Machiavelli’s “The Prince”
Niccolo Machiavelli is one of the founders of Political Science. Many people dislike him because of the ways he looks at things, which can be read from his famous work “The Prince”. “The Prince” is basically about different ways of ruling a nation. He used the term “Prince” to denote the ruler. It is said to be written by Machiavelli for Lorenzo De’ Medici as a letter for the union of the people of Italy (Hughe, 1988).
From Machiavelli’s famous, the phrase “the end justifies the mean” is always heard. If the outcome of any action that a man does is good, then it is not necessary to evaluate whether that man’s action is acceptable by the society or immoral from the point of view of the people. In his work, he gave the way to hold power as an illustration. Since no one can please all the people all the time, it is better for the prince to b feared by his people and enemies, giving punishment for their mistakes (Machiavelli, 2005). This is the opposite of from Plato’s belief. An unjust man must be injured for he is immoral, but if a just man do this, then he will not be call just. An act, however good the outcome is, must not be an immoral act (Plato, nd). Machiavelli’s conclusion is based on his assumption that a prince must not be so lose on his people, although he must acts as if he is a very kind person, for by doing so people may tend to betray him, especially if he is a new ruler. But Plato assumed that a just man is good and will give whatever a man has to receive, except for his enemy who owe him evil.
Machiavelli also put some historical rulers and their fall or success. He tried to examine the trend by which these rulers get their powers and how they lose it. He tried to make a general conclusion from them. From this, it can be said that Machiavelli used inductive reasoning, which is often prone to error for small part does not always show the real trend of the whole thing. Not all that followed the act of Alexander the Great have faced the same fate. Aside from Alexander, he also used Agathocles and Oliverotto da Fermo in drawing his conclusion. They both murdered those who are superior to them to obtain power. He also enumerated some of the leaders of the church, such as Pope Leo and Pope Julius.
The names of Hannibal and Scipio also appeared in his work. They are the names of great rulers that are known for their cruelty. Their cruelty is justified by their strong state, since none of their other virtues can be used for ruling. It is clear that Machiavelli used them to support his claim that if a ruler is feared rather than loved and that the end justifies the mean (Machiavelli, 2005). His idea can be compared with the idea that can be derived from the symbols that are used by Tim O’Brien in his book “Going After Cacciato”. O’Brein used the symbol of killing the senior officers to show that by killing them, needless killings can be prevented. Although this act seemed to be unjust, the purpose of this action is for the greater goods. It is doing evil to attain goodness (cited O’Brien, 1999).
Today, many people tend to do evil things and try to justify them by a good reason. An example will be rubbers, which when caught will say that only do it to feed their family. End does not really justify the mean. A good end cannot compensate the wrong way things are done. An immoral act cannot be made moral by a good reason. And I have to agree with Plato. A just man can never injure an unjust man nor another just man, for inflicting injuries to others is an act of an unjust man. An act of a just man for the good of others but using immoral way will not make the act moral, but it will rather make the just man unjust.
Hughe, G. (1988). Squashed Philosophers. Retrieved July 25, 2008, from http://www.btinternet.com/~glynhughes/squashed/machiavelli.htm.
Machiavelli, N. (2005). The Prince. Retrieved July 26, 2008, from http://www.constitution.org/mac/prince00.htm.
O’Brien, T. (1999). Going after Cacciato. Retrieved July 26, 2008, from http://www.scholieren.com/boekverslagen/2593
Plato. (nd). The Republic. Retrieved July 26, 2008, from http://www.ac-nice.fr/philo/textes/Plato-Works/19-Republic.htm.