Those who dislike Mandeville, while at the same time feeling the force of his arguments, suggest that he is more libertine than libertarian, a farceur, not l'homme serieux, as his near predecessor Hobbes so obviously is. As it happens, since the seventeenth century the sense of "libertine" seems to have shifted somewhat towards a condemnation of sensual indulgence, and away from the broader sense which included implications that if not quite political in the strict sense are certainly conscious of an ethical resonance broader than the simple and unbridled satisfaction of the appetites.

In any case, squabbling over these terms is somewhat to miss the point of Mandeville's argument to the effect that there is no clear stopping point at which a line can be drawn in the scale of human wishes, on one side of which we can declare all to be vice, with virtue on the other side. – Virtue is the complete denial of human wishes or it is nothing, or nothing but a shifty compromise that hardly deserves the name. Similarly we cannot separate liberty of a type that we do not wholly dislike from that we detest. Liberty is complete liberty or, again, it is nothing.

But in both cases we find it practically necessary to draw lines, however indefensible in principle, for practical ends (in order to satisfy another wish). – M.'s point, or so it seems to me, is that is not in our own interests to pretend that there is anything very solid about these lines. The theologian, the moralist, insisting on Virtue as an absolute must be a rigorist in theory compromising theory in order to deliver wealth. The lover of freedom must be a Libertine in theory, compromising his theory in order to preserve stability in the societal system.