Machiavelli Prince on What Grounds Essay

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Machiavelli Prince

On what grounds does Machiavelli justify being 'not good' in the Prince.

Morality appears to us as a concrete term which is underscored by certain rational assumptions about the universe. And yet, our own experience tells us that that which one considers to be vice may, to another, be seen as virtue. The reverse may also apply. Thus, it is rather difficult to reconcile that which does in fact define our cause for moral behavior, though all figures of importance to the historical discourse on philosophy have ventured a framework. The Renaissance in particular would witness a flurry of activity, with the generation of thinkers providing a spirited exchange across decades of literature on that which inspires moral behavior, that which entitles behavior which is 'not good' and that which makes for meaningful governance. In our investigation here of the various possible lenses through which to understand morality, consideration of Machiavelli's seminal work, the Prince reveals an ideology which has long since entitled leaders and despots to take action according to rank and impetus rather than according to any existent code of differentiating right or wrong.Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Essay on Machiavelli Prince on What Grounds Does Machiavelli Assignment

In the Prince, the thinker indulges in an evaluation of the qualities that constitute a suitable leader with a thoughtful analysis not on that which it means to be 'good' or 'not good' but instead on that which justifies appealing to either as a matter of pragmatism in rulership. His perspective is unique in that it does not rely on the conventional code of Judeo-Christian ethic in order to shape a regimen of conduct. This tradition, which has informed no small number of philosophers in their attempt to better understand ethical orientation. By contrast, the Machiavellian view on conduct is very much instructed by what the author considers to be the necessary and pragmatic realities of rulership. As such, the 'evils' of poor leadership differ from those 'evils' committed between men insofar as the goals of a leader, he argues, sharply contrast those of an individual. It is thus that Machiavelli begins to build an exception to codified rationales constructing morality, instead arguing that the course of leadership will often require the leader to make decisions, engage activities and initiate processes which, to some, might be perceived or experienced as "not good."

To the point, Machiavelli explains that evil deeds with the proper execution may actually be legitimate as a means to achieving or maintaining power, observing that the negative implications of deeds which deviate from conventional standards of rightness are only perceived as such because they are not employed to the correct ends.

Where a leader is concerned, the demand to make war, to allot resources and to in general arrive at decisions that could be expected to effect large numbers of people, the simple distinctions that help most of us differentiate between right and wrong will not be sufficient. Instead, a leader must go through a conscientious process within which moral imperatives will only be one factor amongst many. Bad leadership, Machiavelli argues, is not necessarily or inherently derived from one who behaves in a manner which is 'not good.' Instead, it is one who fails to use all the factorial information available to make a decision unrestrained from the needs of practicality. Thus, Machiavelli notes that "this follows from severities being badly or properly used. Those may be called properly used, if of evil it is lawful to speak well, that are applied at one blow and are necessary to one's security, and that are not persisted in afterwards unless they can be turned to the advantage of the subjects." (Machiavelli, ch. VIII) Such is to say that Machiavelli advocated the implementation of 'evil' if such actions could be illustrated as being for the eventual good of the subjected. This might be taken to mean that an act of war, of oppression or of discriminatory internal practice might be used if it can be justified as being for the greater good.

The landmark text proceeds from the understanding that politics and power are inextricably related. The balance which an individual achieves in applying each of these disciplines to leadership will likely determine his success as a principal figure in the perpetuation of statehood. This is the preoccupation which the author uses to justify what we might characterize as an immoral disposition. This idea is opposed by Machiavelli's carefully structured argument in favor of a fairly free-ranging degree of power for an individual in a place of leadership.

Machiavelli's important treatise of effective government offered an explanation of both the most intuitive and the bluntest ways to control the public, with either approach being justified by the particulars of any given leadership scenario. The 1513 book has been to shown to be lasting in its influence on political theory, since it can be seen in the leadership of our recently departed presidential administration, for an example, which seemed a distinctly Machiavellian example of how to pursue what is perceived as the interest of the public. Therefore, we can see in direct application, how the idea in Machiavelli's view that we can justify behaviors that are considered to be 'not good' can be impressed upon us even through such structures as the American presidency.

In many ways, American leadership has long been formed in Machiavellian mold. The Prince takes away the ethical consideration and religious morality from his assessment of statesmanship, changing the manner in which ethicality is understood. Instead of morality, his work was ruled by an intended practical ideology which explicitly validated a balanced but occasional appeal to ruthless behavior. Such is even to note that the author endorses the use of duplicity with one's own public if such can be said to ultimately serve its good. Where in an historical, philosophical and spiritual discourse on honesty, we will find that false witness is almost universally thought of as a behavior which is 'not good,' Machiavelli justifies such by explaining that "a prince never lacks legitimate reasons to break his promises [where] such an observance of faith would be to his disadvantage; and when the reasons which made him promise are removed" (Machiavelli, XVIII). In no uncertain terms, Machiavelli endorses a conditional dishonesty that extends from an idea of necessity. Contrary to many thinkers which have observed the presence of some existing commitment to moral organization, such as with Immanuel Kant's categorical imperative or Thomas Hobbes' social contract, Machiavelli believes that a leader is somewhat exempt from the stringent rules there imposed. Both Kant and Hobbes, though differentiated themselves with respect to the issue of moral absolutes, both did believe that a large part of the retention of social order has hinged on this very matter of some overarching commitment to the rule of right vs. wrong.

By a direct and striking contrast, Machiavelli explains that those traits which are considered to demonstrate 'evil' in leadership are actually those which make the principalship weak rather than objectionable. Where the behaviors of aggression, dishonesty and intransigence may be seen as 'not good' to our sensibilities, and to those of such thinkers as the aforementioned Kant and Hobbes, Machiavelli provides an entirely distinct list of traits which his text argues are more dangerous to a state and its people. Of a leader, the author explains, "what makes him despised is being considered changeable, frivolous, effeminate, cowardly, irresolute; from these qualities a prince must guard himself as if from a reef, and he must strive to make everyone recognize in his actions greatness, spirit, dignity, and strength; and concerning the private affairs of his subjects, he must insist that his decision be irrevocable; and he should maintain himself in such a way that no man could imagine that he can deceive or cheat him." (Machiavelli, ch. XIX) Here, Machiavelli reveals that the moral canon which applies to principalship is in many ways evaluated by its success in execution rather than in its alignment with conventional moral standards, breeding recognition of an enduring platitude from Machiavelli that, indeed, the end does justify the means.

This idea of a behavior being justified even as it diverges from our collective sense of morality strikes as a common theme in today's political and philosophical discourse as much as it was relevant have a millennium ago. A text of enormous influence as a political warrant as much as a literary masterwork, it is given new illumination and more elaborate justification in the modern conservative realm of thought. A retrained focus on the phraseology and central intent of the text, rather than on a psychoanalytic exploration of its underlying themes illuminates the way in which the author helped to prefigure the imposition of monarchy that would characterize both the Middle Ages and the Renaissance and, even more startling, provided a blueprint which continues to be justified by its users in a modern political context. As is evident in Machievelli's delineation of conduct codes, the popular rejection of the rigid and unequal moralism that shrouded the Middle Ages was… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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