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Mahiavelli’s Unique Morality Essay, Research Paper
When reading Niccolo Machiavelli s The Prince, one can t help but grasp his argument that ordinary morality and politics cannot exist in the same forum. However, when examining Machiavelli s notions in depth, one can conclude that perhaps a moral end fuels his suggested use of force and violence. First and foremost, one must have the understanding that this book is aimed solely at describing what conditions and actions are necessary for a would-be prince to take in order for him to obtain and maintain power. Therefore, it is essential to grasp his concepts of fortune and virtue. These two concepts reflect the manner in which a prince should govern in order to minimize his chances to be subjected to misfortune. This kind of governing demands the use of force. However, this is only done for the strict purpose of maintaining his throne, and generating both fear and admiration within his subjects. In these cases of violence, Machiavelli suggests limiting the amount of force to a minimum, and that the victims be enemies of the people. The Prince is essentially taking the role of the villain and assuming all bad acts so that his people do not have to suffer and commit the acts themselves. Subsequently, the Prince requires that his power not be threatened or disrespected. In the end, Machiavelli s Prince assumes all the burden of immoral behavior while leaving his noble people live prosperously and according to their moral virtues. This is Machiavelli s unique sense of morality.
Before examining how the interaction of violence and politics lead to morality in the end, it is important to analyze exactly what Machiavelli demands of his Prince. First and foremost, Machiavelli harps upon the concept of fortune and virtue. By fortune, he means those things that are left to chance and the absence of the guarantee that a certain event will occur. Machiavelli writes that a great long standing Prince never rules with fortune. Through risk and chance, one leaves himself open to failure and defeat. Thus actions taken to decrease the effects of poor fortune are crucial.
Machiavelli ties virtue very closely to that of prudence. He defines virtue as acting exceptionally and draws a distinction between morality and virtue. In many respects Machiavelli defines virtue by prudence. If a ruler is able to balance his use of violence, keep his subjects appeased, and have a dire understanding of his threats, then in Machiavelli s eyes the ruler possesses outstanding virtue. What must be understood is that the throne is always in jeopardy and someone is always there to try to knock the Prince off his pedestal. It is essential that the Prince understands this continual struggle for power, and it lies at the heart of Machiavelli s infamous statement that it is better to be feared than loved. Machiavelli explains that, for the most part, love is very subjective and eventually will subside unless concessions are made to appease his subjects. In addition, people only care about their personal conveniences and a prince would have to overextend himself if he were to be loved by all. Fear, however, is not subjective and has a universal effect on all his people. Fear can be attained by sporadic violent acts. One must understand, however, that massive amounts of violence are in effective because it would portray the Prince as tyrant, and might stir up his people to revolt against him. The acts must be calculated, concise, and serve a direct purpose not only to his benefit but to the people s also. Despite what might be assumed, Machiavelli is really developing a principality based around the people, where the Prince s actions are merely to save his own head from the chopping block.
In essence, Machiavelli s ideal principality sustains a genuine sense of morality behind the violence that must be subjected in order to maintain stability. Looking at his ideas subjectively, Machiavelli requires simply the respect of the people and the lack of treachery in affairs regarding his power. The people in his kingdom can live with tranquility, and pursue whatever they so desire. This freedom of the people and ability to act as they feel is more than a simple convenience. Personal pursuit of happiness of all is given by the Prince, but at his expense. All that the people must do is respect and not threaten the Prince s power. On the contrary, the Prince sacrifices his own motives, morals, and personal happiness so that his subjects may have them. Essentially, Machiavelli paints the Prince as a somewhat benevolent almost savior-like figure. He gives up his morals so that other may keep and cherish theirs.
Machiavelli firmly insists that politics and ordinary morality cannot co-exist. The main reason is that moral behavior is consistent and can be predictable. Consistency and predictability are significantly weak components of a ruler, and could be exploited by his enemies. When a pattern of action is established, conspirators can conspire and plan an overthrow. These conspirators would then plunder and pillage as they came to power; therefore worsening the situation in the kingdom. The people then would become the victims, and anarchy would soon break out creating all kinds of disorder. So, although the intentions of moral political actions are good, in the end they will lead to immoral acts. The actions he takes are not just violent tyrannical activities rather they are sacrifices. He is the one who must live with the guilt of sin, not his subjects. In terms of morality, the Prince does not demand any unmoral action from his subjects. He shoulders it all. It is also the Prince who, although it is also for his personal safety, eliminates the tyrants that not only threaten his throne but also his people. Along the same lines as halting anarchy or riots, the elimination of other power hungry individuals evaporates the threat of oppression on the people from another exterior source. One thing that remains consistent in his principality is that people maintain their honor and esteem, and this unselfish sacrifice is what makes the Prince s actions in actuality quite moral.
Another aspect that one cannot help but ignore is that fact the Prince assumes the position of ruler at its costs and expectations. For being a Prince, he must at times be prudent and aware of his position with the people. Machiavelli writes the Prince must be seen as moral by the people. This fact underlies the importance of some kind of morality for Machiavelli. Without the notion of morality in a Prince, civil disorder will occur. Morality provides, at the very least, a common value system by which his subjects can live peacefully. What makes morality important to the Prince is that it also allows him a statute of sorts. For example, if people operate by their morals than the Prince has not to worry such problems as stealing, killing and other immoral actions. Therefore, just by appearing to be moral, morality can be used as a tool to control and harness the people below him.
The Prince s existence and power is constantly threatened. However, it is not simply a job or power that the Prince would lose if he overthrown. Additionally it is his life that the Prince would lose if he were overtaken. Therefore, it could be said that the Prince must act and utilize violence in the act of self-preservation. For the Prince, saving his own life follows Machiavelli s unorthodox moral code. If the Prince experiences the misfortune of dethronement and probable decapitation, a new prince would then seize power. This new prince could subject the people to conditions far worse than before. Therefore, with his subjects as the top priority, Machiavellian morality demands that the Prince must stay alive and allow the people to prosper under his free monarchy.
The Prince is a work in which Machiavelli outlines the actions a Prince must take to hold and maintain power in a principality. Within the context of the book, Machiavelli brings forth the notion that prudent violence must be exacted in order to maintain the throne. In addition, he strongly expresses the notion that the Prince cannot be both moral in the traditional sense and politically shrewd. However, beyond this argument lays the foundation of Machiavelli s unique moral view. The Prince s evil actions, although not seemingly moral, are designed to sustain a moral code and general prosperity for the subjects within his principality. The Prince himself performs the immoral behaviors he deems necessary and sacrifices himself for the people. The Prince is indeed moral in the end.
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