Tuesday, January 09, 2007

GABRIEL BONNOT DE MABLY

Gabriel Bonnot de Mably (Grenoble, March 14, 1709 – April 2, 1785 in Paris), sometimes known as Abbé de Mably, was a French philosopher and politician. He was born in Grenoble of a legal family, and, like his younger brother, the well-known philosophe, Étienne Bonnot de Condillac (September 30, 1715 – August 3, 1780), took holy orders.

Background

He was one of the 18th century's most popular writers but largely passed into obscurity in the 20th century. His works contributed to the later concepts of both communism and republicanism. His most known contribution is Entretiens de Phocion, a dialogue first published in 1763, which introduced themes of his mature thought.

Writings

Mably's writings contain a paradox: an admiration of the elitist Plato, combined with an enlightened Stoic belief in natural human equality. Mably went beyond the Stoic concept that all men possess a divine spark, and beyond the liberal belief in equality before the law, insisting on the equality of needs. He believed that virtue was far more important than material wealth. His position toward human equality was uncompromising, his arguments against the unproductive and lazy found sympathy with those individuals who resented the wealth and privilege of unworking nobility. He proposed the abolition of private property so that people's antisocial or egotistical instincts would not overcome their inclinations to sympathy and altruism.

Mably also prepared an early draft of the Polish Constitution of May 3, 1791, claimed to be Europe's first modern codified constitution, much praised during the French Revolution.

Mably's complete works were published in 15 volumes in 1794-1795, with an obituary/biography by Gabriel Brizard.

The French Revolution and the Socialist Tradition: Early French Communists (1)

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