Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE ( © Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 26 February 2021

Abstract and Keywords

The chapter analyses the debates on the relation between self-interest and sociability in eighteenth-century British moral philosophy. It focuses on the selfish hypothesis, i.e. on the egoistic theory that we are only motivated by self-interest or self-love, and that our sociability is not based on disinterested affections, such as benevolence. The selfish hypothesis is much debated especially in the early eighteenth century (Mandeville, Shaftesbury, Hutcheson, Butler, Clarke, Campbell, Gay), and then rather tacitly accepted (Hartley, Tucker, Paley) or rejected (Hume, Smith, Reid). It is asserted for example by philosophers with an Augustinian and Epicurean background and by the associationists, yet rejected especially by thinkers inspired by Stoic ideas. In particular for these latter authors, who emphasize the disinterested aspects of moral motivation, the debates on the selfish hypothesis have an important moral dimension. Others again argue that specific kinds of self-interest motivate virtuous actions.

Keywords: sociability, self-interest, self-love, selfish hypothesis, egoism, moral motivation, benevolence, disinterestedness

Access to the complete content on Oxford Handbooks Online requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription.

Please subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code.

For questions on access or troubleshooting, please check our FAQs, and if you can''t find the answer there, please contact us.