56–60, 99–100, 112.

3. Michael Locke McLendon, “Tocqueville, Jansenism, and the Psychology of Freedom,” American Journal of Political Science 50/3 (2006): 673.

4. Anders Nygren, Agape and Eros, Philip S. Watson (intro. and trans.) (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1953), 470; Gerald W. Schlabach, For the Joy Set Before Us: Augustine and Self-Denying Love (Notre Dame, IN: Notre Dame University, 2001), 4. He considers the two terms utterly opposed as they find their classical expression in Paul and Plato, but he does not engage in a philological enquiry to secure an exact range of meaning and makes no claim that agapē and eros have a simple set meaning.

5. E.g., Nygren, Agape and Eros, 202.

6. Ibid., 162–63.

7. Ibid., 216.

8. Ibid., 44, 175; Schlabach, Joy Set Before Us, 6.

9. Ibid., viii–ix, 51–52, 184, 201, 212, 197–99, 465–66.

10. Ibid., 47–48, 118–19, 140.

11. Ibid., ix, 75–80, 126, 210; Schlabach, Joy Set Before Us, 2. In agapē, the emphasis is upon God’s love for us, not our love for God. Human love is only a dim reflection of God’s love and really speaks of the sovereign grace of God establishing a relationship with us, which Nygren understands in terms of Luther’s concept of sola fides and sola gratia. Ibid., 62–63, 67, 97, 126, 219.

12. Ibid., 96–97.

13. Ibid., 98–100, 214. Nygren makes a decided dichotomy within the greatest commandment between loving God and loving one’s neighbor.

14. Ibid., 94–95, 213.

15. Ibid., 100–1, 130–31, 217.

16. Ibid., xii–xv. Nygren’s favorite verse is 1 Cor 13:5: “[Love] does not seek its own.” See also Lk 9:24, Rom 6:4; 9:3, Gal 2:20. Schlabach counters Nygren’s argument by citing Heb 12:2, which says that Jesus “endured the cross for the joy set before him.” Joy Set Before Him, 143.

17. Ibid., 450–51, 458–59. ← 40 | 41 →

18. Augustine, Sermo de Disciplina Christiana, 6 (PL 40.672); De Diversis Quaestionibus LXXXIII, 35.2 (PL 40.24); Nygren, Agape and Eros, 476, 486. PL stands for J.-P. Migne, Patrologiae cursus completus [Series Latina] (Paris, 1844–64).

19. Nygren, Agape and Eros, 471.

20. Ibid., 22, 530–31.

21. Augustine, De Doctrina Christiana, 3.10.16 (PL 34.72); Enarrationes in Psalmos, 31.2.5 (PL 36.260); Nygren, Agape and Eros, 483, 495; Schlabach, Joy Set Before Us, 29–30. The world is seen as a vehicle to enjoy God. Augustine, De Civitate Dei, 11.35; 15.7.1 (PL 41.339, 443).

22. Nygren, Agape and Eros, 532, 538–39, 549; Robert Markus, “Augustine on Pride and the Common Good,” in Collectanea Augustiniana, Joseph C. Schnaubelt and Frederick Van Fleteren (ed.) (New York: Peter Lang, 1990), 248; Oliver O’Donovan, The Problem of Self-Love in St. Augustine (New Haven, CT and London: Yale University Press, 1980), 141–42, 151; Schlabach, Joy Set Before Us, 145.

23. Augustine, De Musica, 6.13.40 (PL 32.1184–85); Nygren, Agape and Eros, 433, 536–37; O’Donovan, The Problem of Self-Love, 93ff., 108–10; Markus, “Augustine on Pride and the Common Good,” 247–48.

24. Augustine, Enarrationes in Psalmos, 41.12 (PL 36.472); De Civitate Dei, 14.13.1 (PL 41.421); Markus, “Augustine on Pride and the Common Good,” 249–51; O’Donovan, The Problem of Self-Love, 100–2. Augustine’s rereading of Paul in the mid-390s was crucial in making his transition toward an emphasis upon divine grace. His Confessions are clearly an anachronistic interpretation of his experience with grace in light of his mature theology. See Schlabach, Joy Set Before Us, 84, 210–11 (n.123).

25. Augustine, Epistolarae, classis tertia, 155.4.15 (PL 33.672–73); O’Donovan, The Problem of Self-Love, 38. Of course, Augustine also relates the love of neighbor to the love of God. Loving one’s neighbor is a special instance of loving God; i.e., loving a person as one who is grasped by God or fulfills some divine purpose. Love finds what is worthy in a person; it does not love the sinner. Nygren, Agape and Eros, 453–54, 449–50; O’Donovan, The Problem of Self-Love, 31–33, 36; Markus, “Augustine on Pride and the Common Good,” 38, 41.

26. Schlabach, Joy Set Before Us, 43–44, 47, 127; Augustine, Sermones ad Populum, 128.3.5 (PL 38.715).

27. Augustine, De Trinitate, 14.12.16 (PL 42.1048–49).

28. Augustine, Tractatus in Joannis Evangelium, 132.5 (PL 35.1968).

29. Schlabach, Joy Set Before Us, 141.

30. The Dictionary Historical and Critical of Mr Peter Bayle, Reprinted from the second edition (London, 1734–38) (New York and London: Garland Publishing, 1984), 4.491–92.

31. Pierre Nicole, Essais de Morale, Laurent Thirouin (ed.) (Paris: Presses Universitaires de Frances, 1999), 389; Pascal’s Pensées, T. S. Eliot (intro.) (New York: E. P. Dutton and Co., 1958), 131–36 (470–94).

32. Pasquier Quesnay, The New Testament with Moral Reflections,… (London: R. Bonwicke et al., 1719), 4/2.559–64 (1 Cor 13:4, 5, 8). This passage has some tension with other comments in the Gospels, where he speaks of a “well-regulated love of ourselves” as a “Perfect Modal” for loving others “if not as much as ourselves, at least in the same rank, wherein we ought to love ourselves.” Ibid., 1/1.254, 587 (Mt 19:19, Mk 12:31). ← 41 | 42 →

33. In classifying Jansenists with the label “acquisitive capitalists,” I am only trying to create a typology or broad generalization. In reality, the Jansenists have tensions and display elements of the Puritan position at times in their discussion. For example, the Jansenists were opposed to a frivolous lifestyle of dancing, gaming, entertainment, and pomp just like the Puritans. Many of them admired England and knew that Puritan industriousness was the most significant impetus toward commerce in the land, not the pursuit of luxury. Alexander Sedgwick, “Seventeenth Century French Jansenism and the Enlightenment,” in Church, State, and Society under the Bourbon Kings of France, Richard M. Golden (ed.) (Lawrence, KA: Coronado Press, 1982), 130; Pierre Nicole, Traité de la Comédie, Gourges Couton (ed.) (Paris: Société d’Édition “Les Belles Lettres”, 1961), 51–57; Vincent de Gournay, Mémoires et Lettres, Takuni Tsuda (ed.) (Tokyo: Kinokuniya Co. Ltd., 1993), 53, 61–62; Abbé Raynal, A Philosophical and Political History of the Settlements and Trade of the Europeans in the East and West Indies, J. Justament (trans.) (London, 1777), 5.498–99; Gilbert Faccarello, The Foundations of Laissez-faire: The Economics of Pierre de Boisguilbert (London and New York: Routledge, 1999), 15–16. This holds true for later French authors who remain Anglo-philes and commend Puritan industriousness, while recognizing that luxury still can provide a stimulus to the economy. The Works of Voltaire (Paris: E. R. DuMont, 1901), 37.213; Henry Fielding, An Enquiry into the Causes of the Late Increase of Robbers,… (London, 1751), 10; Helvétius, A Treatise on Man: His Intellectual Faculties and His Education, W. Hooper (trans.) (London: Albion Press, 1810), 2.257; Strehle, Egalitarian Spirit of Christianity, 182–84, 193.

34. D. W. Smith, Helvétius: A Study of Persecution (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1965), 131. Pascal and his Pensées serve as an important model for Nicole in writing this work, and are quoted throughout the Essais. Essais de Morale, 10. As a part of the Jansenist movement, Pascal emphasized the depravity of human beings and saw them caught between divinity and corruption, greatness and wretchedness. Richard M. Chadbourne, “Two Converts: Augustine and Pascal,” in Grace, Politics, and Desire: Essays on Augustine, H. A. Meynell (ed.) (Calgary, Canada: University Calgary Press, 1990), 33; Pascal, The Provincial Letters, W. F. Trotter and Thomas M’Crie (trans.) (New York: The Modern Library, 1941), 438–41; Pensées, 109–112, 121–22, 187 (409–23, 667).

35. Nicole, Essais de Morale, 213; Smith, Helvétius, 123. Sometimes he speaks of mixed motives in our actions or the difficulty of discerning whether we act from charity or self-interest. After all, God alone searches our hearts and knows our motives. Ibid., 409; Anne Mette Hjort, “Mandeville’s Ambivalent Modernity,” MLN 106/5 (1991): 959. See Heb 4:12.

36. Ibid., 390–91; McLendon, “Tocqueville, Jansenism, and the Psychology of Freedom,” 672. He cites a passage from Augustine, which finds vanity producing similar effects as charity in feeding and clothing the poor, et al. Ibid., 406–7 (n.1); Augustine, In Epistolam Joannis ad Parthos, 8.9 (PL 35.2040–41). Pascal also has some understanding of how lust can serve the public weal. Pensées, 127 (451–53). Like many others in this tradition, Pascal believes people seek the esteem of others as a basic motivation in society. He criticizes the Jesuits for defending dueling, or killing for the sake of honor, and thinks the lives of Jansenists might be endangered by this type of teaching (i.e., for dishonoring their opponents’ dogma). McLendon, “Tocqueville, Jansenism, and the Psychology of Freedom,” 668; Pascal, Pensées, 45–47 (147–50, 158); Provincial Letters, 402–8, 412, 416–17, 507–9. ← 42 | 43 →

37. Ibid., 381, 395, 401–3; Jacob Viner, Religious Thought and Economic Society, Jacques Melitz and Donald Winch (eds.) (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1978), 136.

38. Ibid., 403–4.

39. Ibid., 384; Essai de Morale (Geneve: Slatkine, 1971), 1.139–40; “Of Grandeur,” in Moral Essays (London, 1696) 2.97–98; Viner, Religious Thought and Economic Society, 135–36; Faccarello, Foundations of Laissez-faire, 27–28. Pascal can find vice or concupiscence useful, but this is hardly a leading theme in his great works. Smith, Helvétius, 125; Albert O. Hirschman, The Passions and the Interests: Political Arguments for Capitalism Before its Triumph (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1977), 16.

40. Nicole, “Of Grandeur,” 2.98–99; Smith, Helvétius, 125; Nicole, Essais de Morale, 214; Faccarello, Foundations of Laissez-faire, 24, 25, 31; Louis Schneider, Paradox and Society: The Work of Bernard Mandeville, Jay Weintein (forward) (New Brunswick, NJ and Oxford: Transaction Publishers, 1987), 73; Timothy O’Hagen, “L’amour-propre est un instrument utile mais dangereux: Jean-Jacques Rousseau et Port-Royal,” Revue de Théologie et de Philosophie 138/1 (2006): 37.

41. Historical Dictionary and Critical of Mr Peter Bayle, 4.361–63; Alexander Sedgwick, “Seventeenth Century French Jansenism and the Enlightenment,” in Church, State, and Society under the Bourbon Kings of France, Richard M. Golden (ed.) (Lawrence, KA: Coronado Press, 1982), 134–35, 142–45.

42. Oeuvres Complètes de J. Domat (Paris: Alex-Gobelet, Libraire, 1835), 1.25; 4.96; Viner, Religious Thought and Economic Society, 138–39; Faccarello, Foundations of Laissez-faire, 26−29.

43. Ibid., 1.32–33; Viner, Religious Thought and Economic Society, 139.

44. Faccarello, Foundations of Laissez-faire, 3, 14.

45. “Factum de la France, contre les demandeurs en delay,” in Pierre de Boisguilbert ou La Naissance de L’Économie Politique [NEP] (Paris: Institut National d’Études Démographiques, 1966) 2.748–49; Faccarello, Foundations of Laissez-Faire, 28, 96.

46. Du Pont de Nemours, Ephemerides du Citoyen (Paris: LaCombe, 1769), 9.10–12; Faccarello, Foundations of Laissez-faire, 58, 146–47. Unlike the physiocrats, he does not center his system on agriculture. He finds the source of wealth in all sorts of products and wants taxes distributed over all commodities. “Factum de la France,” 2.896; “Traité de la Nature,” in NEP 2.830; Faccarello, Foundations of Laissez-faire, 70–71, 113.

47. “Factum de la France,” 2.891, 919; “Dissertation: De la nature des richesses, …,” in NEP 2.991; Faccarello, Foundations of Laissez-faire, 17–20, 72, 130. The leisure class causes particular disruption in the economy by protecting their luxuries at the expense of basic goods and sitting on their money rather than investing it. Faccarello, Foundations of Laissez-faire, 111–13.

48. Faccarello, Foundations of Laissez-faire, 41–42, 108, 138. Free trade was emphasized by many others in Puritan England. Strehle, Egalitarian Spirit of Christianity, 176–77; R. H. Tawney, Religion and the Rise of Capitalism (Gloucester, MA: Peter Smith, 1962), 187–88, 192, 254, 258, 262; William Walwyn, “Conceptions: Free Trade,” in Writings, Jack R. McMael and Barbara Taft (eds.) (Athens, GA and London: The University of Georgia Press, 1989), 448–49. Tawney provides on pp. 319–20 in footnote 320 a mountain of research that deals with monopolies, exchange, speculation, and industry under the control ← 43 | 44 → of the Star Chamber, Privy Council, and other powers of government both before and after the Puritan Revolution.

49. “Factum de la France,” 2.891–92; Faccarello, Foundations of Laissez-faire, 99–100. Of course, he believes in some government regulation to “provide protection and prevent violence,” but this is the exception, not the rule.

50. Elisabeth Labrousse, “The Political Ideas of the Huguenot Diaspora (Bayle and Jurieu),” in Church, State, and Society, 263; Bayle, Denys Potts (trans.) (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1983), 11; Thomas Horne, The Social Thought of Bernard Mandeville (New York: Columbia University Press, 1978), 28–31; Bernard Mandeville, Fable of the Bees: Or, Private Vices, Public Virtue, F. B. Kaye (intro.) (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1924), 1.ciii, cv; Schneider, Paradox and Society, 67.

51. Labrousse, Bayle, 55, 41, 60.

52. Pierre Bayle, Political Writings, Sally L. Jenkinson (ed.) (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 36, 39–40, 46. In the article, he condemns David’s cruelty and marrying for power, much like William of Orange. He speaks of David deceiving the king of Gath, stealing Nabal’s property, annihilating populations, et al.; yet he calls David a “good and great king.” Ibid., 36, 39–43, 49–50.

53. Dictionary, 5.811–13; Horne, The Social Thought of Bernard Mandeville, 30.

54. Ibid., 4.441; 5.811.

55. Ibid., 3.293, 965; Schneider, Paradox and Society, 73; Horne, The Social Thought of Bernard Mandeville, 30–31.

56. Ibid., 5.813–14; Pierre Rétat, Le Dictionnaire de Bayle et la lute philosophique au XVIII e siècle (Paris: Société d’Édition “Les Belles Lettres”, 1971), 223–24.

57. Ibid., 5.208, 811, 815–16, 821–22. Pascal’s defense of the faith proceeded in much the same direction. He says we must trust the intuitions of the heart, just like we trust the intuitive principles of mathematics. Pensées, 1, 79 (282). The heart has its reasons that exist beyond reason in loving God without knowing the reason why. These intuitions come from God as a gift of grace. Ibid., xviii, 72–73, 78–79 (245, 248, 277, 279). Reason has its limits. It cannot prove the existence of God or the truth of the gospel. Ibid., 66, 78, 145 (233, 273, 542).

58. Ibid., 4.363; 5.831.

59. Labrousse, Bayle, 43, 46, Mandeville, Fable of the Bees, xlii. He was raised a Calvinist and destined for the ministry, although he ended up proceeding in another direction, at one time serving as a professor of philosophy at the Huguenot Academy of Sedan. For a very brief period, he converted to Catholicism and attended a Jesuit college but returned to the Reformed faith, rejecting the concept of transubstantiation, and went on to study at the Protestant Academy of Geneva. Bayle, Political Writings, xx–xxi; Labrousse, Bayle, 16–17, 22–23, 32–33; “The Political Ideas of the Huguenot Diaspora,” 235.

60. Mandeville, Fable of the Bees, lxxx–xc; Pierre Force, “Helvétius as an Epicurean Political Theorist,” in Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century (Oxford: Voltaire Foundation, 2009), 108; Hirschman, The Passions and the Interests, 42.

61. The Maxims of La Rochefoucauld, Louis Kronenberger (trans.) (New York: Random House, 1959), 24–26; W. G. Moore, La Rochefoucauld: His Mind and Art (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1969), 5–6, 32, 101; Hirschman, Passions and Interests, 42. The standard text was ← 44 | 45 → established by the author in 1678, excluding and altering many of the maxims. Hereafter, the English edition is designated MLR, and the French edition OCR [Oeuvres Complètes de La Rochefoucauld, L. Martin-Chauffier (ed.) (Gallimard, 1950)].

62. MLR 141 (563); OCR 490.

63. MLR 58 (138); OCR 425.

64. MLR 76 (232–33); OCR 438.

65. Force, “Helvétius,” 109; Moore, La Rochefoucauld, 36, 41. La Rochefoucauld was sympathetic with the Jansenists and their dubious view of human nature. He was a personal friend of Jacques Esprit and attended the same salon as La Fountaine. Both of these relations place La Rochefoucauld within the Jansentist/French moralist tradition. Horne, The Social Thought of Bernard Mandeville, 19–20, 23.

66. MLR 69, 132 (195, 523); OCR 433, 481–82. He typically adds qualifications like “most people” or “often” to his concept of depravity, probably allowing for some real virtue among a few people. He certainly does not proceed as far as Calvin and reject the possibility of any virtue among Christians and non-Christians alike. Cf. Louis Hippeau, Essai sur la Morale de La Rochefoucauld (Paris: Editions E.-G. Nizet, 1967), 97–99.

67. MLR 109 (409); OCR 461.

68. MLR 150 (605); OCR 496. He also says, “Virtuousness in women is often a love of their reputations and their peace of mind.” MLR 70 (205); OCR 434.

69. MLR 64 (171); OCR 429.

70. MLR 134 (531) 483. Albert Hirschman thinks that interest is more calculating than simple passion and serves as a wedge between reason and pure passion. Passions and Interests, 42–47.

71. MLR 33–34, 142 (6, 10,142; OCR 407–408.

72. MLR 136, 144 (546, 577); OCR 484, 493. He often speaks of love affairs, mistresses, and the arts of coquetry in the work.

73. MLR 46 (69); OCR 416.

74. MLR 48, 146 (81–83, 583); OCR 418, 494; Donald Furner, “The Myth of amour-propre in La Rochfoucauld,” The French Review 43/2 (Dec. 1969) 229.

75. MLR 23, 26; Moore, La Rochefoucauld, 96, 101. He admits that self-love is difficult to see and recognize, and that only God can judge our motives. MLR139 (563); OCR 488; Moore, La Rochefoucauld, 34.

76. MLR 60, 83 (146,149, 264); OCR 426, 443. Of course, there are many other examples: A condemned person scoffing at death is only revealing an intense fear of the brutal reality; The clemency of a prince is typically a tactic to court the affection of his subjects; The scorn of wealth is a way of deflecting the humiliation of poverty; The love of justice shows the fear of encountering injustice; etc. MLR 35, 37, 43, 47, 145 (15, 21, 54, 78, 580); OCR 409–10, 414, 417, 493.

77. MLR 81, 87, 90 (254, 285, 298); OCR 441, 446–48.

78. Helvétius, A Treatise on Man, 1.9, 47–38, 41, 46, 350–51; 2.149, 361–64, 370, 379–82. Hereafter designated as TM.

79. Jean-Felix-Henri de Fumel, Mandement et Instruction pastorale de Monseigneur l’Évéque de Lodère (Monpellier: A.-F. Rochard, 1759) [cited in Smith, Helvétius, 51]. See also Smith, Helvétius, 1–3, 50–51. ← 45 | 46 →

80. Smith, Helvétius, 2, 27, 35, 41–42, 49.

81. Helvétius, Mandement de Monseigneur l’archevêque de Paris, … (Paris, 1758), 27; “Archiepiscopo Farsaliae, Generali in Hispaniarum Regnis Inquisitori gratulatur, …,” in Bullari Romani continuatio summorum pontificum Clementis XIII, … (Romae, 1835), 1.209–10; Smith, Helvétius, 39–40, 44.

82. Smith, Helvétius, 60–63, 141, 148, 152–53, 222.

83. Helvétius, De l’Esprit or Essays on the Mind and its Several Faculties (New York: Burt Franklin, 1970), 42–43, 56–57; Jean Bloch, “Rousseau and Helvétius on Innate and Acquired Traits,” Journal of the History of Ideas 40/1 (Jan.–March 1979): 32–33; Hirschman, The Passions and the Interests, 42–43. Hereafter De l’Esprit is designated DLE. He is clearly influenced by La Rochefoucauld and probably Mandeville, among the many others who make up this tradition. Oeuvres Complètes de Voltaire (Paris: Garnier Frères, Libraires-Éditeurs, 1881), 42.141; Force, Helvétius, 106–107; “Self-Love, Identification, and the Origin of Political Economy,” Yale French Studies 92 (1997): 49; Smith, Helvétius, 165. See Mandeville, Fable of the Bees, cxliv–cxlv for a detailed discussion of Mandeville’s influence on Helvétius. Rousseau was certainly familiar with Mandeville’s work, although he finds it vile. Adam Smith connects their ideas together. “Letter to Edinburgh Review,” in Essays on Philosophical Subjects, W. P. D. Wightman and J. C. Bryce (eds.) (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1980), 250; Rousseau, “Preface [Narcise],” in Oeuvres Complètes, Bernard Gagnebin et Marcel Raymond (eds.) (Gallimard, 1969), 4.965ff.; “Preface to Narcissus,” in Collected Writings (Hanover, CT and London: University Press of New England, 1992), 2.191ff. ; Donald Winch, “Adam Smith: Scottish Moral Philosopher as Political Economist,” The Historical Journal 35/1 (March 1992): 103; E. J. Hundert, “Bernard Mandeville and the Enlightenment’s Maxims of Modernity,” Journal of the History of Ideas 56/4 (Oct. 1995): 577, 592.

84. TM 279; DLE 42. Helvétius relates the terms amour-propre, amour de soi, and intérêt. Force, “Helvétius,” 107–109; Bloch, “Rousseau and Helvétius,” 32–33. Rousseau tries to distinguish amour de soi from amour-propre. He sees the former as the positive basis of commiseration, the source of all other passions, and always good; the latter is “never satisfied” and selfish, “preferring ourselves to others.” Bloch, “Rousseau and Helvétius,” 31–36.

85. Force, “Helvétius,” 107.

86. TM 1.289.

87. DLE 49; Force, “Self-Love, Identification, and Order,” 50.

88. TM 2.17–18. Rousseau thinks of the love of self (amour de soi), along with the compassion and identification with others as a “pure movement of nature” and basis of moral development. No innate sense of right and wrong exists in his overall thought. The natural law is founded upon a need that is natural to the human heart—its passions and compassions. Rousseau, Émile ou De l’Éducation, in Oeuvres Complètes, 2.491, 506, 522–23, 568, 586–88; Émile: Or On Education, Allan Bloom (intro., trans., and notes) (New York: Basic Books, 1974), 212–13, 234–35, 268, 280–82 [English hereafter in parentheses]; Jonathan Marks, “Rousseau’s Discriminating Defense of Compassion,” The American Political Science Review 101/4 (2007): 728, 731; Force, “Self-Love, Identification, and Order,” 51; Bloch, “Rousseau and Helvétius,” 29–31. ← 46 | 47 →

89. DLE 235, 242, 323; TM 1.68–70, 361. He sees “luxury” as fueling the economy, but he does not believe that riches engender happiness, and often thinks of them as corrupting people. He also expresses concern about extreme luxury creating a severe inequality in society. DLE 15–17, 22, 322; Rousseau, “Fragments Politques [Le luxe, le commerce et les arts],” in Oeuvres Complètes, 3.518 (208). Rousseau also sees humankind seeking honor within society. “Fragments Politiques [De l’honneur et de la vertu],” in Oeuvres Complètes, 3.503; Émile, 2.339 (104); Smith, “Letter to the Edinburgh Review,” 253–56; Marks, “Rousseau’s Discriminating Defense of Compassion,” 734; O’Hagan, “L’amour est un instrument utile mais dangereux,” 30.

90. TM 2.19, 23–24, 468, 473–74.

91. TM 2.11.

92. DLE 29, 70, 185–86; TM 1.279; Moore, La Rochefoucauld, 78; Smith, Helvétius, 32. Helvétius claims that this position represents La Rochefoucauld’s analysis. For Jansenists like Nicole, Domat, and Pascal, self-love was fundamentally a vice, a product of depravity. Smith, Helvétius, 132–35. Rousseau finds self-love (amour de soi) or self-preservation an innate quality of humans that manifests itself in society through relationships like mother/child, husband/wife, teacher/pupil, et al. As amour-propre, it has a dark side, but it can be managed and work for the common good. Rousseau, Émile, 2.488 (208); O’Hagan, “L’amour est un instrument,” 30–37; Bloch, “Rousseau and Helvétius,” 28–29. A number of times Rousseau speaks of humans as born naturally good but disfigured, perverted, and shackled in society. Émile, 2.245, 253–55, 525 (37, 42–44, 235); The Social Contract, Maurice Cranston (trans.) (London: Penguin Books, 2004), 2–3, 20–21. Then Rousseau proceeds to speak of society and the state as a good thing, intended for the fulfillment of human beings, “preferable in real terms to what prevailed before” within the chaos of self-preservation, the difficulty of self-subsistence, and the need for fellowship. Émile, 2.467, 654 (193, 327); Social Contract, 36; Peter Gay, The Enlightenment: An Interpretation (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1969), 2.538–40. Of course, he ends up subsuming the individual self under the general will of the people, the new “voice of God.” Social Contract, 19, 26, 31, 41, 127; Harvey Mitchell, “Reclaiming the Self: The Pascal-Rousseau Connection,” Journal of the History of Ideas 54/4 (1993): 652.

93. TM 1.289, 362, 367–68.

94. TM 1.269, 277; 2.459.

95. TM 1.228–29; 2.457–58. According to Helvétius, Rousseau was simply wrong when he explained the gradation of the human race in terms of innate differences between organs of sensation. TM 2.1ff.

96. For example, see “Correspondence d’Helvetius avec sa femme” (Nov. 1900), in Le Carnet historique et littéraire (Paris, 1900), 437–38; Smith, Helvétius, 135. He thinks of sexual gratification as the supreme pleasure and rejects the exaltation of celibacy and the many other sexual taboos of the church.

97. DLE 179.

98. Smith, Helvétius, 14, 116. Even though he is an atheist, Helvétius can feign being a Deist at times with its exhortation to cultivate reason in seeking and discovering the truth, its proclivity to reduce religion to morality, and its emphasis upon happiness as the end of life. Deism thought of God as perfectly content and only willing to create human beings for ← 47 | 48 → their own well-being and happiness, not to gain something from them. Thus, happiness is the end of life. TM 1.56–58; Matthew Tindal, Christianity as Old as Creation, reprint of 1730 edition (New York and London: Garland Publishing, 1978), 2, 3, 6, 14, 20, 35, 38, 58ff., 65–66, 104–5, 115, 125, 179, 189, 283–84, 365, 368, 379, 424–26; Stephen Strehle, The Dark Side of Church/State Separation: The French Revolution, Nazi Germany, and International Communism (New Brunswick, NJ and London: Transaction Publishers, 2014), 9–10.

99. DLE 103, 108, 135, 179; TM 124, 133, 138; 2.308.

100. TM 2.144–45, 148, 428, 433, 446.

101. TM 2.213, 432. He rejects the concept of a set body of laws and thinks morality can make progress just like science, delivering the people from the slavery of following local customs. However, he also thinks of standards as dependent upon local conditions/passions and varying from culture to culture. DLE 71, 76, 130–31, 172.

102. DLE 180–81; TM 2.5.

103. TM 1.302–304, 325.

104. DLE 62–63, 92, 96; Gay, The Enlightenment, 2.513–15; Bloch, “Rousseau and Helvétius,” 32–33.

105. Diderot thinks of Helvétius as unbalanced. He thinks Helvétius exaggerates self-interest by eliminating an innate sense of right and wrong and denying the possibility of true sacrificial love. Smith, Helvétius, 212, 217.

106. TM 2.254–56; DLE 7; Smith, Helvétius, 101–3. The church did not condemn people like Locke and Condillac for reducing all mental processes to material operations, as long as they did not proceed much farther in exorcizing spirituality. Journal des savants (Sept., 1751) 625 [cited in Smith, Helvétius, 107].

107. DLE 7, 258; TM 1.92ff., 212–14; TM 2.454–56; Smith, Helvétius, 13, 107, 175–81, 208–9. He makes some distinction between the soul and the mind. The soul is the faculty of sensation and remains present even when one loses memory. The mind needs the soul to function but not vice versa. TM 1.101ff., 108.

108. See n.105. In Émile, Rousseau wants his pupil to start with the senses and learn from natural phenomena. Moral development takes place later in society when Émile develops relations with others. Émile, 53, 90, 127, 196; Bloch, “Rousseau and Helvétius,” 29. Later in the Profession de foi, Rousseau rejects Helvétius’ materialism and creates a Cartesian dichotomy, finding a spiritual substance or âme within human beings and defending the concept of free will. Smith, Helvétius, 175–79; Bloch, “Rousseau and Helvétius,” 26, 31.

109. Thomas P. Neill, “The Physiocrats’ Concept of Economics,” The Quarterly Journal of Economics 63/4 (1949): 532–33, 537; Guy Routh, The Origin of Economics Ideas (Dobbs Ferry, NY: Sheridan House, 1989), 70.

110. Pierre Du Pont de Nemours, De l’origine et des progrès des science nouvelle (A Londres: Desaint, Libraire, 1768), 12; Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, The Origin of Physiocracy: Economic Revolution and Social Order in Eighteenth-Century France (Ithaca, NY and London: Cornell University Press, 1976), 14, 18, 37–38, 134–37, 146, 168–70; Henry Higgs, The Physiocrats (New York: Augustus M. Kelley, 1968), 25, 35. Du Pont credits Gournay for setting an example of free trade and laissez-faire economic policies as an administrator, which ← 48 | 49 → Quesnay and the physiocrats followed. James J. McLain, The Economic Writings of Du Pont de Nemours (Newark, DE: University of Delaware Press, 1977), 95.

111. Fox-Genovese, Economic Revolution, 14, 37–38; Higgs, Physiocrats, 51ff.

112. Jacob Oser and William C. Blanchfield, The Evolution of Economic Thought (New York: Harcourt Brace Javanovich, 1975), 37–38. Turgot was not an orthodox physiocrat. He followed the laissez-faire approach to government intervention but did not find the source of the nation’s wealth in agricultural goods and raw materials. He was too eclectic to venerate the Tableau as a final solution to economic problems. Ibid., 66; McLain, Economic Writings, 31–32.

113. Higgs, Physiocrats, 58–59.

114. Du Pont de Nemours, L’Enfance et la jeunesse (Paris: Plon-Nourrit et CIE, 1906), 183–86; McLain, Economic Writings, 57, 61, 65; Higgs, Physiocrats, 35, 64; Routh, Origin of Economic Ideas, 69–70. McLain sees Du Pont as refining, clarifying, and spreading Quesnay’s system, not as a speculative pacemaker. Economic Writings, 221.

115. Gournay, Mémoires et Lettres, 57–61; Fox-Genovese, Economic Revolution, 313–14.

116. François Quesnay, The Economical Table [Tableau Économique] (New York: Berman Publishers, 1968), 5; Du Pont, De l’origine et des progrés d’une science nouvelle, 12–16; Higgs, Physiocrats, 3.

117. Fox-Genovese, Economic Revolution, 146. The Tableau represents the circulation of surplus or net value within the agricultural community and changes somewhat with each edition. Quesnay, Economical Table, 206; Fox-Genovese, Economic Revolution, 254.

118. Oser and Blanchfield, Evolution of Economic Thought, 10ff., 28ff.

119. “Euloge de Gournay,” in Oeuvres de Turgot (Paris: Guillaumin, Libraire, 1844), 1.288–90; Commerce, Culture, and Liberty, 474–75; Fox-Genovese, Economic Revolution, 248–49.

120. Neill, “The Physiocrats’ Concept of Economics,” 535. Like a Puritan, Quesnay was dismissive of natural theology and preferred to limit the study of nature to empirical evidence. Oeuvres Économiques et Philosophiques de F. Quesnay …, Auguste Onken (ed.) (Paris: Jules Peelman & CIE, 1888), 761–63, 777; “Évidence” (Jan. 1756), in François Quesnay & la Physiocratie (Paris: Institut National d’Études Démographiques, 1958), 2.409.

121. François Quesnay, A Treatise on Natural Right, Francis Walker Gilmer (trans.) (Baltimore, MD: Fielding Lucas, Jun., 1828), 197–201; Le Mercier de La Rivière, L’ordre naturel et essential des sociétés politiques (A Londres: Jean Nourse, Libraire, 1767), 1.120–21; Routh, Origin of Economic Ideas, 70; Fox-Genovese, Economic Revolution, 9, 12, 47, 91; McLain, Economic Writings, 122–23; Neill, “The Physiocrats’ Concept of Economics,” 538–42, 546, 549–53. Quesnay was not a complete materialist. He saw intelligence as a gift of God and spoke of an immortal soul within human beings. Fox-Genovese, Economic Revolution, 84–88. The group receives its name from Du Pont’s work Physiocratie (1767).

122. Ibid., 187, 197–98; Neill, “The Physiocrats’ Concept of Economics,” 535, 547–48.

123. Gay Enlightenment, 350–51; Routh, Origin of Economic Ideas, 70; Higgs, Physiocrats, 143.

124. Turgot, “Euloge de Gournay Note,” 1.263; “Réflexions sur la Formation et la Distribution des Richesses,” in Oeuvres de Turgot, 1.24 (xxxiv); Fox-Genovese, Economic Revolution, 301–2. Turgot gives credit to Gournay for this discovery of natural equilibrium, but we have already witnessed an antecedent of it among the Jansenists in Boisguilbert. ← 49 | 50 →

125. Turgot, “Réflexions,” 1.48 (lxxv). Josiah Child thought low interests and customs in the Netherlands were the chief source of its wealth. He will help influence Gournay, Turgot, and the physiocrats in developing a policy of letting the market fix the price of interest. Josiah Child, A New Discourse of Trade (Glasgow: Robert and Andrew Foulis, 1751), 1, 4–9; Turgot, “Réflexions,” 1.48 (lxxv).

126. Gay, Enlightenment, 351. Vincent de Gournay (1712–59) is often given credit for using and emphasizing the phrase laissez faire. McLain, Economic Writings, 28, 95; Du Pont, Ephemerides du Citoyen, 1.xxxix; 2.vii–x; Oser and Blanchfield, Evolution of Economic Thought, 30. However, Boisguilbert, the Jansenist, uses the phrase and trumpets the doctrine well before him, and François Legendre is also credited with using the phrase “Laissez-nous faire” at the end of the eighteenth century. “Dissertation: De la nature des richesses, …,” 2.992–93; Routh, The Origin of Economic Ideas, 58–60; Commerce, Culture, and Liberty: Readings in Capitalism Before Adam Smith, Henry C. Clark (ed.) (Indianapolis, IN: Liberty Fund, 2003), 474 (n. 29); Gustav Schelle, Vincent de Gournay: laissez faire, laissez passer (Paris: Gillaumin et cie, 1897), 214–17.

127. Quesnay, “Grains,” in Encyclopédie de Diderot et d’Alembert (Parma: F. M. Ricci, 1970), G, 104; “Laboreur,” in Encyclopédie (Paris, 1765), 9.148; Gournay, Mémoires et Lettres, 51–52, 60; Turgot, “Euloge de Gournay,” 1.266–69; Higgs, Physiocrats, 62; Fox-Genovese, Economic Revolution, 127; Oser and Blanchfield, Evolution of Economic Thought, 28ff.

128. Quesnay, “Impôts,” in François Quesnay et la physiocratie (Paris: Institut National d’Études Démographiques, 1958), 602.

129. Turgot, “Euloge de Gournay,” 1.271.

130. Gournay, Mémoires et Lettres, 56–57.

131. Quesnay, “Fermiers,” in Encyclopédie, F, 52.

132. Quesnay, “Grains,” G, 99–101; Turgot, “Réflexions,” 1.34 (lv); Higgs, Physiocrats, 16–18, 43; Fox-Genovese, Economic Revolution, 164. Physiocrats wanted to limit taxes to a simple and direct charge to the landowners, since their land produces the only net profit or surplus. All commerce and industry is “sterile” or non-surplus producing. Du Pont, De l’origine et des progès d’une science nouvelle, 41–42, 77; Turgot, “Euloge de Gournay,” 1.278–79; Fox-Genovese, Economic Revolution, 50–51; Higgs, Physiocrats, 44, 100.

133. Fox-Genovese, Economic Revolution, 55–57, 61, 66.

134. Montesquieu, De l’Esprit des lois (Paris: Garnier Frères), IV, XX, 4 (2.11); The Spirit of the Laws, A. M. Cohler, B. C. Miller, and H. S. Stone (trans. and ed.) (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977), 340–41; Fox-Genovese, Economic Revolution, 310; Strehle, Egalitarian Spirit of Christianity, 177. Some thought of the new economic system as compatible with monarchy. John Law, Oeuvres Complètes, Paul Harsin (ed.) (Paris: du Recueil Sirey, 1934), 3.86–88. Others thought free trade needed religious and political liberty, not capricious despots. John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon, “Trade and Naval Power…” (Feb. 3, 1721), in Cato’s Letters, Ronald Hamoway (ed.) (Indianapolis, IN: Liberty Fund, 1995), 442, 446–48; Pieter de la Court, Political Maxims of the State of Holland (London, 1743), 5–6, 49–50. The physiocrats’ emphasis upon self-interest afforded some tension with the French Revolution and its emphasis upon the general will of the people as the “voice of God.” William Scott, “The Pursuit of ‘Interests’ in the French Revolution: A Preliminary ← 50 | 51 → Study,” French Historical Studies, 19/3 (1996): 816, 823, 826; Stephen Strehle, The Dark Side of Church/State Separation, 47–52, 60.

135. Du Pont, De l’origine et des progrés d’une science nouvelle, 29–32, 66–67; Gay, Enlightenment, 2.494–96; Fox-Genovese, Economic Revolution, 182, 304; Hirschman, The Passions and the Interests, 98. The physiocrats thought of natural laws/natural rights as a revelation of God and basis of governmental activity, much like Locke. Quesnay, A Treatise on Natural Rights, 185–86; Du Pont, De l’origine et des progress d’une science nouvelle, 30–32; Higgs, Physiocrats, 45–46; Fox-Genovese, Economic Revolution, 197, 206, 211.

136. Strehle, The Dark Side of Church/State Separation, 26–27, 30, 52–55.

137. Cf. Immanuel Kant, ‘The Critique of Practical Reason’, in Great Books of the Western World, Robert Maynard Hutchins (ed.) (Chicago, IL: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1978), 339–40, 344, 345. ← 51 | 52 →