Machiavelli, Aristotle, August Essay, Research Paper
Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince examines the nature of power and his views of power in the leadership that he observed in his time. Machiavelli discusses power over the people, dictatorial power, and the power with the people. The struggle to retain, hold, and apply one power is human nature and this nature is agreeable with Aristotle’s argument that “man is a political animal.” In The Prince, Machiavelli discusses two distinct groups of people, the political elite, including nobles and the public. Machiavelli claims that ambition and dictatorial power drive most nobles and princes. Because shared power is only effective between the prince and his people and not between the prince and the nobles because the people depends on the prince and the prince needs his people but since nobles and the prince are driven by the same motivations shared power would be useless. “Whether men bear affection depends on themselves, but whether they are afraid will depend on what the ruler does” (p.60-61).
While Machiavelli emphasizes power over in relations between the political elite, he discusses a different kind of power in the relationship between a prince and the public. Machiavelli notes that a prnice can share power with the people, since a prince can trust the people much more than he can trust the nobles. Nobles” can not be satisfied if a ruler acts honorable but the people can be thus satisfies, because their aims are more honorable than those of the nobles are for the latter only want to oppress and the former only wants to avoid being oppressed” (p. 35). The people are not unforgiving and greedy so the prince can place more trust in the people. Since the prince can trust the people the people will feel empowered and the people will in turn protect the prince rather than revolt against him, “when you arm them, these weapons become your own” (p 72). In this way the prince power is greater. The prince’s pursuits for power the nature of things. Everything natural has the tendency to require more power. This is the natural order of animals, plants and everything else in nature. The nobles are the one closest to the prince, they may have help the prince rise to his power however, the prince can not trust the nobles for they to have the same desires as he does however, unlike the people the nobles are in position to replace the prince and it is just natural tendencies that drives the nobles to do so.
Aristotle also believed in natural progression. He believed that we are social beings and that we are able to rationalize our behavior through our speech. Humans need the interactions between each other to maintain a state. “In the first place there must be a union of those who cannot exist without each other, namely of male and female, that the race may continue (and this is a union which is formed, not of choice, but because, in common with other animals and with plants, mankind have a natural desire to leave behind them an image of themselves.)” (Politics bkIch2ln 26-31 p385). The state is a development from the family through the community, which is an extent of the family. This is form naturally because of human nature and our natural tendency to want security. “For everyone always acts in order to obtain that which they think good. But, if all communities aim at some good, the state or political community, which is the highest of all, and which embraces all the rest, aims at good in a greater degree than any other, and at the highest good” (Politics bkIch1ln 5-10 p.385). The state is a social contract that the people enter into. It provide security and the people provide the state its foundation.
The creation of the family must occur before the creation of the state, this is apart of the natural order. The family involves a series of relations between husband and wife, parent and child master and slave. Aristotle regards the slaves as a piece of live property having existence for only the purpose of the relation between him and his master. “As, however those who are equal in one thing ought not to have an equal share in all, nor those who are unequal which rest on either of these principles are perversions.” This is based on Aristotle belief of the class system. He continues, “all men have a claim in a certain sense, as I have already admitted, but not all have an absolute claim because they have a greater share in the land and the land is the common element of the state” (Politics bkIIIln26-34 p419). In the following lines Aristotle reveals people that from the higher class have easier lives and have more power and respect, “Those who are sprung from better ancestors are likely to be better men, for good birth is excellence of race”
“Natural ruler and subject, that bother may be preserved. For that which can foresee by the exercise of mind is by nature lord and master, and that which can with its body give effect to such foresight is a subject, and by nature a slave; hence the master and slave have the same interest” (Politics bkIch2ln32 p.385). Therefore the families of the city are not of the same status and within the family there are ranks as well.
Once we have a family, the tendencies of human nature will cause us to set up a household. There are three parts in household management. According to Aristotle, “one is the rule of a master over slaves another of a father, and the third of a husband” (Politics bkIch12ln1-3 p.396). However, the man rules differently over his slaves, wife and children. The male have been considered to be the stronger of the two genders and his is more capable of ruling, the older the male implies the more wiser he is and in turn the more respect he receives. In the household, one show is accomplishments through the accumulation of wealth. Financial exchange first involved bartering. However with the difficulties of transmission between countries widely separated from each other, money as currency arose. This here is another sign of the natural tendencies for man.
Aristotle also talks a great deal about equality. “What is right must be constructed as equally right and what is equally right is to be considered with reference to the advantage of the state, and the common good of the citizen but in the best state he is one who is able and choose to be governed and to govern with a view to the life of excellence” (Politics bkIIIch13ln40 p. 420). While we are in a constant struggle for political power, Aristotle’s believe that the good of the state should be the focus. He constantly refered to the “common good” and “the state.” Aristotle believed that the state comes before the person but the person must contribute to the state through the status which he was granted through fate with he was born into the world. “The good lawgiver should inquire how state and race of men and communities may participated in a good life” (Politics bkVIIln9 p.447). However, he also make statements like “unlawful it certainly is to rule without regards to justice for there may be might where there is not right” (Politics bkVIIln27 p.447). Throughout Politics, Aristotle preached about natural tendencies and the nature of the state, but at the end of Politics continuing from bkVIIln9 “in the happiness which is attainable by them. His enactment will not be always the same; and where there are neighbours he will have to see what sort of studies should be practiced in relation to their several characters, or how the measure appropriate in relation to each are to be adopted” Aristotle returns to the person as an individual.
Like Aristotle Augustine’s City of God begins with the individual and develops into a state and at the end return to the individual. Augustine looks a man and the pursuit of political power a little differently then Macheville or Aristotle. The City of God looks at life on earth and its relation to life after death. How “good” we live our life will determine our fate afterwards. “Our final good is that for the sake of which other things are desired, but which is itself desired for its own sake; and the final evil is that on account of which other things are avoided, but which is avoided on its own account” (City of God ch1 p. 481). Augustine explains that final good is when good is perfected and “final evil” is evil to its greatest harm.
According to Augustine, there are only three types of lives that one can follow: The first is the leisurely life devoted to contemplating or seeking the truth. Second is the busy life; devoted to conducting human affairs (such as politics) and the third is the life, which mixes both of these kinds. Augustine said that the best life is the one that brings the least trouble to the final good (City of God ch1 p. 481). What I interrupt about bring the least troubles to the final good is to not complicate things by trying to acquire things that was not giving. For example: a slave should not seek to be a free man. The slave need not seek for freedom because this life is worthless. The life here is a mere stepping stone for the next, which will be in heaven or hell. “Eternal life is the supreme good and eternal death the supreme evil and that in order to attain the one and avoid the other, we must live rightly” (City of God ch14 p482).
We have to use our “sense and intellect” to “account of perception and comprehension of the truth” (City of God ch4 p. 483). With our sense and intellect which was given to us by God so we can make judgements for ourselves between what is good and evil. This is an on going battle within us. “Virtue itself, which is among the primary goods of nature claims to be the highest of human goods and yet that does it do except conduct perpetual wars with vices not external but internal ones” (City of God ch4 p.483). This internal conflict is created because through our education from the society that we abide to. And to rid this vice, “it can only be that the flesh not desire in opposition to the spirit and that this vice opposed to what the spirit will, but with the help of God, let us at least not surrender the spirit and so yield to the flesh warring against the spirit and be dragged into sinning by our own consent” (City of God ch4 p. 483).
For a society to operated functionally, there must be order and to maintain that order laws are made and to enforce the laws a judicial system is establish. The citizens have to endure the ordeal of the process. “They (the officials) are frequently compelled to investigate the truth by torturing innocents witnesses even an innocent person pays a certain penalty for an uncertain crime because it is not known that he did not commit it” (City of God ch6 p485). The judges have to use torture to ensure that an innocent person would not get executed.
The people have to put faith into the judges because that is the social order of society. The judges were supposed to wise. The judges must torture people because it is his duty to do so. The innocent that gives into the pain of torture are then punish for a crime he did not commit. Or a guilty person goes free because he is able to withstand the torture test or a witness lied on his behalf. “A great number and magnitude of evils he does not consider to be sins, for a wise judge does not do them because of a will to harm, but because of the necessity imposed by not knowing and also because of the necessity of judging imposed by human society” (City of God ch6 p. 485).
All three philosophers agreed that the state comes before the citizens. It is the duty of he citizen to maintain the state and not the duty of the state to protect one person but the whole. The ethics and moral teachings of these three philosophers are very similar. Perhaps the similarity is the result of the similar goals of establishing a well a maintain state. Regardless it is clear that, at least in this life, according to Augustine that we have to put ourselves after our city. Or we should accompany ourselves with those that are beneficial and distance ourselves from those that are too ambitious.