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Western Civilization - Essay Example

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Erasmus, author of Education of a Christian Prince and Machiavelli, author of The Prince, although both European philosophers separated by a brief 3 years time, held very different views on the way that a prince should seek to govern his subjects. …
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Western Civilization
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Download file to see previous pages This brief analysis will consider the similarities as well as the divergence that is exhibited by these two authors as a function of the books they wrote and the views they espoused. Although a great many factors can be said to differentiate the understandings of Erasmus and Machiavelli, perhaps the greatest one revolves around the root “good” that each of the authors is hoping their leadership will effect. Machiavelli puts forward that the ultimate “good” is to achieve and maintain power. As a means to this end, the nature of moral choices that are undertaken become of a secondary nature. What this means is that to Machiavelli, the ultimate goal is the expansion and retention of the leader’s power. This can be effected through a variety of means that Machiavelli discusses. However, for the purposes of brevity, these means can be broken down into the nature of being feared versus being loved. To Machiavelli, humanity is duplicitous and untrustworthy. As such, Machiavelli believes that it is necessary for a leader to exhibit fearful attributes so that the subjects will seek to honor his will to power based on a healthy amount of fear for the different types of punitive actions the leader might effect. Although Machiavelli states that the leader should be feared and loved, this is oftentimes not entirely possible to exist at the same time for the same leader. In this way Machiavelli upholds to the reader that the most important concept to uphold would be that of overall fear due to the fact that of these two mechanisms, only fear has the ability to increase power of the ruler of the notions of fealty that love might induce. Conversely, Erasmus approaches the issue from a different perspective entirely. Rather than choosing to argue with Machiavelli over which of the two functions most dramatically increase the power of the leader in question, Erasmus chooses to focus instead on which approach entails the higher application of morality; or the greater good with reference to the Christian virtue. Obviously, with respect to Erasmus Christian humanism, the answer to this question is concentric around the “love of the leader”. In this way, Erasmus seeks to maximize the good while minimizing the evil. In a contrasting way to Machiavelli, Erasmus’ point of view is concentric upon the ways in which the leader can work to improve their kingdom both morally and spiritually. In this way, it is morally reprehensible for Erasmus to consider a point of view that employs devious or “evil” means to satisfy a given end. Although it is not the point of this analysis to break down Machiavelli’s approach into one that can be described by the simple “ends justifies the means” cliche, it does help the reader to gain a firm handle on the subject matter and attempt to understand the nuances of how Erasmus and Machiavelli both approach the same subject matter with widely different interpretations of how the leader can maximize his ultimate utility based upon these. Says Erasmus of the moral imperative that he attempts to relate to the reader, “If you cannot defend your realm without violating justice, without wanton loss of human life, without great loss to religion, give up and yield to the importunities of the age” (Erasmus 17)! Such a view is of course contradicted by the very realistic utilitarian methods that Machiavelli puts forward in his own treatise. Says Machiavelli, “Whenever you have to kill someone, make sure you have a suitable excuse and an obvious reason; but, above all else, keep your hands off other people’s property; for men are quicker to forget the death of their father than the loss of their inheritance. Moreover, there are always reasons why you might ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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