Comaraison Machiavelli-hobbes Essay, Research Paper
Both Niccolo Machiavelli and Thomas Hobbes were philosophers who produced influential works on politics and human nature. Hobbes was best known for his publications on individual security and the social contract, while Machiavelli was a writer, statesman
The first great political philosopher of the Renaissance was Nicolo Machiavelli (1469-1527). His famous treatise, The Prince, stands apart from all other political writings of the period insofar as it focus on the practical problems a monarch faces in staying in power, rather than more speculative issues explaining the foundation of political authority. As such, it is an expression of realpolitik, that is, governmental policy based on retaining power rather than pursuing ideals.
Machiavelli opens The Prince describing the two principal types of governments: monarchies and republics. His focus in The Prince is on monarchies. The most controversial aspects of Machiavelli’s analysis emerge in the middle chapters of his work. In Chapter 15 he proposes to describe the truth about surviving as a monarch, rather than recommending lofty moral ideals. He describes those virtues which, on face value, we think a prince should possess. He concludes that some “virtues” will lead to a prince’s destruction, whereas some “vices” allow him to survive. Indeed, the virtues which we commonly praise in people might lead to his downfall. In chapter 16 he notes that we commonly think that it is best for a prince to have a reputation of being generous. However, if his generosity is done in secret, no one will know about it and he will be thought to be greedy. If it is done openly, then he risks going broke to maintain his reputation. He will then extort more money from his subjects and thus be hated. For Machiavelli, it is best for a prince to have a reputation for being stingy. Machiavelli anticipates examples one might give of generous monarchs who have been successful. He concludes that generosity should only be shown to soldiers with goods taken from a pillaged enemy city. In Chapter 17 he argues that it is better for a prince to be severe when punishing people rather than merciful. Severity through death sentences affects only a few, but it deters crimes, which affects many. Further, he argues, it is better to be feared than to be loved. However, the prince should avoid being hated, which he can easily accomplish by not confiscating the property of his subjects: “people more quickly forget the death of their father than the loss of their inheritance.” In Chapter 18, perhaps the most controversial section of The Prince, Machiavelli argues that the prince should know how to be deceitful when it suits his purpose. When the prince needs to be deceitful, though, he must not appear that way. Indeed he must always exhibit five virtues in particular: mercy, honesty, humaneness, uprightness, and religiousness. In Chapter 19 Machiavelli argues that the prince must avoid doing things which will cause him to be hated. This is accomplished by not confiscating property, and not appearing greedy or wishy-washy. In fact, the best way to avoid being overthrown is to avoid being hated.
In his brief introduction to the Leviathan, Hobbes describes the state as an organism analogous to a large person. He shows how each part of the state parallels the function of the parts of the human body. He notes that the first part of his project is to describe human nature, insofar as humans are the creators of the state. To this end, he advises that we look into ourselves to see the nature of humanity in general. Hobbes argues that, in the absence of social condition, every action we perform, no matter how charitable or benevolent, is done for reasons which are ultimately self-serving. For example, when I donate to charity, I am actually taking delight in demonstrating my powers. In its most extreme form, this view of human nature has since been termed psychological egoism. Hobbes believes that any account of human action, including morality, must be consistent with the fact that we are all self-serving. Hobbes speculates how selfish people would behave in a state of nature, prior to the formation of any government He begins noting that humans are essentially equal, both mentally and physically, insofar as even the weakest person has the strength to kill the strongest. Given our equal standing, Hobbes continues noting how we are situations in nature make us naturally prone to quarrel. There are three natural causes of quarrel among people: competition for limited supplies of material possessions, distrust of one another, and glory insofar as people remain hostile to preserve their powerful reputation. Given the natural causes of quarrel, Hobbes concludes that the natural condition of humans is a state of perpetual war of all against all, where no morality exists, and everyone lives in constant fear:
In such condition, there is no place for industry, because the fruit thereof is uncertain; and consequently no culture of the earth, no navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by sea; no commodious building, no instruments of moving and removing such things as require much force; no knowledge of the face of the earth, no account of time, no arts, no letters, no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear and danger of violent death; and the life of people, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.
Hobbes continues offering proofs that the state of nature would be as brutal as he describes. We see signs of this in the mistrust we show of others in our daily lives. In countries which have yet to be civilized people treat are barbaric to each other. Finally, in the absence of international law, strong countries pray on the weakness of weak countries. Humans have three motivations for ending this state of war: the fear of death, the desire to have an adequate living, and the hope to attain this through one’s labor. Nevertheless, until the state of war ends, each person has a right to everything, including another person’s life.
Hobbes continues that to ensure contracts (and peace) power must be given to one person, or one assembly. We do this by saying, implicitly or explicitly, “I authorize and give up my right of governing myself, to this person, or to this assembly of people, on this condition, that thou give up thy right to him, and authorize all his actions in like manner.” His definition of a commonwealth, then, is this: “One person, of whose acts a great multitude, by mutual covenants on with another, have mad themselves every on the author, to the end he may use the strength and means of them all, as he shall think expedient, for their peace and common defense” This person is called a “sovereign.” He continues that there are two ways of establishing a commonwealth: through acquisition (force), or through institution (agreement). Hobbes lists the rights of rights of sovereigns. They are, (1) Subjects owe him sole loyalty; (2) Subjects cannot be freed from their obligation; (3) Dissenters must consent with the majority in declaring a sovereign; (4) Sovereign cannot be unjust or injure any subject; (5) The sovereign cannot be put to death; (6) The right to censor doctrines repugnant to peace; (7) Legislative power of prescribing rules; (8) Judicial power of deciding all controversies; (9) Make war and peace with other nations; (10) Choose counselors; (11) Power of reward and punishment; (12) Power of all civil appointments, including the militia. In Chapter 19 he discusses the kinds of governments that can be instituted. The three main forms are monarchy, aristocracy and democracy. He argues that monarchy is best for several reasons. Monarch’s interests are the same as the people’s. He will receive better counsel since he can select experts and get advice in private. His policies will be more consistent. Finally, there is less chance of a civil war since the monarch cannot disagree with himself.