One of the Renaissance philosophers is Niccolo Machiavelli, who lived in 15th and 16th centuries in Italy. He has came to the philosophy scene by his extraordinary ideas on how a prince should be and what elements should be in the core of prince’s administration. He was criticized cruelly by many thinkers because of ignoring moralities, values and religious rules in politics. Although he was even tortured because of his ideas about politics, he had never given up to assert his ideas on how to administer a principality. In the core of his sentiments, there is the justification of the end, which is worthy to sacrifice everything for its sake in politics.
He doesn’t curse or perceives morality and value systems as errants for the sake of politics but he argues that politics ought to be separate from all elements and rules of all kinds of systems. In other words, it should be amoral, but not immoral. ‘The Prince’, Machiavelli’s one of the most towering writings, ¨is destined to remain one of the half-dozen political writings that have entered the general body of world literature¨ and was ¨a reflection not only of man’s political ambitions and passions but of man himself¨ (p. 318). Basically, he argues in his writing that a man strolls between good and evil while conducting politics and the way of handling power and saving it has to be by being a virtuous ruler and putting amorality on the first place of implementing politics; otherwise, the things that are considered as moral and valuable might take away the power that prince had and the actual evil comes with following one of the value systems, instead of acting according to facts of politics.
A virtuous ruler is the one who focuses on commanding the state with considering who expects what, but not conducting his politics as others offer and advise; instead, he is the one focused on the end and govern the people amorally for the sake of reaching the reason of state, by disregarding the goods and bads because of not having good or bad in the autonomous system of politics. Virtue, to Machiavelli, is being able to act according to required condition of the politics. On this path, ¨the concept of virtue implies the ability to understand reality and to adapt action to reality in a flexible and non-ideological, ondogmatic manner¨ (p. 320). So, Machiavelli advises to princes and prince-to-be people of his time to not follow other ones’ and moral systems’ values while conducting his politics. The end, in this sense, ¨is presumed to be naturally inherent in the ruler or would-be ruler, and need not to be further argued¨ (p. 320). Machiavelli separates power from all value systems and asserts the idea of reason of state under which all acts are tolerated. He distinguishes morality of politics into two as amoral and immoral politics. He believes that a virtuous and successful prince should put a basis in fact of conducting his policies amorally. ¨He neither assumes that there are no values in this world, nor wishes to create a world in which all values would be destroyed¨ (p. 318). However, the values should be separated from conductings of politics.
Amorality implies, accordingly, ¨not the denial of moral values in all situations, but the affirmation that, in the specific situation of the statesman, the rules of power have priority over those of ethics and morality (p. 318). Therefore, power is the end of politics and thus goodness coincides with efficiency: ¨an efficient means of acquiring, consolidating, and expanding power is good; and inefficient means, bad¨ (p. 319).
Religion, on the other hand, as a dominant factor in Machiavelli’s time, was a tool in the hands of the ruler to reach power in politics and defend that power, according to Machiavelli. Because of the fact that there is nothing to be considered as good or bad when it comes to politics, Machiavelli believes that anything goes right, such as supporting and spreading a religious doctrine for the sake of conducting people even if the ruler knows that the doctrine is wrong. The main value of a religion, according to Machiavelli, to the ruler, ¨lies in the fact that it helps him to keep the people well conducted and united, and from this viewpoint of utility it makes no difference whether he spreads among them true or false religious ideas, and beliefs¨ (p. 321). Accordingly, Machiavelli’s relationship with Christianity is completely pragmatic. As a pessimistic personality, Machiavelli believes that the cause of Italian political disunity is the church itself; therefore, the ruler should look at the past and consider the fact that religion can destroy a principality even if it might be the compulsive factor while constructing the principality.
According to Machiavelli, man is bad when we look at the history and with the eyes of a pessimistic; therefore, a ruler should be using two methods of fighting, which are by law and by force, to be a prince to know well how to use both the beast and the man while conducting the state (p. 322). Moreover, a ruler should keep not a faith because record of man’s behavior proves him a depraved and wily creature. Thus, ¨a realistic theory of power must be based on such a pessimistic view of man¨ (p. 323). The best-known passage in ‘The Prince’ is that, accordingly, ¨If men were all good, this precept would not be a good one; but as they are bad, and would not observe their faith with you, so you are not bound to keep faith with them (p. 322). In short, a ruler can even lie and use all the faiths for the sake of his power and there is nothing wrong with that because power politics is amoral.
To conclude, the end justifies the means and the end of power for the sake of reason of state is to have the power and save it, for a prince. Therefore, non of the value systems and religions are to be considered as a guiding source when conducting politics. Evil in politics comes to the surface when the ruler follows a system or religion actually. Machiavelli is pessimistic about this issue by looking at history and records of man’s behaviors. Moreover, he believes that why Italy was dissolved and disunited is because of the church was the policy conducter. In short, a ruler ought to be virtuous while conducting power policies and the way for it is not following any religion or moral system, but by acting according to realities and facts of the real political life.
· Machiaelli Niccolò (1996). J.S McCelland. A History of Western Political
Thought. London: Routledge. P150-167.
· Machiavelli Niccolò (2000). W. Ebenstein and Alan Ebenstein. Great
Political Thinkers. 6th ed. Orlando: Harcourd College Publishers. p316-336.
This article is about:
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- machiavelli human nature and politics
- machiavelli\s concept human nature