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Machiavelli & Hobbes Philosophy on A Man & His Life in Civil Society

Consequently, such laws may be thought of as just and reasonable, but they must above all else be prudent. Prudence, therefore, may be the most important virtue that a ruler who expects to remain in power can possess (Machiavelli, 1998).

Machiavelli (1998) considered human nature to be a relatively stable item -- not something that changed over time or the course of history. Men's desires and needs, he asserted, remain the same regardless of what kind of society they happen to be part of; Romans and "modern" Italians share similar likes and dislikes and behaviors. Consequently, the wise ruler learns from the mistakes of his predecessors and adapts his own behaviors and attitudes to the specific exigencies of any political situation in which he may find himself. Private morals are conceptualized in this framework as precisely that -- private, and not necessarily binding upon or applicable to the public sphere of activity.

Machiavelli (1998) does not argue in favor of a despotic form of government in The Price or argue against the viability of republican forms of government. Like Hobbes (1994) after him, he recognized that certain forms of government might be preferable to others to the extent that they contained mechanisms that prevented tyranny from emerging. At the same time, Machiavelli (1998) recognized that attempting to force government (or princes and leaders) to behave according to the codes and tenets of Aristotelian (or religious) ethics was essentially futile as well as impracticable.

Machiavelli's (1998) attempt to establish a modern political theory was centered on his understanding of the political situation in his native Italy -- then an assortment of what amounted to city-states or provinces led by war-like ambitious men and dynastic entities intent upon extending when possible their own sphere of influence. Set against this was the power and might of the Roman Catholic Church, which played as signif...

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Machiavelli & Hobbes Philosophy on A Man & His Life in Civil Society. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 18:35, July 21, 2017, from
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