Friday, October 28, 2011

Machiavelli vs. More

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Questions about how a society should be run have been debated throughout history. From early philosopher, Plato, who wrote about a successful republic to today?s most prominent republican, George W. Bush, the ideals of government have certainly changed. Added to the forum of debate are two Renaissance writers, Sir Thomas More and Nicolo Machiavelli. Machiavelli?s book, The Prince, a guide to how a prince should run his nation, exhibits the fact that human nature is inherently selfish. In contrast, Sir Thomas More?s book, Utopia, a description of the ideal human society, demonstrates that human nature cannot be selfish to create a Utopia and is neither good nor evil but develops according to the society that the person is raised in. In comparing Utopia and The Prince, many conflicting issues arise, such as whether a leader like Cesare Borgia or Commodus should be praised as glorious leaders, and what type of society were they built to govern, Machiavellian or Utopian. Another issue might be a laissez faire verses hands on government or how to deal with problems that arise between nations in either a Machiavellian or Utopian society. Throughout the discussion of theses topics, both authors outline their different views on human nature and use those philosophies to create their ideal government. With Machiavelli?s views on the inherent selfishness of human nature, a true Utopian cannot exist. A Utopian government is gentle and fair in nature yet in Machiavelli?s more realistic society, this relaxed form of government would not survive. In other words, Utopia?s laissez faire approach is too weak of a system to control a naturally corrupt society. Both authors create a government that would function properly under whichever form of human nature they believe to be true. Therefore, in Machiavelli?s society there were many laws and regulations that were strictly enforced and harshly punished. The Utopians view the need for law differently ? They very much condemn other nations, whose laws,? swell up to so many volumes; for they think it an unreasonable thing to oblige men to obey a body of laws that are both of such bulk and so dark as not to be read and understood by every one of the subjects? (Utopia, p.61). The Utopian society highlights the unwritten laws of morality that humans possess if they are raised in a society that promotes honesty and virtue. In this ideally principled community, a government with few laws would function smoothly, but in Machiavelli?s society would fail due to people?s inherent selfishness. People?s natural tendency to lie, cheat, and steal swells up without any restrictions, destroying not only their own community but also their government. Another governmental issue is how government deals with its criminals. Due to the abundant amount of laws that Machiavelli?s society enforces, it is implied that the treatment of criminals is harsh and strict. In Utopia, Raphael describes how this ideal society punishes its? criminals and then concludes ?These are their laws and rules in relation to robbery; and it is obvious that they are? mild and gentle; since vice is not only destroyed, and men preserved, but they are treated in such a manner as to make them see the necessity of being honest? (Utopia, p.14). The irony of the fact that More provides laws for criminals that should not exist if Utopia were truly a perfect society solidifies Machiavelli?s argument that men are evil, not matter how pleasant a society raises them. But, there are criminals in Utopia, and its? governments ability to correct men?s vices permits Utopia to maintain its? ideal form and orderly way of life. But with this inescapably corrupt nature, achieving this unchanging level of moral and only a government with a firm criminal system will suffice. In The Prince, Machiavelli outlines why an absolute government with forceful laws can control men ?For love attaches men by ties of obligation, which, since men are wicked, then break whenever their interests are at stake? (The Prince, p.5). All men have weak characters and therefore need guidance, which a Utopian society cannot provide. Although just and equitable, a Utopian government will never have the strength and severity to handle a society where humans make their own decisions. In addition to a mild government as a problem, a softhearted and moral Utopian leader is incapable of controlling such a fickle and malevolent society. In Utopia, More depicts a virtuous leader, and although he is a prince, is not held in a godly light as many other society?s rulers are. All of Utopia?s leaders ?live easily together, for none of the magistrates are either insolent or cruel to all people they affect rather to b called fathers, and in being so, they well deserve the name? (Utopia, p.61). If the leaders in a Machiavellian society attempted to pose as a father figure, they would be treated exactly how a rebellious teen would treat his father. The teen takes advantage of his father?s ignorance, think of him as old and slow, and walk all over him the second the son had the chance. Eventually the teen breaks away from the boundaries set by his parents and continues to live by his own principles. A ruler needs to give his subjects just enough to like you and to also need you. Father figures would be a weak and counterproductive leader who would quickly meet disaster, due to a father being more loved then feared and therefore will never achieve anything. According to Machiavelli, a successful leader possesses many qualities that are unbecoming of a father or role model ?A ruler? cannot conform to all those rules that men who are thought good are expected to respect, for he is often obliged, in order to hold power, to break his word, to be uncharitable, inhumane, and irreligious? (The Prince, p.55). Although this leader produces many polluted scruples, his success in governing poisoned societies justifies his actions. These wily actions hold the nation together and maintain the people?s fearful admiration of their leader. With the purely honest conduct that a Utopian prince exerts, this fearful admiration disappears, and the structure of a government disappears in consequence of his lack of ability to control a sinful people. In addition to possessing characteristics, such as cleverness, that holds the prince apart from common people, he must have either an extravagant yet proper physical appearance and/or a dignified code of conduct that evident from his appearance and actions in order to hold respect and maintain power. In Utopia, More explains that ?The prince himself has no distinction, either of the garments, or of a crown; but is only distinguished by a sheaf of corn carried before him? (Utopia, p.61). In a theoretical ideal society, such as Utopia, having a prince on nearly the same level with his subjects gains him a loving admiration and is therefore permitted to rule with this love as his power. Machiavelli provides the example Commodus, who easily inherited his power but foolishly lost it because ? he did not maintain his own dignity. Often, when he went to the amphitheater, he came down and fought with the gladiators, and he did other things that were despicable and incompatible with imperial majesty? He was hated by the people and despised by the soldiers, so there was soon a conspiracy against him and he was killed? (The Prince, p.6). Commodus? lack of discretion in his social graces caused his downfall not only by neglecting to separate him from the commoners, but placing him even below their social level and therefore treacherously decreasing the people?s respect. A dignified presentation is a necessity for successful rule, for without respect, a ruler has no power against human?s deceitful nature. Conclusively, it is therefore impossible for a loving and kind leader to govern a society dominated by selfish and unscrupulous people. Having a self-righteous father figure as a leader places a lot of stress on the need for cooperation in international affairs. Utopia?s ideas and policies on these affairs will surely and quickly lead to the nation?s downfall. A huge issue within international affairs is when it is just or right to go to war. In Utopia, ? They do not rashly engage in war, unless it be either to defend themselves, or their friends, from any unjust aggressors; or out of good nature or compassion assist an oppressed nation in shaking off the yoke of tyranny? (Utopia, p.64). When human nature is trained to be good, as in Utopia, man?s effort to improve the world increases, which is the basis for Utopia?s international policies. Although this generous parental attitude might help to prevent or solve problems, sadly, it does not guarantee the safety and stability of a nation. In The Prince, Machiavelli demonstrates how a nation successfully deals with international conflict while maintaining control of his own society. He recognizes the strength in international affairs in referencing the power of the Roman Empire. Its? expanse was not gained through diplomacy but through the art of war. Machiavelli also describes the guidelines to his society?s global affair policy ?For if two ruler,? are at war with each other, they are either so powerful that if one of them wins, you have to fear the victor, or they are not. Either way it will be better for you to take sides and fight a good fight? (The Prince, p.68). Human?s unavoidable yearning for total domination dictates the fact that a society must always act with its? own best interests at heart. Two examples of famous superpowers in history that dominated society during a certain era are the Medici and the Roman Empire. Both of these powers gained and maintained control according to Machiavelli?s principles. These selfish yet reasonable acts concerning global affairs are the only successful way to maintain control of ones? country and those around it during times of tension. Even Plato, in his republic, expressed the need for a dictator in times of war. Sadly, Utopia?s friendly neutrality advertises to enemies that they are a weak and intimidated nation open to the domination of a superpower. The nation that lives in accordance with Utopia?s wartime beliefs will have an extremely short existence, for the vileness of human nature will quickly drown such a non-confrontational and weak society. Machiavelli?s view on an evil human nature and More?s idea of man?s ideal society do conflict, but a Utopian society can be successful with an immoral people. Most importantly, the imperfectness of More?s Utopia needs to be addressed. In Utopia the punishment of criminals is addressed as one of the main topics; theft, adultery, and even murder are mentioned. In addition, when discussing government, More states that a prince may be voted out of office ?upon suspicion of some design to enslave the people? (Utopia, p.). These laws imply that men do go astray from the morals that they were brought up with and therefore contradict More?s own philosophy that man?s nature depends on their environment. In addition, this proves that imperfect men can govern and be governed in a Utopian society. In the representative governmental aspect of a Utopian society, Machiavelli uses the French government as an example of a well-structured government ?There you will find innumerable good institutions that ensure the freedom of action and security of the king. First among them is the parlement and its authorities? he (who set up the government) established an independent tribunal, whose task it is? to crush the powerful and defend the weak? (The Prince, p.58). Machiavelli does support a Utopian form of representative government. This parliament or senate would allow the people of the nation to have a say in their government and how they are ruled. If any corruption occurs, the populace will now have a means of stopping it. Machiavelli said of a good ruler ? He should encourage his citizens by making it possible for them to pursue their occupations peacefully? he (the ruler) should assure those who improve and invest are rewarded, as should be any ones whose actions will benefit his city or his government? (The Prince, p.70). Many people in the Machiavellian society still strive to live honest lives by working hard and even striving to better their own society. These people are very similar to the people of Utopia and consequently can be ruled similar to a Utopian community. A Utopian society is a possible goal for those living under Machiavelli?s believe that all humans are naturally wicked. The unchangeably corrupt human nature, according to Machiavelli, will never allow the ideal society, Utopia, to coexist with it in the same community. Although More and Machiavelli?s opinions differ greatly in their view of human nature, both works are unbelievably intriguing in that each of the societies would leave an incredible mark in history. Machiavelli?s society dominating the world and More?s living in perfect harmony and equality would each make for an interesting vacation. Their government, rulers, and international affairs policies are all intelligently formulated ideas and yet none of them can coexist with the others based on the authors philosophical ideas concerning human nature. Despite who is correct, there will always be both malevolent and kindhearted people in society and humans therefore need a government based on this reality of diversity. A combination of both governments would supply the world?s people with clever yet righteous leaders and strict yet just governments capable of leading the next generation to an era of success.


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