Machiavelli Essay, Research Paper
The Right Thing To Do, Is not Always The Right Thing To Do
Some say that if one completes his/her studies at the University level without analyzing and understanding Machiavelli?s work and theories, then that person has not fully utilized the ?college experience.? Machiavelli, by some, is said to be one of the greatest theorists and philosophers of all time. Most critics argue, ?? that he (Machiavelli) is cynical- that he thinks the worst of people rather than the best of them.? It is very understandable that one would come to that conclusion after reading just one of Machiavelli?s pieces of work. Machiavelli?s attitude towards human nature is accurate. Although it is understandable to see him as a pessimist and overall a negative type of person, after further analysis, one would see him as a realist practicing truism.
The excerpts analyzed here are from the book Machiavelli is widely known and noted for, The Prince. Machiavelli judges people on what he thinks they would do to serve their own best interests. If one is a prince or leader of a people or certain area of land, and he or she is a morally good individual, then, ?Machiavelli suggests that he or she could not remain in that high position for long because that person wold have to compete with the masses of people, who, he says, are basically bad.? One can easily be fooled into believing that a morally good person is able to readily fulfill his or her duties to the best extent possible without ever having to stray from his or her morals. Yet after further analysis, it is clear that the statement above is true in its entirety. There are means by which a morally good individual can achieve these high ranking positions, although, maintaining his or her high ranking position, according to what Machiavelli says, cannot happen due to the variety of ?bad? (morally bad) people in the same positions. It is more difficult for the morally good person to complete a certain task, than it is for the ?bad person? to complete the same task because, although they both have the same skill and resources, the morally good person must not only find the solution to the task at hand but also make sure it abides by his morals. The ?bad person? doesn?t have to pursue anything else after having found the solution.
Machiavelli has been long, ?? condemned [for] the way he approves of cunning, deceit, and outright lying as means of staying in power.? He believes in cutthroat, backstabbing methods of maintaining control of society. This argument seems feasible because society only abides by the laws enforced upon it because their consequences are worse than their payoffs (when the probabilities of occurrence are accounted for). If the scenarios were reversed, and people were not punished for their wrongdoings, then there would be chaos. This leads to another one of Machiavelli?s questions, how cruelty and mercy should be used to maintain order. Machiavelli believes that cruelty and mercy are tools, which in accordance with one another, can make or break an empire. ?Every prince,? Machiavelli says, ?must desire to be considered merciful and not cruel; never the less, he must take care not to misuse this mercy.? An individual, who has been told that cruelty is never a good thing, and that mercy is tool that can never be over-used, can be misled into believing it. Cruelty is a vital tool used for discipline. It maintains order and structure within a society and instills fear when necessary.
This, in turn, leads to another question Machiavelli asks, whether it is better to be loved or feared? Machiavelli states that a happy medium between love and fear is desirable, but this is a very difficult accomplishment to achieve. Therefore, if you must be one or the other then, ?it is much safer to be feared than loved when one of the two must be lacking.? One may be utterly confused by this statement at first glance, because he or she may believe that love is more powerful than fear. But the fact of the matter is that fear is more powerful than love because it lasts longer and stays embedded in one?s system. Still one might say, ?True love is forever.? In reality, love comes and goes fairly readily. Fear, on the other hand, rarely ever fades away.
Machiavelli says ?? that it would be good for a prince to be considered generous,? but only to a certain extent. If he or she begins to gain a reputation for his/her generosity, then that is what will harm him or her. The novice might say that it is good for a prince to be generous because that way he will gain the love of his/her subjects. Yet, as stated before, Machiavelli says that fear is more important than love. Machiavelli defends his point by claiming that if a prince is too generous, then he ?will use up all of his resources and will be obligated? to increase taxes or any other means to raise funds in order to run his society. ?In our times we have not seen great deeds accomplished except by those who were considered miserly.? Machiavelli has, in that one statement, summed up the financial responsibilities of a prince. To run a society well, one must be stingy with money. If over-spending occurred on a constant basis, then all city-states would be terminated because they would not have the funds or resources to maintain stability.
Another statement that Machiavelli puts forward, but one that is deemed a truism is: ?There is such a gap between how one lives and how one ought to live.? All people, one way or another, know of or believe in a set of morals. These sets may all be different but basically cover the same points. Now, who follows what they believe in and who does not, is what Machiavelli is discussing in this quotation. People, in general, know what is right and what is wrong, but how they decide to live their life is the difference between how one lives and how one ought to live. If everyone lived life the way they thought it ought to be lived, then there would be no gap or difference. But since most people stray away from their morals slightly or greatly, there is a difference, and that difference is what Machiavelli is discussing.
Machiavelli is cynical, and the excerpts analyzed depict his attitude towards human nature very accurately (as being cynical). Machiavelli, although a cynic, is also a truist and a realist. His description about life and how to live is very accurate even in the era of the 21st century. Machiavelli, even in his time, knew that lying was ok under certain circumstances to preserve society. He supports all of his claims with facts and examples. He is an incredible theorist and his excerpts reflect the person he is and what he believes.