Mandevillian Virtues

Mandi Astola (Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Studies in collective intelligence have shown that suboptimal cognitive traits of individuals can lead a group to succeed in a collective cognitive task, in recent literature this is called mandevillian intelligence. Analogically, as Mandeville has suggested, the moral vices of individuals can sometimes also lead to collective good. I suggest that this mandevillian morality can happen in many ways in collaborative activities. Mandevillian morality presents a challenge for normative virtue theories in ethics. The core of the problem is that mandevillian morality implies that individual vice is, in some cases, valuable. However, normative virtue theories generally see vice as disvaluable. A consequence of this is that virtue theories struggle to account for the good that can emerge in a collective. I argue that normative virtue theories can in fact accommodate for mandevillian emergent good. I put forward three distinctive features that allow a virtue theory to do so: a distinction between individual and group virtues, a distinction between motivational and teleological virtues, and an acknowledgement of the normativity of “vicious” roles in groups.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-32
Number of pages14
JournalEthical Theory and Moral Practice
Issue number1
Early online date28 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Most of all thanking Andreas Spahn, Gunter Bombaerts and Lamb?r Royakkers for their unfailing guidance throughout the writing process. Also thanking Sven Nyholm, Mark Alfano, Erik Laes and Shelly Tsui for providing feedback. This project is a part of H2020 Project SCALINGS.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).

Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • virtues
  • ethics
  • collectivism
  • virtue ethics
  • virtue epistemology
  • Group action
  • Individualism
  • Virtue ethics
  • Collectivism
  • Mandevillian intelligence
  • Virtue epistemology


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