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A comparison of the philosophies of Machiavelli and Aristotle

The conflict amongst the perfect and the reality has lengthy been the center of the debate in the history of political philosophy. Numerous well-known philosophers have constructed an imaginary planet upon which their whole theories are primarily based. They believe an ideal model of the state, which serves as the final aim of human society, can guide men and women on a right way to accomplish the purpose. For that reason investigation of this final objective is more critical than any other topic. Even so, there are nonetheless some thinkers, such as Machiavelli, who doubt the feasibility of such perfect states. They think that with out establishing dependable techniques of attaining the goal from our daily experience, the finish is unattainable and therefore useless. Practical methodology, rather than the excellent model, is what we can manage and experiment on. It is exciting to compare diverse roads that Aristotle and Machiavelli undertake to achieve what they believe is the most critical thing by means of their political thoughts.

Among these sensible thinkers, Machiavelli has the greatest influence on later generations. He believes that individuals do not comply with philosophers’ prescriptive guidelines on what they must do, but act according to their personal interests. He says in The Prince that “the gap in between how individuals really behave and how they ought to behave is so fantastic that anyone who ignores each day reality in order to live up to an best will soon discover he has been taught how to destroy himself, not how to preserve himself” (48). This quote arises from his belief that men in nature are selfish and strive only for their own interest. Life is a process of pursuing one’s personal desires after one stops pursuing, his life comes to an end. He bitterly satirizes men’s nature that “men are faster to forget the death of their father than the loss of their inheritance” (52). Individuals will not forget the wrongs they suffered from you even when you are undertaking good to them (38). Guys are significantly less nervous of offending someone who makes himself lovable, than someone who makes himself frightening (52). He thinks that what people want is, on the condition that they are safe, to preserve their own property and obtain a lot more factors that men and women “are ungrateful, fickle, deceptive and deceiving, avoiders of danger, eager to gain” (52). Machiavelli concludes that men’s need for power and house is infinite, although actual energy and house are restricted by all-natural conditions therefore, individuals are often in a condition of competitors. To some extent, individual interest is the highest value in the society he lived every little thing other than the finish interest of his extreme individualism is meaningless. Machiavelli’s political philosophy and policies are all primarily based on the premise that guys in nature are selfish and wicked. This view also lays one particular of the foundations of Hobbes’ philosophy program that the appropriate of nature is “the liberty every man hath, to use his own energy, as he will himself, for the preservation of his personal nature” (Chap XIV, 1) and the state of nature is the state of war.

In contrast to Machiavelli’s theory of human nature, Aristotle states “a human becoming is by nature a political animal” (1253a2-three), meaning an animal with an innate propensity to develop complex communities. He also thinks “a human becoming is more of a political animal than a bee” (1253a8-9) because they are naturally equipped for life in a sort of neighborhood that is itself “more quintessentially political” than a beehive, namely, a household or city-state (Politics, xlviii). What enables human beings to live in such communities is the capability for rational speech, which is peculiar to human beings. For rational speech “is for generating clear what is beneficial or harmful, and therefore also what is just or unjust… and it is neighborhood in these that makes a household and a city-state” (1253a16-7). Also in The Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle suggests that the defining character of human beings is rationality, as he states “the function of man is an activity of soul which follows or implies a rational principle” (1098a2-4).

As a political animal, man thrives in his rationality—most totally in the producing of laws and traditions, which indicates sacrifice one’s personal interest to support other individuals. Aristotle points out that people naturally form a city-state in order to obtain self-sufficiency and live properly. In a community, individuals must care about others and sometime even lay down his personal rights for the great of the neighborhood. It is rationality that tells one to make such altruistic sacrifice given that a single knows he depends on the neighborhood. This sacrifice, which arises from self interest and develops beyond self interest, forms the most primitive and innate goodness of human nature in Aristotelian theory.

It is worth noting that Machiavelli thinks that the energy of rulers is given by election of his subjects, and later becomes hereditary. There is no divine correct of kings. He gets rid of Augustine and Aquinas’ political theory of divine energy, expelling the Catholic philosophy out of the regime of politics. He applies his theory of human nature to uncover out the all-natural order of states by way of rational deduction and empirical proof. Throughout The Prince, he uses over 78 various examples to prove his political theory, ranging from Carthage to Turkey, from ancient Greece to modern Italy, from little military leader to Roman Emperors. Moreover, in each of his claims, he begins from analysis to certain situation and develops his theory by applying psychoanalysis. Often he even applies game theory when discussing the behavior of two opposing sides, due to his assumption that men and women act on their personal interest and care about their preservation. When he talks about why rulers do not need to fear assassination of their conspirators, he applies game theory to the concern of whether a conspirator’s associate must betray him and no matter whether the men and women will turn on him even if the conspiracy succeeds. He abandons the incomplete induction and harangue with no logic of Aquinas and Augustine in favor of strictly scientific procedure of reasoning. This is a single of the factors why Machiavelli’s theory is so common.

Behind the distinction of Aristotle and Machiavelli’s human nature theory lies a a lot more basic conflict. Machiavelli’s political philosophy is based on his personal experience of affairs, concerned to set forth the signifies to assigned ends. He believes that we need to be concerned far more about the signifies rather than ends, considering that it is futile to pursue a political goal by strategies that are bound to fail “if the end is held very good, we should pick indicates sufficient to its achievement” (Russell, 510). Furthermore, the query of indicates can be treated in a purely scientific manner, with small regard to the goodness or badness of the ends. In Chapter Seven of The Prince, Machiavelli describes in detail how Cesare Borgia comes to energy and cautiously examines each step that Cesare Borgia has undertaken. From the passage, we can tell Machiavelli acknowledge that the Duke is bloody and harsh, but he nevertheless praises him unrestrainedly that he “cannot believe of any better instance [he] could supply a new ruler than that of [Cesare Borgia’s] actions” (22). It need to be supposed that Machiavelli’s admiration of Cesare Borgia was only for his ability, not for his purposes. The stories of Agathocles and Oliverotto also exemplify Machiavelli’s admiration of skillful indicates to obtain energy, even though he regards their implies as “wicked actions” (27). Machiavelli feels that as long as the end is justified, one can pick whatever means to obtain the objective. On the other hand, what ever means that can assist attain the finish are justified. He comments on political conspiracy and violence positively and proves any signifies, however ferocious, brutal and wicked, can be used to acquire and preserve power. He depicts the pope Alexander VI thusly “now look at how this honorable pope pays his debts: he basically cancelled them all” (37) and suggests that nobody thinks the pope’s action is despicable. He also shows that ruling is a kind of art and that in order to unite Italy, one has to rely on power to overcome the obstacles.

As a teleologist, Aristotle was concerned a lot more about ends instead of means. Politics begins by pointing out the importance of city-state, the highest sort of community aimed at the highest excellent. To him, each and every kind of neighborhood and government aims for some great. Aristotle in Book III Chapter Nine claims: “households and households reside nicely as a neighborhood whose finish is a comprehensive and self-adequate life” (1280b33-four) and “the city-state must be concerned with virtue” (1280b6-7). Aristotle additional shows the finish of virtue in Book VII Chapter Eight that “happiness is the ideal point, nonetheless, and it is some sort of activation or complete workout of virtue” (1328a36-7). Happiness, or eudaimonia, is regarded by Aristotle as “final and self-adequate, and is the finish of action” in The Nicomachean Ethics (1097b20-1) and politics is the science of the great for man to obtain eudaimonia as in Politics, “the greatest and best excellent is the finish of the science or craft that has the most authority of all of them, and this is the science of statesmanship but the political very good is justice, and justice is the common benefit” (1282b14-7). It is not difficult to see that Aristotle’s politics for virtue has many meanings. 1st, in ethics, politics is the science to attain happiness for the majority, which is opposite to violent and evil rule Machiavelli suggests. Subsequent, in best, politics strives for justice, which is the sole measure of the government, rather than the acquisition of power for Machiavelli.

In addition, Machiavelli believes situationalism, which is opposed to Aristotle’s theory of moral character. Machiavelli thinks that individuals react to conditions where they discover they are in, rather than to some internal state. He is constantly prudent not to give basic conclusions, but to talk about every achievable scenario and analyze its outcome. When talking about how to keep away from hatred and contempt, he divides the circumstances into whether or not a single is a new ruler or has inherited energy, regardless of whether the soldiers are a lot more stronger or the populace, and whether one particular has a big territory or not. He is cautious that political policies are determined by numerous factors and one particular ought to “adapt himself to changing circumstances” (75). Even so, Aristotle thinks people’s actions are not random. Individuals habituate themselves and turn into virtuous by carrying out virtuous actions, as in The Nicomachean Ethics, he says “to virtue belongs virtuous activity” (1098b31-2). Therefore he believes it is people’s moral character that determines their behavior rather than inconstant external scenarios.

Nevertheless, the two wonderful philosophers hold something in widespread, partly since Machiavelli, specially his Discourses, was largely influenced by Aristotle. Initial, their methodologies are both scientific and concerned with reasoning. Second, Machiavelli seems to agree upon some ends that are worth pursuing—national independence, safety, and a nicely-ordered constitution. The two things, really like of ability and patriotic desire for Italian unity, existed side by side in his thoughts, which can be seen from the final exhortation to unite Italy in The Prince.

Aristotle also differs from his teacher Plato in that he is much more concerned with the feasibility of a political theory. In Politics, he emphasizes that “what is the very best constitution, and what is the ideal life for most city-states and most human beings, judging not by a sort of education that needs all-natural gifts and resources that rely on luck, nor by the perfect constitution, but by a life that most people can share and a constitution in which most city-states can participate” (1295a25-30). This is completely diverse from Plato’s utopia created for “philosophy kings”. In this sense, Aristotle can be named the founder of sensible and realistic political philosophy and a crucial heir of his teacher’s rational and idealistic political philosophy.

Possessing examined all these similarities and variations of the two philosophers, it is time to go over the question raised in the starting of this essay about no matter whether political philosophy should care much more about reality or perfect models. Aristotle and Machiavelli’s divergence on the ends or the means also derives from this query. In Machiavelli’s view, the signifies pave the road towards the finish and its consequences are foreseeable. Even so, considering that we can only conduct believed experiment on the best model of states, we can't apply scientific methodology to examine its correctness therefore it is rather risky to comply with the guide of an best model. For that reason he progressively neglects the transcendental moral specifications behind the political theory and emphasizes the procedural justice of government, rather than substantial justice, cutting off the connection between politics and ethics. This moral indifference leads astray modern politics into pettiness. In this sense, it is crucial to recover the transcendental part of virtue in politics. To Aristotle, only the concept of virtue can give a republic substantial justice in addition to procedural justice and free of charge person human rights from the political interests. Compared to Machiavelli, Aristotle’s political philosophy is in between best and reality. His political excellent was very at 1 with Plato’s in setting up an ethical objective as the chief finish of the city-state, but Aristotle suggests that the perfect need be embodied in practice to be valid. He is trying to reconcile the discrepancy in between perfect and reality in order to locate a political philosophy that can genuinely guide the Greeks.

It is surprising to see Aristotle and Machiavelli have created distinct paths of their philosophy noticing that Renaissance Italy is so a lot like the classical Greece each with warring principalities and cities. Therefore the Greek philosophers owe their theoretical education to the wars of petty states just as Machiavelli learned his lesson in the ceaseless conflicts amongst the 5 States of Italy and foreign powers. Amongst the a lot of reasons Machiavelli and Aristotle differ in their political philosophy whilst sharing comparable political environment, the most crucial a single is due to the influence of the Renaissance. With the diminishing authority of the Church, and the growing authority of science, Machiavelli’s scientific and empirical political philosophy earns its fame. In Machiavelli’s time, there was a increasing cynicism, which tends to make men forgive anything if it pays money to them. The Italian Renaissance awakens the bright side of humanity as well as the dark side as “people have a tendency to turn into unscrupulous egoists” (Sabine 321). “Admiration of talent, and of the actions that lead to fame, was very excellent at the time of the Renaissance” (Russell, 507). The universal egoism of that period resulted in Machiavelli’s moral indifference.



Works Cited:

Machiavelli, The Prince, Hackett, 1995

Aristotle, Politics, Hackett, 1998

Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics, Oxford, 1998

Hobbes, Leviathan, Oxford, 1996

Sabine & Thorson, A History of Political Theory, Dryden Press, 1973

Russell, A History of Western Philosophy, Simon & Schuster, 1972
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