Ethics in Machiavelli's The Prince Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527) was an Italian statesman and political philosopher. He was employed on diplomatic missions as defence secretary of the Florentine republic, and was tortured when the Medici returned to power in 1512. When he retired from public life he wrote his most famous work, The Prince (1532), which describes the means by which a leader may gain and maintain power. The Prince has had a long and chequered history and the number of controversies that it has generated is indeed surprising. Almost every ideology has tried to appropriate it for itself - as a result everyone from Clement VII to Mussolini has laid claim to it. Yet there were times when it was terribly unpopular. Its author was seen to be in league with the devil and the connection between 'Old Nick' and Niccolo Machiavelli was not seen as merely nominal. The Elizabethans conjured up the image of the 'murdering Machiavel'  and both the Protestants and the later Catholics held his book responsible for evil things. Any appraisal of the book therefore involved some ethical queasiness. Modern scholarship may have removed the stigma of devilry from Machiavelli, but it still seems uneasy as to his ethical position. Croce  and some of his admirers like Sheldon Wolin  and Federic Chabod  have pointed out the existence of an ethics-politics dichotomy in Machiavelli. Isaiah Berlin  postulates a system of morality outside the Christian ethical schema. Ernst Cassirer  calls him a cold technical mind implying that his attitude to politics would not necessarily involve ethics. And Macaulay  sees him as a man of his time going by the actual ethical positions of Quattrocento Italy. In the face of s... ...erlin, Isaiah. The Question of Machiavelli. New York Review, November 4, 1971. 6. Cassirer, Ernst. Implications of the New Theory of the State (from The Myth Of The State) 7. Macaulay, Thomas Babington. Machiavelli http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1850Macaulay-machiavelli.html 8. Berlin, Isaiah. Ibid. 9. Machiavelli. Il Principe Ch XVIII 'Yet as I have said before, not to diverge from the good if he can avoid it, but to know how to set about it if compelled.' Trans. Marriott. The Project Gutenberg Internet Edition. 10. Erasmus. The Education of a Prince, quoted in J. R. Hale, Renaissance Europe 1480-1520 p. 309 11. Hale p. 308 12. Macaulay. Ibid. 13. Whitfield, J. H. Big Words, Exact Meanings. 14. Aristotle. Nichomachean Ethics. [trans. Sir David Ross] 15. Machiavelli. Discourses on Livy Ch XXVII, Project Gutenberg Internet Edition
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Arche and Apeiron in Early Presocratic Philosophy
Metaphysical speculation began, long before it was so named, among the presocratic Greeks as an enquiry into cosmology and first principles from two utterly disparate perspectives. The first of these, propounded by Herakleitos, noted the incessant flux (panta rhei) which characterises phenomena; the second, advanced by his contemporary Parmenides, taught the doctrine of a single immutable substance. These rivalling perspectives endure to this day: they announce one of the basic themes on which metaphysics since then has strung up an immense set of variations.
Behind both stands the concept of arche, a term introduced into philosophical discourse by Anaximandros, rendered into English via Latin as â€˜principleâ€™ and bearing the meaning of the â€˜first-begotten or underlying substanceâ€™ of all things. Historically this might be called the first brick to leave the kiln in which the metaphysical fire was burning. Moreover, where Thalesâ€™ teachings were apparently still subject to aural dispersion, Anaximandros, not content with the word of mouth, becomes the first philosopher among the still relatively small band of logographoi to publish his theories in a formal text. His book at once set out to encompass what was known and to be known and thereby furnished a role model (presumably peri physeos) for a dozen generations to come, carrying echoes down as far as the Romans (De rerum natura). It gave a comprehensive depiction of cosmogony and cosmology, astronomy and geography, meteorology and biology and down to a phylogeny of the human species. For Anaximandros, Barnes writes , â€œNature embraces every object of experience and every subject of rational enquiry except the productions of human contrivance.â€
Meaning of â€˜Apeironâ€™
His own contribution to the more stringently philosophical debate on archaeai was the startling concept of the apeiron, which leaps out of the pages of Greek philosophy like a spiky porcupine, never formally groomed as a legitimate occupant of place in a philosophical agenda dominated from the beginning by principles of rationality and intelligibility. We may supposed it to have emerged from debate on candidates for the â€˜Urstoffâ€™ or primeval substance; and it is perhaps permissible to suppose lively exchanges on the virtues and demerits of sundry elements, culminating in a shock of recognition by Anaximandros that none of these substances, being determinate, qualified and hence failed to satisfy empirical as well as theoretical criteria. The apeiron, initially perhaps merely a device to evade commitment to untenable propositions, proved itself in the long run a truly metaphysical conception with ramifications that have resisted erosion by time.
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