Theology & Philosophy

The Seventeenth-Century French Moralists on Self-Love


Self-love, or selfishness, can be seen as a problem for social and political orders, one that necessitates the Hobbesian leviathan as the solution. Or, self-love can be understood as the basis for peaceful social and commercial cooperation. This conference explored the work of the seventeenth-century French moralists who offered a particularly rich vein of thought about the problems and potential of self-love.


Conference Readings

Fénelon. Lettres et opuscules spirituels. A Cologne: Chez Jean de la Pierre, 1713.

Fénelon, Francois. Telemachus. Edited by Patrick Riley. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994.

La Bruyère. Les caractères (1688) [The Characters, or Manners of the Present Age]. London: C. Sherman & Co. Printers, 1723.

La Fontaine. Aesop Dress’d [Collection of Fables Writ in Familiar Verse]. Translated by Bernard Mandeville. London: C. Sherman & Co. Printers, 1704.

La Rochefoucauld. Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales (1665) [Maxims]. Translated by Stuart Warner and Stéphane Douard. South Bend: St. Augustine’s Press, 2001.

Molière. Le bourgeois gentilhomme (1670) [The Bourgeois Gentleman]. Translated by Bernard Sahlins. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2000.

Nicole, Pierre. Essais de morale (1671) [Moral Essays]. London: W. Bulmer and Co. Cleveland-Row, St. James’s, 1696.