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lium (law of nations) and ius civile (civil law). This law, according to Aquinas, regulates the lives of a single kind of creature, and so must be applicable especially to the distinguishing properties of that kind. Since man is distinguished from other beings by rationality, the standard is set by reason ; and since reasonableness in man implies sociability, the law sets a standard for the general good, rather than for the advantage of an individual or a particular class. That is why the law has a general authority behind it rather than an individual will. Finally, Thomas regarded promulgation as an essential quality of law. He denned law as "an ordinance of human reason for the common good, promulgated by one who has the care of the community." As such, it has the following attributes: (1) ft is necessarily based on reason. (2) The end of law being common happiness, it is always ordained for general welfare. (3) It is the product of the reason of the multitude or of the reason of the prince (king), acting for the multitude. (4) It should also be published and brought to the notice of all those to whom it applies. But the civil law does not cover the whole life of man and cannot, therefore, claim the whole allegiance of man. It does not operate over the spiritual side of a man for which Divine Law is authoritative. As a whole, Human Law might be called a corollary of Natural Law, which merely needs to be made definite and effective in order to provide 'or the exigencies of human life or of special circumstances in human life.

  • Estimate of Aquinas


    1. 3 Sabine, G. H, : A History of Political Theory, p. 225.

    St. Aquinas was one of those thinkers of the medieval period who desired to improve mankind by bringing about a combination between divine and human knowledge. He attempted to effect a happy compromise between divine revelation and human knowledge. His writings show an interpretation of ancient classics, particularly of Aristotle and Cicero, in terms of Christian theology. He was a strong individualist, like other schoolmen, so long as he argued that the individual alone existed and had ultimate value. The social and political order existed for the sake of the individual alone. But as a schoolman, he held that the true end of the individual being to attain eternal salvation, the church had more to do with him than the state. The conception of a Christian society he took to be eternal. Jn short, Thomas's philosophy "sought to find the reasons for it as it was believed to be ; to construct a rational scheme of God, nature, and man within which society and civil authority find their due place. In this sense, his philosophy expresses most maturely the convictions, moral and religious, upon which medieval civilization was founded."3







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  • NiCCOLO MACHIAVELLI (I 469-1 527)



  • The Spirit of Renaissance

  • The Renaissance, though it produced no important theoretical philosopher, produced one man of supreme eminence in political philosophy : Niccolo Machiavelli. It is the custom to be shocked by him, and he certainly is sometimes shocking. But many other men would be equally shocking if they were equally free from humbug. His political philosophy is scientific and empirical, based upon his own experience of affairs concerned to set forth the means to assigned ends, regardless of the question whether the ends are to be considered good or bad. When, on the occasion, he allows him­self to mention the ends that he desires, they are such as we can all applaud. Much of the conventional obloquy that attaches to his name is due to the indignation of hypocrites who hate the frank avowal of evil-doing. There remains, it is generally true, a good deal that genuinely demands criticism, but fn this he is an expression of his age. Such intellectual honesty about political dishonesty would have been hardly possible at any other time or in any other country, except perhaps in Greece among men who owed their theore­tical education to the sophists and their practical training to the wars of petty states which, in classical Greece as in Renaissance Italy, were the political accompaniment of individual genius.

  • Machiavelli was one of the three great writers produced by Italy in the sixteenth century—Machiavelli, Ariosto and Tasso. He was the son of a Florentine lawyer, who was neither rich nor poor, and who held a minor post in the government. When he was in his twen­ties, Savonarola dominated Florence ; he made a great impression on Machiavelli, for he remarked that "all armed prophets have con­quered and unarmed ones failed," proceeding to give Savonarola as an instance of the latter class. On the other side, he mentioned Moses, Cyrus, Theseus and Romulus. It is typical of Renaissance that Christ is not mentioned.

  • His Interest in Politics

  • From his boyhood, Machiavelli had an absorbing interest in politics, the technique of influence, the chess of power. Immediately after Savonarola's execution in 1498, when he was twenty-nine years of age, he was appointed secretary to the Died Delia Guerra—ar Council of Ten for War—and held that post for fourteen years.



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    2. great political thinkers

    1. Machiavelli was of the view that a national militia should be formed with good equipment and training and that it should serve as the last firm line of the republic's defence. After long hesitation, the govern­ment accepted his plan and empowered Machiavelli to execute it. In 1512, Julius II, furious against Florence for having refused to join in expelling the French from Italy, ordered the armies of the Holy League to suppress Florence. Florence was taken and Machiavelli lost both his reputation and government post. Unfortunately at this time he was supposed to be involved in a plot to re-establish the Republic. He was exiled from Florence. He retired to a farm in the country, where he devoted himself to rustic employments and to literature, and his most important works were produced in this period of his life.

    2. Machiavelli became an author for want of other occupation. His most famous work, The Prince, was written in 1513, and dedicated to Lorenzo the Second, since he hoped (vainly, as it proved) to win the favour of the Medici. Its tone is perhaps partly due to this practical purpose ; his longer work, the Discourses, which he was writing at the same time, is markedly more republican and more liberal. He says at the beginning of The Prince that he will not speak of republics in this book, since he has dealt with them else­where. Those who do not read also the Discourses are likely to get a very one-sided view of his doctrine.

    3. Writing in the age of Alexander VI and Julius II, or Caesar Borgia and Medici, he realized that contemporary politics was not based on good Christian ethics but on self-interest. The Italian society of the 16th century, though intellectually brilliant and artisti­cally creative, was a prey to the worst political corruption and moral degeneration. Injustice, cruelty and murder were the ways of govern­ment ; faith and truthfulness had little place in the conduct of people, force and craft had become the master-keys to success and selfishness, profligacy and debauchery were running rampant. It was a society which illustrated Aristotle's saying that "man, when separated from law and justice, is the worst of all animals."1


      1. Sabine, G. H. : A History of Political Theory (London, 1948), p. 338.

      2. Figgis in Cambridge Modern History, Vol. III.

      The beginning of the 16th century witnessed a revolution which sought to transfer "the allegiance of the human spirit from clerical to civil authdrity."1 Medieval institutions had to give place to new institutions in conformity with the spirit of the time. The Sacerdotum vanished as a power and the Church was reduced to the position of a voluntary association or a partner of national government. During this period there gradually emerged the institution of absolute monarchy as the prevailing form of government in Western Europe. In contrast to this, the Italy of Machiavelli presented a picture of



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    1. disuuity and disrupted monarchy. The states of Venice, Florence, Naples, Milan and the papal states were pitted against one another in internecine wars and conflicts, and no power appeared strong enough to unite the whole country. To Machiavelli who was deeply influen­ced by these .conditions, therefore, it was supremely important that Italy should be consolidated as a strong power under an absolute monarch.

    2. The Mechanics of Government


      1. The Prince, XV.

      2. Ibid.

      Machiavelli's writings do not belong to the domain of political theory. He writes mainly of the mechanics of government, of the means by which the states may be made strong, of the policies by which they can expand their power and of the errors that lead to their decay or destruction. It is, as Prof. Laski says, "a grammar of power of the use of the sixteenth century Italy." Building upon his observation and experience he explained with realism and incisive-ness the way in which alone, as he knew contemporary Italy, the state could be made strong and enduring. He did not enquire whether it was right to attain position in that way ; nor did he con­sider that other and better ways did not exist. He sought two essen­tial things : first, the rules to enable a person to realize his will in a world where such realization, without regard to its moral character, was the highest ambition ; and second, how, in a" world of fraud, force and passion to maintain what one has obtained. Political and military measures are his sole concern and he divorces these from all moral, religious and social considerations except for the purposes of political expediency. The prince must "know well how to use both the beast and the man." "Right and wrong have nothing to do with government." Success justifies all means, for success brings power, unity and stability. Beyond this criterion of success Machia­velli refused to go. He puts his position lucidly in these words : "A prince, therefore, who desires to maintain himself must learn to be not always good, but to be so or not as necessity may arise.—For, all things considered, it will be found that some things that seem like virtue will lead you to ruin if you follow them ; whilst others that apparently are vices, result in your safety and well-being."3 And again he says : "Many have pictured republics and principalities which in fact have never been known or seen, for how one lives is so far distant from how one ought to live, that he who neglects what is done for what ought to be done, sooner effects his ruin than his pre­servation. . . .hence it is necessary for a prince who wishes to hold his own to know to do wrong and to make use of it or not according to necessity."4 The prince Leviathan of Machiavelli is not to concern himself with standards of Tightness or religion in realizing his aim.



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    2. GREAT POLITICAL THINKERS

    1. He has to be very shrewd and diplomatic, to be good or bad as occasion demands and to use force without the consideration of its moral validity. The test by which he judges the actions of rulers is their ultimate success in obtaining, preserving and increasing their power. Thus, politics becomes an end in itself and means are sacri­ficed for attaining it.

    2. The Divorce of Ethics and Politics

    3. The Prince seems to be very explicit in repudiating received morality where the conduct of rulers is concerned. A ruler will perish if he is always good ; he must be as cunning as a fox and as fierce as a lion. There is a chapter (XVIII) entitled "In What Way Princes Must Keep Faith." We learn that he should keep faith when it pays to do so, but not otherwise. He should be merciful, faithful, humane, religious and upright, but his mind should remain so balanced that were it needful not to be so, he should be able and know how to change to the contrary, A prince cannot observe all those rules of conduct in respect whereof men are accounted good, being often forced, in order to preserve his princedom, to act in opposition to good faith, charity, humanity and religion. He must, therefore, keep his mind ready to shift as the winds and tides of Fortune turn. A prince should be careful that nothing ever escapes his lips which is not replete with the five qualities above named, so that to see and hear him, one would think him to be the embodiment of mercy, good faith, integrity, kindliness and religion.

    4. The essence of Machiavellianism is not merely that it supplies a system of technical rules for the acquisition and maintenance of power. Such a system of rules would not necessarily involve a reversal of moral standard. Machiavelli's Prince is in part just such a technical treatise ; but his notion of virtue makes it something much more than this. It is not open to him to say : "These are the means by which power may be attained : whether or not a virtuous man will employ them will depend, of course, upon the question whether their employment in a given set of circumstances would con­form to the Natural Law (or, to the rule of right and wrong)." The attainment of power is itself a proof of virtue and Machiavelli appa­rently recognized no other standard by which virtue is to be judged. The counsels of the 'prince' are, thus, not merely technical rules ; they purport to be rules for the exercise of 'virtue' : and a reversal of moral values is involved in the substitution of this notion of virtue for the other.

    5. This divorce between politics and ethics, or politics and religion has been vehemently criticized by the writers. Such an attempt to divorce religion or ethics from politics appears to be unethical to a common-reader also. But this is not the correct evaluation of Machiavelli's political ideas. This is one-sided view of his doctrine, which we generally draw by reading his book, The Prince.



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    1. Purpose of The Prince

    2. The Prince was written by Machiavelli with some definite pur­pose, and its tone is entirely different from that of the Discourses, which he had written at the same time. He regarded Italy of his time as the example of a corrupt society, and hence he stated that when the necessary virtues had decayed, there was no possibility either of restoring them or of carrying on orderly government with­out them, except by despotic power. He had in mind the necessity of the existence of a strong ?nd unified Italy, which during his life­time, as for many centuries logger, had remained divided politically. As a student of practical politics, he sought to determine the work­ings of a real, not of an ideal, political life. The Prince is concerned to discover, from history and from contemporary events, how princi­palities are won, how they are held, and how they are lost. Fifteenth century Italy afforded a multitude of examples, both great and small. Few rulers were legitimate ; even the popes, in many cases, secured election by corrupt means. The rules for achieving success were not quite the same as they became when times grew more settled, for no one was shocked by cruelties and treacheries which would have disqualified a man in the eighteenth or nineteenth century. Perhaps our age, again, can better appreciate Machiavelli, for some of the most notable successes of our time have achieved by methods as base as any employed in Renaissance Italy. He would have applauded, as an artistic connoisseur in statecraft, Hitler's Reichstag fire, his purge of the party in 1934, and his breach of faith after Munich.

    3. Machiavelli's Conception of Human Nature

    4. Behind nearly everything that Machiavelli said was his assumption that human nature is selfish, and that the effective motives on which a statesman must rely are egoistic, such as the desire for security in the masses and the desire for power in rulers. Govern­ment is founded upon the weakness and insufficiency of the individual, who is unable to protect himself against the aggression of other individuals unless supported by the power of the state. Men are always in a condition of strife and competition which threatens open anarchy unless restrained by the force behind the law. He fre­quently remarked that "men are in general bad, and that the wiser ruler will construct his policies on this assumption." We, therefore, conclude that governments and politics are only the reflection of human nature. Human nature being what it is, politics would remain the same as Machiavelli described it. Some social scientists and psy­chologists have come to the conclusion that there are certain instincts, urges and passions in man which are ineradicable. Human nature, they say, has not changed for the last two thousand years. To Machiavelli also, human nature is unchanging. "Wise men say," he writes, "not without reason that whoever wishes to foresee the future



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    2. great political thinkers

    1. must consult the past ; for human events ever resemble those of pre­ceding times. This arises from the fact that they are produced by men who have been, and ever will be, animated by the same passions ; and, thus, they must necessarily have the same results."6 Such a view of human nature involves two basic errors. Firstly, it is absurd to assume that human nature is something fixed and immutable. It is a determinist view and such views, which Prof. K. Popper calls as 'historicist' are an obstacle to a rational approach to the problems ' of the social, economic and political reconstruction. Secondly, it is of little avail to merely say that such and such is human nature, that love for power and domination, selfishness, acquisitiveness, envy and rage a-e the mainsprings of human action. The problem, after knowing these, is how to transmute and sublimate them into some­thing good.

    2. His Politics not Immoral and Irreligious


      1. Discourses, III, 43.

      2. Ibid., XII.

      3. Discourses,!, 11-12.

      In spite of his defective understanding of human nature and his preference for political virtues in place of moral or religious virtues, it is to be frankly admitted that Machiavelli never despised religion, and that he was not immoral and irreligious in his politics. Those who expect him to do so will be surprised to read the title of a chapter in his Discourses : "The importance of giving religion a prominent influence in a state, and how Italy was ruined because she failed in this respect through the conduct of the Church of Rome." We can also examine his remark : "Princes and Republics who wish to maintain themselves free from corruption must above all things preserve the purity of all religious observances and treat them with proper reverence ; for there is no greater indication of the ruin of a country than to see religion condemned."6 He regarded Church as necessary for the health and prosperity of a state. He knew that a state could not flourish if the citizens were induced to serve it solely by fear of such punishment as the ruler could inflict. As srch, Machiavelli accepted religion in general but was against the evil effects of Christianity. "The observance of religious mstitutioi.s," he says, "is the cause of the greatness of the republics ; disregard of these institutions produces the ruin of the state."7 He had respect for religious institutions, but he disliked Christianity as it was prac­tised in his time. He excoriated it as having failed to make good citizens. It diverted too much attention to heaven and enfeebled men by preaching the feminine virtues. The rebellion of Voltaire, Diderot, Paine, Darwin, Spencer and Renan against Christianity was quite different from that of Machiavelli. They rejected the theology of Christianity, but admired the Christian moral code. On the contrary,



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    1. Machiavelli accepted its theology but rejected its ethics, its conception of goodness as gentleness, humility, non-resistance ; its love of peace and its denunciation of war. For his part, he preferred the Roman ethic based upon the principle that the safety of the people or state is the supreme law.8

    2. "Where it is an absolute question of the welfare of our country we must admit of no considerations of justice or injustice, of mercy or cruelty, of praise or ignominy ; but putting all else aside we must adopt whatever course will save the nation's existence and liberty."9 Alexander VI never did, nor thought of, anything but cheating, and yet he was eminently popular and successful. Romulus was equally justified in killing his brother for the sake of unity in the government. Frauds, cruelties and crimes committed in order to preserve one's country are "honourable frauds", "glorious crimes". There is no eternal or natural law, no right universally agreed upon and hence, thought Machiavelli, politics in the sense of statesmanship must be held completely independent of morality. Morality and religion are, at best, instruments of politics. This is what a modern politician or a statesman thinks of morality and religion. If a modern politician is justified in either separating morality and religion from politics or in subordinating them to it, Machiavelli was equally right in holding politics above morality and religion for the purpose of the unity of the government or of the nation. Only a staunch moralist or a redeemed religious man will not accept such a view of the superiority of politics, because he interprets life in a metaphysical sense aud, as such, he is never attracted by earthly virtue of power, fame, glory or national unity, etc. But Machiavelli was not a saint. He was an ordinary human being, who was moved by the force of the circum­stances of his time and who was much more interested in the rebuild­ing of his country, Italy, which had lost its glory and strength and had become politically divided. He never attempted to idealize the state, but, on the contrary, he was concerned with the actual state of affairs, and did his best for the greatness of Italy in the lace of peculiar circumstances of his time. Further, Machiavelli, as said earlier, did not neglect totally the importance of religion in the life of a nation, but was conscious of the role which it plays in harmo­nizing the social and political life of the people.


      1. Durant, Will : The Story of Civilization (Vol. V), Renaissance, p. 558,

      2. Discourses, III, 41-42.

      However, the question is ultimately one of power. To achieve a political end, power of one kind or another is necessary. This plain fact is concealed by slogans, such as, "right will prevail" or "the triumph of evil is short-lived.". If the side that you think right pre­vails, that is because it has superior power. It is true that power, often, depends upon opinion, and opinion upon propaganda; it is true also, that it is an advantage in propaganda to seem more virtuous



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    1. than your adversary, and that one way of seeming virtuous is to be virtuous. For this reason, it may sometimes happen that victory goes to the side which has the most of what the general public considers to be virtue. We must concede to Machiavelli that this was an important element in the growing power of the Church during the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries, as well as in the success of the Reformation in the sixteenth century. But there are important limitations. In the first place, those who have seized power can, by controlling propaganda, cause their party to appear virtuous; no one, for example, could mention the sins of Alexander VI in a New York or Boston public school. In the second place, there are chaotic periods during which obvious knavery frequently succeeds ; the period of Machiavelli was one of them. In such times, there tends to be a rapidly growing cynicism, which makes man forgive anything provided it pays. Even in such times, Machiavelli himself accepted, it is desirable to present an appearance of virtue before the ignorant public.

    2. Discourses : The Superiority of Republics

    3. Also, Machiavelli accepted the superiority of Republics over princedoms in his book, Discourses. In this work, republics are distinguished from princedoms as free states from unfree, and are declared to be superior to the latter both in their essential nature and in many particular advantages. "The voice of the people " he said, "is the voice of God." In the election of their magistrates they make far better choice than princes ; and no people will ever be persuaded to elect a man of infamous character and corrupt habits to any post of dignity, to which a prince is easily influenced in a thousand differ­ent ways. If we compare the faults of the people with those of princes, as well as their respective good qualities, we shall find the people vastly superior in the making of laws, and in the forming of civil insti­tutions and new statutes and ordinances, the people are superior in maintaining those institutions, laws and ordinances, which certainly places them on a par with those who established them. He was of the view that the people were guilty of fewer excesses than the prince, and that the errors of the people were of less importance and therefore more easily remedied.

    4. The Structure and Philosophy «f State

    5. Machiavelli thought of the state on the analogy of a living organic body. A state is made a state by a certain structure of orga­nization, as the body is made an organism by a similar structure among its parts. In the state this structure is composed of the laws and institutions by which the people are governed, and the difference between a free state and an unfree state depends, according to Machiavelli, upon whether the citizens conform to the laws sponta­neously or by compulsion. The unfree state is like a diseased body, of which the organs require to be compelled by the ministrations of a



    1. NICCOLO MACHIAVELLI
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