8 Bit Philosophy: Who Was Machiavelli? (The Prince)

Xman490

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May 29, 2010
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Machiavelli's time has passed for us in the Western World, so it seems that love is what sticks. Many countries have the resources for love-based governments, after all. Even when governmental forces strip us of our rights, the means arise from individual motives facilitated by negligence, not institutionalized hatred. When candidates for an office of power compete for power in Western nations, they do not incite fear through militias but instead incite love through pledges. Although such pledges often are not fulfilled, we are no worse-off as we would have been under a violent regime.

Since people in a state of loving perform better than those in a state of fearing, love-based tactics are better for long-term leadership strategies. Thus, the question that reasonable potential leaders ask themselves is, "Can I attain power by inciting love? If not, can I attain it by inciting fear?"
 

Gorrath

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Xman490 said:
Machiavelli's time has passed for us in the Western World, so it seems that love is what sticks. Many countries have the resources for love-based governments, after all. Even when governmental forces strip us of our rights, the means arise from individual motives facilitated by negligence, not institutionalized hatred. When candidates for an office of power compete for power in Western nations, they do not incite fear through militias but instead incite love through pledges. Although such pledges often are not fulfilled, we are no worse-off as we would have been under a violent regime.

Since people in a state of loving perform better than those in a state of fearing, love-based tactics are better for long-term leadership strategies. Thus, the question that reasonable potential leaders ask themselves is, "Can I attain power by inciting love? If not, can I attain it by inciting fear?"
Western nations often use carrot and stick approach. The political candidates do not instill fear of themselves but, often through misinformation and breeding of ignorance, fear of their opposition. It is not enough to get the populace to love you but to also get them to fear and thus hate your opponents. The reasonable candidate does not engage in the false dichotomy; the reasonable candidate embraces both tactics.
 

Gorrath

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dunam said:
Pretty disgusted by this attempt at popularizing "The ends justify the means". It sounds just like "trickle down wealth" propaganda to me.

The inherent problem with "the end justify the means" is that people are flawed in at least two ways: we make mistakes and we sometimes see our own advancement at any cost as justified.

Pushing a man out of the trajectory of a fast moving train may cause him to fall badly, but the ends justify the means, saving his life.

However, shooting a man in the leg with a gun at long range because it looks like he's on a collision course with a running train, will also save his life. Although he might have just decelerated in time to not hit the train by himself.

Do the ends really justify the means? Only if you don't make mistakes.

And we always do.

------------------------

This is some dangerous and harmful kind of philosophy being peddled and I'd warn everyone not to take it to heart readily.
You're quite right in that the philosophy of "ends justify the means" falls into the same quagmire as pure utilitarian morality. It presumes to know that the ends are actually good with insufficient data to come to that conclusion. The ends may justify the means but it depends on context. IN the world of morality and ethics, context is everything. You can use "the ends justify the means" but only if you build in a mechanism to the means that allows for the correction of errors. So too with utilitarian morality.
 

Silence

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And the question is still not answered:

Did Macchiavelli, in fact, not mean what he wrote? Was it a satire on the rulers of the time?

Some of his claims are so ridiculous, you could come to the conclusion.
 

RJ 17

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dunam said:
This is some dangerous and harmful kind of philosophy being peddled and I'd warn everyone not to take it to heart readily.
I don't think the video was necessarily endorsing Machiavelli's philosophy of The Ends Justify The Means, but rather simply attempting to explain it.
 

Imperioratorex Caprae

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May 15, 2010
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dunam said:
Pretty disgusted by this attempt at popularizing "The ends justify the means". It sounds just like "trickle down wealth" propaganda to me.


This is some dangerous and harmful kind of philosophy being peddled and I'd warn everyone not to take it to heart readily.
None of these 8--bit Philosophy vids are endorsing any one philosophy over the other or on the single topics, endorsing said subject. They're merely fostering discussion and thought over those philosophies, simplified by way of being short and concise and never once putting the idea that said philosophy is right or wrong.
Way to read into something that isn't even present.
 

catalyst8

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Gorrath said:
You're quite right in that the philosophy of "ends justify the means" falls into the same quagmire as pure utilitarian morality. It presumes to know that the ends are actually good with insufficient data to come to that conclusion. The ends may justify the means but it depends on context. IN the world of morality and ethics, context is everything. You can use "the ends justify the means" but only if you build in a mechanism to the means that allows for the correction of errors. So too with utilitarian morality.
Absolutely. I'd like to add that Machiavelli was writing specifically about the mechanisms of political power in Renaissance Europe, which is a very particular context indeed. If one reads The Prince, regardless of whether one takes it as a satire or not, its structure is similarly clinical to how we might view stereo instructions or perhaps a cookery book; there's very little commentary on absolute morality, but considerable analysis of the mechanics of political form & function where perceived morality itself is generally considered as simply another mechanism to be employed. Ostensibly that's what the pamphlet is of course, an instruction manual.

But if The Prince is taken as a satire then the whole interpretation is reversed, & it becomes a particularly damning condemnation of the matter it addresses. In this light it's worth bearing in mind that Machiavelli was variously imprisoned & tortured by his political masters, & that the body of his work (& he was quite prolific) is very different to this particular publication. The consensus of historians seems to claim it as a satire, but this is in no way conclusive.

What I find most interesting about this particular pamphlet however, is that it's one of the very first published examples of Game Theory.
 

Baresark

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Machiavelli... I can't help but notice that this was written during his exile, so I always felt it was kind of juvenile. It's like he said what felt good to him to justify his anger at that moment. It seem to speak to the fact that the entire "ends justifies the means" argument was used against him by the Medici, almost as a form of self justification for what had happened to him. But he was in fact a pretty good elected official who got caught up in someone else's anger, got kicked out of office, was tortured and then exiled himself.

One thing about these 8-bit philosophy shows is they don't ever show anything about the philosophers life. It's not like these things are some sort of divine influence, events that may have lead to their philosophies tend to be hyper important.
 

Darknacht

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The Prince is not Machiavelli's view on how one should rule but on how one must rule if one is a dictator. Machiavelli strongly believed that principalities where an inferior form of government, was a strong advocate of republics, and wrote much more extensive works on republics, that most people never bother to look at. By those that study Machiavelli's works The Prince is frequently seen as a argument against principalities. Or a satire of the thoughts of the time on strong princes, as what he wrote was not new knowledge to the rulers of Europe but things that they where commonly taught while they were being groomed for leadership. Some even view The Prince as a subversive work meant to stir up the lower classes.
 

leviadragon99

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Well considering that the father of this philosophy lived out the rest of his days in exile, doesn't seem like that strategy panned out too well for him, or it's a tacit admission that he himself was unable to live by his words.

Hell, we've seen in the real world that that kind of attitude leads to pretty poisonous outcomes, with any benefit to the country or the populace thereof debatable at best, often running directly counter to their long-term interests by shortsighted tactics that burn too many bridges.

All that said... it does seem like his philosophy has been taken out of historical context, both by those that criticise it, and those who would live by it, so maybe it's best we leave it in the past these days. After all, these days North Korea is perhaps one of the more notable examples of leadership being more feared than loved, and I suspect that's not a system we want to emulate.

These days the argument trends towards love vs respect, a more refined version of that approach... even if some leaders will still try to play the fear card; "the terrorists are hiding under your bed, let us protect you by arresting all those pesky whistleblowers"
 

Darknacht

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leviadragon99 said:
Well considering that the father of this philosophy lived out the rest of his days in exile, doesn't seem like that strategy panned out too well for him, or it's a tacit admission that he himself was unable to live by his words.

Hell, we've seen in the real world that that kind of attitude leads to pretty poisonous outcomes, with any benefit to the country or the populace thereof debatable at best, often running directly counter to their long-term interests by shortsighted tactics that burn too many bridges.

All that said... it does seem like his philosophy has been taken out of historical context, both by those that criticise it, and those who would live by it, so maybe it's best we leave it in the past these days. After all, these days North Korea is perhaps one of the more notable examples of leadership being more feared than loved, and I suspect that's not a system we want to emulate.

These days the argument trends towards love vs respect, a more refined version of that approach... even if some leaders will still try to play the fear card; "the terrorists are hiding under your bed, let us protect you by arresting all those pesky whistleblowers"
His philosophy was that dictatorships where inferior to republic and the fear necessary to maintain the dictatorship would always lead to violence. The Prince is a book criticizing violent dictatorships not advocating for them.
 

Hoplon

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Mar 31, 2010
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Was pretty sure "The Prince" was a satire on the shit heads that where in power at the time. Not a guide on how to be a great leader.
 

Gorrath

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catalyst8 said:
Gorrath said:
You're quite right in that the philosophy of "ends justify the means" falls into the same quagmire as pure utilitarian morality. It presumes to know that the ends are actually good with insufficient data to come to that conclusion. The ends may justify the means but it depends on context. IN the world of morality and ethics, context is everything. You can use "the ends justify the means" but only if you build in a mechanism to the means that allows for the correction of errors. So too with utilitarian morality.
Absolutely. I'd like to add that Machiavelli was writing specifically about the mechanisms of political power in Renaissance Europe, which is a very particular context indeed. If one reads The Prince, regardless of whether one takes it as a satire or not, its structure is similarly clinical to how we might view stereo instructions or perhaps a cookery book; there's very little commentary on absolute morality, but considerable analysis of the mechanics of political form & function where perceived morality itself is generally considered as simply another mechanism to be employed. Ostensibly that's what the pamphlet is of course, an instruction manual.

But if The Prince is taken as a satire then the whole interpretation is reversed, & it becomes a particularly damning condemnation of the matter it addresses. In this light it's worth bearing in mind that Machiavelli was variously imprisoned & tortured by his political masters, & that the body of his work (& he was quite prolific) is very different to this particular publication. The consensus of historians seems to claim it as a satire, but this is in no way conclusive.

What I find most interesting about this particular pamphlet however, is that it's one of the very first published examples of Game Theory.
I've never worried over whether it was satire or not because, as you say, it reads like an instruction manual. One of my favorite examples of this is where he talks about dealing with conquered lands. He mentions that merely stationing an army in a land you've conquered will do little to make that land your own. The heart of the people will still be against you and revolt is an inevitability. If you want to make a conquered land yours, you must send your own citizens to settle it. Whether he intends this as satire or not, the effectiveness of this tactic is unquestionable. Which is precisely why it is against international law to do it.

Through an amoral lens, much of what he writes in The Prince really is good advice for achieving the desired ends. It's just that the means he suggests are often immoral or unethical, but that was hardly a concern for Princes vying for power. I read The Prince as a manual for how to win at a specific game being played in that time and place. It's like a Gamfaqs for an unstable, principality-ruled Europe. Of course he wrote a lot about how the game was broken and how there were much better ways of ruling than those employed by the principality method, but within the confines of that method The Prince is a work of masterful insight.