Saturday, August 8, 2009

Concerning Cruelty and Clemency.

The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli - Chapter 17.

" [...] Upon this a question arises: whether it be better to be loved than feared or feared than loved? It may be answered that one should wish to be both, but, because it is difficult to unite them in one person, is much safer to be feared than loved, when, of the two, either must be dispensed with. Because this is to be asserted in general of men, that they are ungrateful, fickle, false, cowardly, covetous, and as long as you succeed they are yours entirely; they will offer you their blood, property, life and children, as is said above, when the need is far distant; but when it approaches they turn against you. And that prince who, relying entirely on their promises, has neglected other precautions, is ruined; because friendships that are obtained by payments, and not by greatness or nobility of mind, may indeed be earned, but they are not secured, and in time of need cannot be relied upon; and men have less scruple in offending one who is beloved than one who is feared, for love is preserved by the link of obligation which, owing to the baseness of men, is broken at every opportunity for their advantage; but fear preserves you by a dread of punishment which never fails."

Returning to the question of being feared or loved, I come to the conclusion that, men loving according to their own will and fearing according to that of the prince, a wise prince should establish himself on that which is in his own control and not in that of others; he must endeavour only to avoid hatred, as is noted."

Written during the Italian Renaissance, by an eminent political theorist of the time, for Lorenzo de' Medici( ruler of the Florentine republic) , one may wonder what relevance this famed piece of literature might have today, outside of the odd historical references and footnotes. Loads, as I have learnt. Be it philosophy, sociological theory, ethics, epistemology and morality, all of which are just as crucial aspects of human knowledge as they were a thousand years ago, and will be for those to follow.

And if nothing else, think of all the things you could do with a how-to booklet for conquering and governing kingdoms.

Muahahaha! *evil laughter, for effect*


Mer-curial-maiden said...

I had no idea I was so Machiavellian. O.o

Wasn't Lorenzo de Medici the guy who Fra Lippo Lippi painted for? Or was it Andrea del Sarto? Either way, do read both (eponymous) poems by Browning. Absolutely brilliant.

And thank you, just reaffirmed a few of my beliefs :D

Srivatsan said...

If you want to know about how a ruler(king) can be and how friendship can be,try reading "thirukural". I think translated versions are available in net.Of all the suggestions or ideas by various authors and poets on politics and everything,I think "thirukural" suits best.Yet it is in our wish that we follow them or not!

Srivatsan said...

And friends earned by money is lost with the money,but friends earned by sharing laughter,tears and hearts, fades only when their souls depart from earth!

Death On Two Legs said...

This is supremely interesting, perceptive and disconcerting all at once.

Sherry Wasandi said...

@ Mer-curial-maiden : Ha! Neither did I. I can't imagine you going the Mussolini way though. :)

And yes, Lippi painted for the Medici family. I'm reading them right now! Thanks for the recommendation.

@ Srivatsan : I have read a significant amount of Thirukural in the past. Though I found it very interesting, I also thought that it generalizes things a bit too much. The world isn't quite as candy-striped Thiruvalluvar saw it. The ideas have the "for-the-good-of-all" tone going through them, but not very practical if you happen to be a materialist.

Thanks for the suggestion though. I think I'll go back to reading some more of it soon.

@ Death On Two Legs : Which is why the dude(Machiavelli) is as famous as he is! I admit, I had no idea about 3 days ago.