Term Paper: Machiavelli's the Prince Plato's Republic St. Augustine's City of God

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¶ … Machiavelli's, 'The Prince' and St. Augustine's 'City of God'

The objective of this study is to examine the similarities and differences in Machiavelli's 'The Prince' and St. Augustine's 'City of God' in terms of their similarities and differences in their ideal way to rule and how their works were a product of the world around them. This study begins with a brief review of each of these books and then compares and contrasts the two works.

Machiavelli -- the Prince

Machiavelli's work 'The Prince' begins by stating the various types of principalities in the world and how they have acquired the means by which to be considered a principality stating that principalities are of two types: (1) being hereditary; or (2) being new. Machiavelli's work goes on to lay out for the reader the governing laws of principalities and how these principalities have been acquired stating that they are acquired by the arms of others or by good fortune and even by some who have obtained the principalities through wicked acts.

In regards to ecclesiastical principalities, Machiavelli states that they are acquired "either by capacity or good fortune and can be held without either" since they are "sustained by the ordinances of religion" vested with such great authority that no matter the mode of living or manner of behavior of a prince, they are still in possession of this power. These princes are the only ones who have states but yet do not defend the states and have subjects but that do not rule over their subjects. These are the only principalities, which are both "secure and happy."[footnoteRef:1] [1: O'Rourke, Jo (2013) Machiavelli's the Prince: Still Relevant after All These Years. BU Today. Retrieved from: http://www.bu.edu/today/2013/machiavelli-the-prince-still-relevant-after-all-these-years/]

Machiavelli writes that any ruler that desires to be known as a liberal is wise to allow himself to appear as magnificent. A prince can gain renown by "setting a fine example" and "great enterprises" according to Machiavelli. Respect as a prince is derived by being a true friend or formidable enemy.[footnoteRef:2] One' enemy demands neutrality and it is wise to cultivate an enemy so that when they are unseated it can be accomplished in a public manner. Machiavelli states that the primary thing a prince must guard against is being despised. In an interview [2: Ibid]

II. O'Rourke (2013) Historian

John O'Rourke (2013) states that Machiavelli is "frequently dismissed today as an amoral cynic who supposedly considered the end to justify the means" when in reality, Machiavelli is a "crystal-clear realist who understands the limits and uses of power."[footnoteRef:3] Machiavelli holds that the true intentions of leaders should always be hidden. He also writes that the constituency does not need the Prince "to be inspired to commit every atrocity it names and more."[footnoteRef:4] Machiavelli is straightforward and rationale in his assessment of what is required of the rulers of cities and men. [3: Ibid, p.1] [4: Ibid, p.1]

When Machiavelli's book was first published it was reported by O'Rourke to have been considered "ground-breaking" however, Cardinal Reginald Pole, English prelate stated in 1539 that the book was "written by Satan's hand."[footnoteRef:5] Rousseau touted that Machiavelli utilized the guise of informing the rule of princes to offer instructions upon how a republic could be secured. It is reported that some postwar interpreters have indicated that Machiavelli's view was aligned with the Nazi party. [5: Ibid, p.1]

In fact, according to O'Rourke, "each age, each reader, fashions in some degree its own Prince appropriate to its own experience."[footnoteRef:6] (2013, p.1) the work entitled "The Prince" by Machiavelli is in reality "an extended analysis of how to acquire and maintain political power." (O'Rourke, 2013, p.1) Machiavelli sets out the four types of principalities: [6: Ibid, p.1]

(1) hereditary;

(2) mixed;

(3) new; and (4) Ecclesiastical.[footnoteRef:7] [7: Ibid, p.1]

The types of armies are reported as:

(1) mercenaries;

(2) auxiliaries;

(3) native troops; and (4) Mixed troops.[footnoteRef:8] [8: Ibid, p.1]

The characters and behaviors appropriate for a prince include:

(1) stinginess is preferred over generosity;

(2) cruelty is preferred over mercy;

(3) Breaking promises is superior to keeping them if keeping them goes against ones' self-interests.[footnoteRef:9] [9: Ibid, p.1]

(4) Princes should avoid making people hate or despise them;

(5) princes should undertake great enterprises; and (6) Princes should avoid flatterers and choose wise counsel.[footnoteRef:10] [10: Ibid, p.1]

When O'Rourke was asked "What do you think Machiavelli would make of contemporary American politics?" The answer given by O'Rourke states "He would smile that famous inscrutable smile of his as if to say 'This looks familiar'.[footnoteRef:11] [11: Ibid, p.1]

III. St. Augustine

St. Augustine does not speak from only the view of earthly cities and rulers but instead speaks of two cities and specifically a heavenly city and an earthly city. These two cities are conceptualized by St. Augustine as running parallel to one another however, this conceptualization forgets the constraint imposed by earthly 'time' inherent in the city on earth. However, the two cities, while separated firmly by the time space within earthly cities are trapped are not so opposed as it first appears because of the expressed need for rulers of city to be ethical, or to at least appear to be ethical as expressed by Machiavelli as the setting of a "fine example"[footnoteRef:12]. [12: Translated by Marcus Dods. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 2. Edited by Philip Schaff.(Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1887.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight..]

Machiavelli acknowledges that the ruler has to posture himself before his public to gain and retain favor of the public. The ruler must necessarily appear as wise, resourceful, reliable, sensible, and sensitive to the plight of those he rules. Religious scholars states that St. Augustine traced "the parallel courses of the earthly and heavenly cities from the time of Abraham to the end of the world; and alludes to the oracles regarding Christ, both those uttered by the Sibyls, and those of the sacred prophets who wrote after the foundation of Rome, Hosea, Amos, Isaiah, Micah, and their successors."[footnoteRef:13] Religious scholars additionally note that in Chapter 2, St. Augustine writes of the "Kings and Times of the Earthly City which were synchronous with the time of the saints, reckoning from the rise of Abraham."[footnoteRef:14] [13: (Schaff, P., 1887, cited in Dods. ND, p.1)] [14: Ibid, p.1]

Lindsey Hurd writes in an analysis of St. Augustine's 'City of God' "Though the earthly city may demand strict moral obedience to its law, true virtue will not result because there is no religion other than the true religion which has an absolute law of justice and morality. Thus, the earthly city's laws are always open to abuse, ambiguous interpretation, or "progress." There is no higher law than the leaders of this city. In fact, Augustine believed that the very virtues exhibited by the unbelievers are in actuality vices if they are not exercised within a biblical framework. These, he says, are "inflated with pride, and are therefore reckoned vices."[footnoteRef:15] According to St. Augustine the two cities "share a common desire: peace" however the methods that they use in seeking this peace can be clearly differentiated one from the other in that the early city "seeks earthly peace and an orderly society, but it strives for peace as the product of man's intelligence and administrative abilities. That part of the heavenly city which dwells on earth seeks earthly peace as well, but only when it complements their ultimate goal of peace under God. As Augustine writes, they "[make] this earthly peace bear upon the peace of heaven; for this alone can be truly called and esteemed the peace of the reasonable creatures, consisting as it does in the perfectly ordered and harmonious enjoyment of God and of one another in God." (XIX.17) Because of this different view of peace, discord sometimes arises between these two cites."[footnoteRef:16] [15: Hurd, Lindsey (nd) St. Augustine's 'The City of God'. Retrieved from: http://www.fortifyingthefamily.com/cityofgod.htm] [16: Ibid, p.1]

Pierce (2000) writes that Augustine "doesn't ever…discuss the best form of government" as St. Augustine holds on o interest in questions on politics "for their sake only." (p.1) the City of God is a concept that has as its basis a spiritual rather than political entity. St. Augustine does however, have an opinion, which must be comphrended from the view or the contrast of the earthy city and the true heavenly City of God. Understanding this lends a view to what St. Augustine believed on Christians and civil government.[footnoteRef:17] Each group is reported to have its own view and value system otherwise reviewed to as worldview. St. Augustine contrasts the cities and identifies the City of God and God's chosen people and the Earthly city with those who do not belong to the realm in which God rules and the city is ordered according to God's laws. There are those who disagree heartily with this view of the two cities. [17: Pierce, a. (2008) Augustine on Civil Government: The… [END OF PREVIEW]

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