Machiavelli And His Morality
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Machiavelli and his Morality
This assignment is concerned with the exploration of Machiavelli’s ground breaking philosophy about politics particularly the fine distinction between morality of rulers and common people. A brief biography of Niccolò Machiavelli will be presented first. After that his beliefs, influences on the society and significant writings will be embraced brief depiction.
Machiavelli (1496-1527) was born in Florence, Italy. His father was a lawyer descendent from a fiscally well-heeled and noble family. He was fond of reading literature and history of classical Rome (Giovanni, 2013). He was born in tumultuous time in which acquisitive wars were waged by popes against Italian States. In order to attain regional influence, Holy Roman Empire, Spain and France fought battles against each other, as a result cities and people often fell from political power (Lahtinen, 2009). The continuous and unpredictable fluctuation of military-politics alliances featured mercenary leaders who attempted to alter their sides without communicating any warning due to which number of short-lived governments rose and fell (Agnes, 2015).
It was an unfortunate day of 1494 when a ruling Medici family was overthrown and replaced by republican regime which was initially ruled by the Savonarola—a fanatical monk. After three year, in 1498, Machiavelli joined Public Service when Savonarola was overthrown by radical rulers (Agnes, 2015). He was given the responsibility in both diplomatic and domestic affairs after being appointed at two core governmental institutions (Lahtinen, 2009). He performed his duty in Florentine Republic for approximately 14 years and closely observed adventurer Cesare Borgia at close quarters. In 1509, the Florentine forces executed triumphant recapture of the Pisa that was masterminded by Machiavelli (Giovanni, 2013).
Despite his efforts, Italian states were still vulnerable to ebbs and flows brought by great-power politics—their future seemed unstable with the lingering sense of uncertainty—specifically due to the papacy and ambitions of France. However, Medici family was again brought to power and republic was overthrown in 1512 (Agnes, 2015). He was died in 1526 when imprisoned and tortured brutally after getting accused of indulgence in a political plot.
He is best known for his excellent and influential writings The Prince that was ironically published after his death. He originally wrote this piece to publish his claims for Medici administration however these documented advices were immensely applicable for other aspiring rulers as well (Lahtinen, 2009). This publication attempted to subvert the moral teachings of Catholic Church, due to which it became notorious among the administrators and politicians quickly. He documented numerous examples about notable historical figures and the man he observed—Cesare Borgia (Agnes, 2015).
He argued that context-specific ruthlessness is the prominent hallmark of successful ruler because being feared is better than being loved. He propounded the intriguing notion that “the end justifies the mean” e.g., the goodness and badness of some act is largely dependent on the outcomes. If outcome is positive; it does not matter by which means it was achieved (Lahtinen, 2009). He further suggested that rulers must keep only that promise which is expected to give favorable results. For the quality of Machiavelli's work The Price, the backhanded tribune can be referred to its ground-breaking popularity. A successful comedy drama— Mandragola—was also composed of his writings (Agnes, 2015).
In The Prince, the concept of political expediency was put by Machiavelli in the most electrifying version. He presented two different definitions of morality for common people and rulers for which he is somewhat associated with the disengagement of conventional morality and politics; the justification of all ways and means even if it revolves around committing most unscrupulous to attain political power (Daniel, 1966). As a result, he is often termed as an individual stimulated by the devil, an anti-Christian, immoral manipulator of words, deliberate tutor of evil and advocate of tyranny and cruelty (Giovanni, 2013).
However, he was not the recommender of immoral behavior rather he was in view that in this world of diversity and instability, for rulers to stay in power, it is mandatory to consider other available options as well. He suggested that it is important for rulers to get prepared for dispensing the conventional rules of morality based on the inevitableness of situations (Lahtinen, 2009).
He was personally in favor of such leaders who are clever and plain speaking—prioritizing and respecting the rights and interests of general public. He strongly disliked corruptible monarchies that do everything for their own interests. Based on the deviated concept of morality, he presented the Model of Good Governess and started writing another book (Giovanni, 2013). He named this book the Discourses which contained compelling lessons from the political history of Romans. He further suggested that Armies can only be effective when they are chosen from the prospective nations—with the national zeal and motivation—rather than paid mercenaries, which was a hot topic of that time (Daniel, 1966).
His thoughts contained realism due to which he was set apart from the liberalism and neo-conservative ideas i.e., armed forces must back the moral beliefs (Daniel, 1966). A well known neo-conservative academic—Leo Strauss—agreed most of his ideas and renounced him as the first, uniquely, modern political philosopher exclusively because his work was detached from the concept of religion—it had no place for religion and associated concepts of mortality. He, in a true sense, propounded the notion that religion and politics are two different things which should never be synchronized (Lahtinen, 2009).
In my view, he presented somewhat contradictory but revolutionary ideas about how rulers are overthrown under the influence of religious morality and then common people suffer. He argued that mortality is not about the right path but the right outcome—in case of rulers—because whole nation is under their influence and their instability and uncertainty affects them gravely.
Mikko Lahtinen. “Montesquieu (1689–1755) is a rival for this role. Politics and Philosophy: Niccolò Machiavelli and Louis Althusser's Aleatory Materialism.” BRILL, 2009, pp.115–16.
Giorgini Giovanni. "Five Hundred Years of Italian Scholarship on Machiavelli's Prince," Review of Politics, 75(4), 2013, pp. 625–40.
Heller, Agnes. “Renaissance Man.” Abingdon: Routledge, 2015, pp.415, ISBN 9781317403302.
Donno, Daniel. The introduction to the Bantam Classic edition of The Prince.1966.
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