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21 Jul

Is Consuming Always a Vice?

It is ridiculous to say, ‘That using any thing above the bare Necessaries of Life is Intemperance, Pride or Luxury; and that no other universal Boundaries can be fixed; because what in one Station or Fortune is bare Study of Decency, or Conveniency, would be Extravagance in another.’ As if Temperance, Frugality, or Moderation, denoted fixed Weights or Measures or Sums that all were to observe, and not a proportion to to Mens Circumstances. Great and Little are relative to a Species or Kind. Those Dimensions are great in a Deer which are small in a Horse: What is great in a Horse would be small in a Mountain. Will any one thence argue, that there can be no adapting one Form to another, so it shall neither be too big not little? Cannot a Coat suit a middle Stature, because the dimensions would be too great for a Dwarf, and too little for a Giant? If […] a man of good sense may know how far he may go in Eating and Drinking, or any other Expenses, without impairing his Health or Fortune, or Hindering any Offices of Religion or Humanity, he has found the Bounds of Temperance, Frugality, and Moderation for himself. “

Francis Hutcheson writing in Dublin Weekly Journal (1727), later printed in “Hibernicus’ Letters”, on the topic of “The Fable of The Bees” by Bernard Mandeville.

Hutcheson goes on to argue that even if true over-consumption was stamped out, the money would be spent elsewhere – on goods to improve the person’s circumstances or that of his family or friends (“Dress, Habitation or Studies”) or indeed keep people alive longer to consume more in the long run!

(Inspired by “The Good Consumer”, which mentions Mandeville but leaves out Hutcheson.)

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  1. Pingback: The Pursuit of Happiness | Irish Philosophy

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