The Qualities Of A Prince Essay, Research Paper
The Qualities of the Prince is Machiavelli’s “how to” manual for a great leader. He maps out each quality so that it may be easily be implemented by the aspiring emperor, king, or dictator. His premise is that there are some things that must be sacrificed, such as high morals, in order to gain others, such as power. As long as the end justifies the means, Machiavelli asserts that all is fair. Machiavelli basically claims that mankind is inherently evil. He claims that it is fundamentally impossible for human beings to be completely good all of the time. He says that his treatise is not written from a view of the world as it should be but from his view of the world as it is. To him, there is such a thing as a necessary evil in a world where a leader must deal with other beings that are inherently bad. So, are human beings inherently evil? Is the human capacity for bad greater than the human capacity for good? I say no to both of these questions. I do not believe that human beings are evil simply because it is not always natural for them to act in the highest moral fashion. I believe that the ability to choose between doing good or bad is one of the greatest abilities of mankind. Animals simply act on instinct, yet we must choose whether or not to sacrifice our morals in the in the interest of self-preservation. This is, in a nutshell, the human capacity for evil. Do we call the bear evil for killing his attacker? Of course we don’t. We recognize that he is simply doing what comes naturally. He is an example of Darwin’s model of the survival of the fittest. However, evil is the first word that comes to mind when we hear of a politician bumping off an opponent in order to win an election. Each was acting in his own best interest. So, what is it that makes these two such similar actions so fundamentally different? It is the capacity to choose, which the human possesses and the bear does not. While we do posses this awesome responsibility of choosing between good and bad, we also must look past our opposable thumbs and recognize that we are members of the animal kingdom. We once functioned based on instinct rather than on the ability for reason and, regardless of how domesticated we become, it is still more likely than not that some of those original instincts remain. After all, a pet dog, when released with other former pet dogs will eventually readapt to life as an animal and will begin to hunt in packs just like wolves. So, what makes us so different? Why don’t we revert to instinct when it comes to survival or to danger situations? I believe that we do to some extent. This is why, regardless of one’s moral convictions, when confronted with the possibility of danger self preservation one’s highest priority.
Because of our instinctual drive for self-preservation and our second nature, which tells us the difference between good and bad, we have a burdensome responsibility to each other. We have the responsibility of judging the opportunity costs between our own self preservation and its expense to the others in our lives. If we were truly inherently evil, as Machiavelli claims, there would never be an instance where we chose the path of righteousness over our instinct to do for ourselves. It is difficult to recondition oneself not to simply act on instinct, but it is my belief that he who strives to do so is inherently good because in order to choose to do so he must truly wish to do good rather than bad. As clich as it sounds, it truly is the thought that counts. There have been many times in my life where my instincts to protect myself have won over my capacity for reason. I don’t punish myself for this and I don’t think it makes me a bad person. If I were a bad person I would simply abandon my capacity for reason and my ability to choose and I would live like an animal, doing for myself and ignoring the fact that there are others who are affected by my actions. Instead I continue to school myself in the art of self-control and the awareness of others and I strive to be a better person. There is no better way to learn one’s way around a city than to become completely lost and sometimes it is necessary to lose oneself in the figurative manner as well. For one who has become lost once, but found his way back home again is not as likely to become lost again and it is the same with the path of righteousness. But each time we go the wrong direction it is a learning experience and each time it happens we learn a bit more about how to stay on the path. I’ve gone the wrong way, made bad decisions, and hurt others countless times in my life. But I am always secure in the knowledge that I can find the right way again even if I have to stop and ask directions.