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Ethos

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PostSubject: Machiavelli Sun Jan 03, 2016 7:19 pm

Leo Strauss wrote:
[Referring to Machiavelli's The Prince and Discourses on Livy.] But how must we read them? We must read them according to those rules of reading which he regarded as authoritative. Since he never stated those rules by themselves, we must observe how he applied them in reading such authors as he regarded as models. [Thoughts on Machiavelli]

Leo Strauss wrote:
The new prince in a new state in his turn may be an imitator. i.e., adopt modes and orders invented by another new prince, or in other ways follow the beaten track. But he may also be the originator of new modes and orders, or a radical innovator, the founder of a new type of society, possibly the founder of a new religion [...] Machiavelli applies to men of the highest order the term "prophets".[Thoughts on Machiavelli]

Leo Strauss wrote:
The ancient modes and orders are new because they have been forgotten [...] The purpose of the Discourses is not simply to bring to light the ancient modes and orders but above all to prove that they can be imitated by modern man. Machiavelli's enterprise therefore requires knowledge of things modern as well as things ancient; it cannot be the work of a mere antiquarian [...] Machiavelli does not deny that modern men differ from ancient men. But this difference, he holds, is due entirely to a difference in education and in knowledge of "the world". If modern men were properly educated and properly taught, they could imitate the ancients. Modern men regard the imitation of antiquity as not so much physically as morally impossible. They believe that the ancient modes and orders ought not to be imitated: they have been taught to regard the virtues of the ancients as resplendent vices or to reject the concern of the ancients with worldly glory in the name of the Biblical demands for humility and charity. It is therefore not sufficient for Machiavelli to exhibit specimens of ancient virtue; it is incumbent upon him to prove that the virtue of the ancients is genuine virtue. [Thoughts on Machiavelli]

Leo Strauss wrote:
[Strauss begins by quoting Machiavelli] "I do not judge nor shall I ever judge it to be a defect to defend any opinion with reason provided one does not even wish to use in such a defense either authority or force." He could not have stated more clearly or more gently the principle that only reason, as distinguished from authority on principle means to reject the equation of the good with the old and hence of the best with the oldest [...] In studying the Discourses we become the witnesses, and we cannot help becoming the moved witnesses, of the birth of the greatest of all youth movements: modern philosophy. [Thoughts on Machiavelli]
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PostSubject: Re: Machiavelli Sun Jan 03, 2016 8:33 pm

If the goal is to attain and preserve power by any means necessary, that goal is much easier achieved by NOT presenting yourself as Machiavellian to the public, as that would make the majority dislike you and likely to overthrow you because you'd essentially be openly stating that you are unconcerned with their well being and that you are willing to do everything to attain and preserve power, making you the 'immoral', 'evil', 'power-hungry' one in their eyes. The most efficient way of being Machiavellian, which is to say achieving Machiavellian goals is to not present yourself as one to the public but to pretend you advocate an ideology that is contrary to Machiavelli's and plays into the emotions of as many people as possible, such as Christianity and Secular-Humanism, and then you can conceal your Machiavellian actions behind claimed good intentions, greater good, etc. A real world example would be Americans pretending they are invading middle-east to spread democracy, when they really only care about oil - covering up for your real intentions with feigned altruistic ones to appease the majority. The very displaying of Machiavellian philosophy to the masses is therefore counter-productive to achieving its goals as it makes the masses aware of the manipulation you intend to carry out, rendering your manipulation less effective. Thus, if one is a Machiavellian, they would be highly reluctant to disclose it to the general public as it would almost always be self-defeating.

My opinion is that Machiavelli inquired into the essence of politics itself, and that Machiavellianism, or at least parts of it, can be considered to transcend politics and venture into the realm of meta-politics because it explains what all, or the large majority of political systems, can be reduced to - seeking power and justifying itself by any means necessary.
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PostSubject: Re: Machiavelli Sun Jan 03, 2016 8:46 pm

Arbiter of Change wrote:
My opinion is that Machiavelli inquired into the essence of politics itself

A very good reason indeed to devote time and study to his work.

Arbiter of Change wrote:
all, or the large majority of political systems, can be reduced to

Well?
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PostSubject: Re: Machiavelli Sun Jan 03, 2016 9:32 pm

Ethos wrote:
Arbiter of Change wrote:
My opinion is that Machiavelli inquired into the essence of politics itself

A very good reason indeed to devote time and study to his work.

Arbiter of Change wrote:
all, or the large majority of political systems, can be reduced to

Well?

What I meant is, even if some political systems as ideally imagined have goals other than mere attainment and preservation of power, when applied in reality I think all of them are eventually reduced to Machiavellianism putting on the superficial disguise of that political system. Kinda like that alien in Men in Black putting on the disguise of a human and deceiving the oblivious masses who remain ignorant of its true nature behind the facade of human skin even as its alien parts begin to visibly protrude from it...
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PostSubject: Re: Machiavelli Sun Jan 03, 2016 10:17 pm

Arbiter of Change wrote:
What I meant is, even if some political systems as ideally imagined have goals other than mere attainment and preservation of power, when applied in reality I think all of them are eventually reduced to Machiavellianism putting on the superficial disguise of that political system.

Do you know why one would seek to attain preservation and power? Do you think there are many reasons for it or just one reason regardless of the means or expression of that power?
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PostSubject: Re: Machiavelli Mon Jan 04, 2016 9:41 am

Leo Strauss wrote:
If we remember that, [according to Machiavelli], the Bible is of human origin, [it] consists to a considerable extent of poetic fables, and must be read 'judiciously' ie., in light of the non-Biblical or even anti-Biblical thought. Given these premises he must raise the question 'Who has spoken to a prophet?' If the prophet says that God has spoken to him, and he must answer that question in merely human terms: the words of God are words which the prophets ascribe to God or put into the mouth of God. It is not God who speaks through the mouth of the inspired speakers or writers, but the Biblical writers who speak through the mouth of God. What we believe to be reading is the word of God, but what we do read is the word of the Biblical writers. [Thoughts on Machiavelli]


Leo Strauss wrote:
The mockers are mistaken, says Appius Claudius, Livy and Machiavelli in unison, for they are blind to the usefulness of religion: the belief of the people in 'those little things' is the source of the well-being of the commonwealth. [Thoughts on Machiavelli]


Leo Strauss wrote:
The Romans controlled what is essentially elusive and hence frightening by means of religion. One may create obstinacy by virtue of some great villiany, but one needs religion for creating hope [...] Both Livian characters who are introduced in this chapter as the mouthpieces of Livy are patricians; the one who speaks to the people defends the little things [i.e. religion and the priests who administer it]; the other who speaks to another patrician disparages the little things [i.e. chance or fortuna which is granted by the gods] [... T]here is a connection between the two kinds of little things: the Roman religion served the purpose of mastering chance through the belief in the gods and the worship of gods who, as perfect beings, are thought to favor the just or pious. [Thoughts on Machiavelli]

Leo Strauss describes the intention of Machiavelli's Prince as being about how to establish a new order and the intention of the Discourses as in large part to do with the establishment of reason above given authority.
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PostSubject: Re: Machiavelli Tue Jan 05, 2016 9:12 am

Leo Strauss wrote:
Machiavelli draws the tentative conclusion that in order to rule a multitude it is better to be humane and merciful than to be proud and cruel. But Tacitus arrives at the opposite conclusion [...] The severity recommended by Tacitus is appropriate for ruling men who are one's subjects always and in every respect. The kindness and mercy recommended by Machiavelli are appropriate for ruling one's fellow citizens in a republic [...] In accordance with this, the next chapter (Discourses III 20) continues the praise of gentleness and enlarges it so that it becomes almost the praise of moral virtue in general; Machiavelli praises humanity, frankness, charity, mercy, chastity, liberality, and affability [...]

Machiavelli shows in the next chapter (III 21) that the opposite qualities, i.e.  certain moral vices, bring fame and victories as great as those brought by the moral virtues mentioned [...] The greatness of a Captain [...] depends entirely on amoral virtue, on strength of mind, will or temper, not to say on strength of the soul. Both morality and immorality have their uses because both love and fear sway human beings [...] Therefore a judicious combination of both, a sort of "middle way" is required [...]

In the next chapter (III 22) Machiavelli turns [...] to the contrast between Manlius Torquatus and Valerius Corvinus who both used only praiseworthy means [...] Both men were equally glorious captains although Manlius was harsh and Valerius was gentle. Manlius killed his own son; Valerius never hurt anybody [...] Manlius at any rate did what he did "compelled first by his nature and then by the desire that the commands which his natural appetite had induced him to give, be obeyed." Manlius had and needed strength of mind, will or temper. Valerius however was under no compulsion "to punish the transgressors" and could indulge his humaneness; he was humane also as a speaker[...]

Machiavelli believes that the way of Manlius is more praiseworthy and less dangerous than the way of Valerius as far as the leading of citizens of the republic is concerned. For Manlius' way "is altogether in favor of the public and has no regard at any point to private ambition, for by such a mode one cannot acquire partisans since one shows oneself always as harsh to everyone and loves nothing but the common good."[...]

A citizen of a republic who would imitate Valerius would in ordinary circumstances do harm not only to his fatherland but to himself as well: he would become suspect of striving for tyrannical or royal power [...] Tacitus' preference for harshness is appropriate in the case of the preferable regime [a republic], whereas Machiavelli's initial preference for gentleness is appropriate in the case of the inferior regime [a monarchy]. [Thoughts on Machiavelli]
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PostSubject: Re: Machiavelli Wed Jan 06, 2016 7:47 am

Strauss wrote:
"It is important that the difference between the Aristotelian view of natural right and Machiavellianism be clearly understood. Machiavelli denies natural right, because he takes his bearings by the extreme situations in which the demands of justice are reduced to the requirements of necessity, and not by the normal situations in which the demands of justice in the strict sense are the highest law. Furthermore, he does not have to overcome a reluctance as regards the deviations from what is normally right. On the contrary, he seems to derive no small enjoyment from contemplating these deviations, and he is not concerned with the punctilious investigation of whether any particular deviation is really necessary or not. The true states- man in the Aristotelian sense, on the other hand, takes his bearings by the normal situation and by what is normally right, and he reluctantly deviates from what is normally right only in order to save the cause of justice and humanity itself. No legal expression of this difference can be found. Its political importance is obvious. The two opposite extremes, which at present are called "cynicism" and "idealism," combine in order to blur this difference. And, as everyone can see, they have not been unsuccessful.

The variability of the demands of that justice which men can practice was recognized not only by Aristotle but by Plato as well. Both avoided the Scylla of "absolutism" and the Charybdis of "relativism" by holding a view which one may venture to express as follows: There is a universally valid hierarchy of ends, but there are no universally valid rules of action. Not to repeat what has been indicated before, when deciding what ought to be done, i.e., what ought to be done by this individual (or this individual group) here and now, one has to consider not only which of the various competing objectives is higher in rank but also which is most urgent in the circumstances. What is most urgent is legitimately pre- ferred to what is less urgent, and the most urgent is in many cases lower in rank than the less urgent. But one cannot make a universal rule that urgency is a higher consideration than rank. For it is our duty to make the highest activity, as much as we can, the most urgent or the most needful thing. And the maximum of effort which can be expected necessarily varies from individual to individual. The only universally valid standard is the hierarchy of ends. This standard is sufficient for passing judgment on the level of nobility of individuals and groups and of actions and institutions. But it is insufficient for guiding our actions.

The rights of sovereignty are assigned to the supreme power on the basis not of positive law or of general custom but of natural law. The doctrine of sovereignty formulates natural public law. Natural public law—jus publicum universale seu naturale—is a new discipline that emerged in the seventeenth century. It emerged in consequence of that radical change of orientation which we are trying to understand. Natural public law represents one of the two characteristically modern forms of political philosophy, the other form being "politics" in the sense of Machia- vellian "reason of state." Both are fundamentally distinguished from classical political philosophy. In spite of their opposition to each other, they are motivated by fundamentally the same spirit. Their origin is the concern with a right or sound order of society whose actualization is probable, if not certain, or does not depend on chance. Accordingly, they deliberately lower the goal of politics; they are no longer concerned with having a clear view of the highest political possi- bility with regard to which all actual political orders can be judged in a responsible manner. The "reason of state" school replaced "the best regime" by "efficient government." The "natural public law" school replaced "the best regime" by "legitimate government."

Classical political philosophy had recognized the difference between the best regime and legitimate regimes. It asserted, therefore, a variety of types of legitimate regimes; that is, what type of regime is legitimate in given circumstances de- pends on the circumstances. Natural public law, on the other hand, is concerned with that right social order whose actualization is possible under all circumstances. It therefore tries to delineate that social order that can claim to be legitimate or just in all cases, regardless of the circumstances. Natural pub- lic law, we may say, replaces the idea of the best regime, which does not supply, and is not meant to supply, an answer to the question of what is the just order here and now, by the idea of the just social order which answers the basic practical question once and for all, i.e., regardless of place and time.

Natural public law intends to give such a universally valid solution to the political problem as is meant to be universally applicable in practice. In other words, whereas, according to the classics, political theory proper is essentially in need of being supplemented by the practical wisdom of the statesman on the spot, the new type of political theory solves, as such, the crucial practical problem: the problem of what order is just here and now. In the decisive respect, then, there is no longer any need for statesmanship as distinguished from po- litical theory. We may call this type of thinking "doctrinair- ism," and we shall say that doctrinairism made its first ap- pearance within political philosophy—for lawyers are alto- gether in a class by themselves—in the seventeenth century. At that time the sensible flexibility of classical political phi- losophy gave way to fanatical rigidity. The political philoso- pher became more and more indistinguishable from the par- tisan. The historical thought of the nineteenth century tried to recover for statesmanship that latitude which natural pub- lic law had so severely restricted. But since that historical thought was absolutely under the spell of modern "realism," it succeeded in destroying natural public law only by destroy- ing in the process all moral principles of politics.

As regards Hobbes's teaching on sovereignty in particular, its doctrinaire character is shown most clearly by the denials which it implies. It implies the denial of the possibility of distinguishing between good and bad regimes (kingship and tyranny, aristocracy and oligarchy, democracy and ochlocracy) as well as of the possibility of mixed regimes and of "rule of law." Since these denials are at variance with ob- served facts, the doctrine of sovereignty amounts in practice to a denial not of the existence, but of the legitimacy, of the possibilities mentioned: Hobbes's doctrine of sovereignty as- cribes to the sovereign prince or to the sovereign people an unqualified right to disregard all legal and constitutional limi- tations according to their pleasure, and it imposes even on sensible men a natural law prohibition against censuring the sovereign and his actions. But it would be wrong to overlook the fact that the basic deficiency of the doctrine of sovereignty is shared, if to different degrees, by all other forms of natural public law doctrines as well. We merely have to remind our- selves of the practical meaning of the doctrine that the only legitimate regime is democracy.

The classics had conceived of regimes (politeiai) not so much in terms of institutions as in terms of the aims actually pursued by the community or its authoritative part. Accordingly, they regarded the best regime as that regime whose aim is virtue, and they held that the right kind of institutions are indeed in- dispensable for establishing and securing the rule of the vir- tuous, but of only secondary importance in comparison with "education," i.e., the formation of character. From the point of view of natural public law, on the other hand, what is needed in order to establish the right social order is not so much the formation of character as the devising of the right kind of institutions.  

In the words of Hobbes, "when [commonwealths] come to be dissolved, not by external violence, but intestine disorder, the fault is not in men, as they are the matter, but as they are the makers, and orderers of them." Man as the maker of civil society can solve once and for all the problem inherent in man as the matter of civil society. Man can guarantee the actualization of the right social order because he is able to conquer human nature by under- standing and manipulating the mechanism of the passions.

There is a term that expresses in the most condensed form the result of the change which Hobbes has effected. That term is "power." It is in Hobbes's political doctrine that power be- comes for the first time to nomine a central theme. Considering the fact that, according to Hobbes, science as such exists for the sake of power, one may call Hobbes's whole philosophy the first philosophy of power. "Power" is an ambiguous term. It stands for potentia, on the one hand, and for potestas (or jus or dominium), on the other. It means both "physical" power and "legal" power. The ambiguity is essential: only if potentia and potestas essentially belong together, can there be a guaranty of the actualization of the right social order. The state, as such, is both the greatest human force and the highest hu- man authority. Legal power is irresistible force. The necessary coincidence of the greatest human force and the highest human authority corresponds strictly to the necessary coincidence of the most powerful passion (fear of violent death) and the most sacred right (the right of self-preservation).

Potentia and potestas have this in common, that they are both intelligible only in contradistinction, and in relation, to the actus: the potentia of a man is what a man can do, and the potestas or, more generally expressed, the right of a man, is what a man may do. The predominance of the concern with "power" is therefore only the reverse of a relative indifference to the actus, and this means to the purposes for which man's "physi- cal" as well as his "legal" power is or ought to be used. This indifference can be traced directly to Hobbes's concern with an exact or scientific political teaching. The sound use of "physical" power as well as the sound exercise of rights depends on prudentia, and whatever falls within the province of prudentia is not susceptible of exactness. There are two kinds of exactness : mathematical and legal. From the point of view of mathematical exactness, the study of the actus and therewith of the ends is replaced by the study of potentia. "Physical" power as distinguished from the purposes for which it is used is morally neutral and therefore more amenable to mathematical strictness than is its use: power can be measured." [Natural Right and History]

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"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

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PostSubject: Re: Machiavelli Wed Jan 06, 2016 8:58 am

Leo Strauss wrote:
Mixed bodies, i.e., states or religions, can be preserved only if they are brought back, from time to time, to their beginnings, or if they are 'renewed' [...] The renovation of mixed bodies consists of the renewal of fear in the minds of their members or of putting in men that terror and that fear which the original founders had put into their partisans. This, and not the return to old modes and orders, is the essence of the return to the beginning. Return to the beginning means in all cases introducing new orders [...] Machiavelli's return to the beginning means return to the terror inherent in man's situation, to man's essential unprotectedness. In the beginning there was terror. In the beginning men were good, i.e., they were willing to obey because they were afraid and easily frightened. [Thoughts on Machiavelli]

Leo Strauss wrote:
Classical political philosophy had taught that the salvation of the cities depends on the coincidence of philosophy and political power which is truly a coincidence — something for which one can wish or hope but which one cannot bring about. Machiavelli is the first philosopher who believes that the coincidence of philosophy and political power can be brought about by propaganda which wins over ever larger multitudes to the new modes and orders and thus transforms the thought of one or a few into the opinion of the public and therewith into public power. Machiavelli breaks with the Great Tradition and initiates the Enlightenment. We shall have to consider whether that Enlightenment deserves its name or whether its true name is Obfuscation. [Thoughts on Machiavelli]
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PostSubject: Re: Machiavelli Thu Jan 07, 2016 9:18 am

Leo Strauss wrote:
The concern with divine things is in one sense the first concern of the city but in a more important sense it comes after the arts, arms and wealth, to say nothing of the deliberative-judicial function. [Thoughts on Machiavelli]

It is uncertain if it is the reflectiveness caused by the city that Strauss/Machiavelli points towards here. But it depends how the city is being conceived, because only if tribes can be counted as a city can this claim have any veracity in historical practice.

Leo Strauss wrote:
Religion is of human, not divine, origin. [Thoughts on Machiavelli]

The truth demand of this statement is in respect of the domination of the noumenon over the human mind.

Leo Strauss wrote:
By maintaining the foundations of their religion, the rulers can keep their republic "religious and hence good" [...] But 'goodness' does not necessarily have the broad meaning indicated. It may mean merely obedience to the ruler or rulers [...] More simply, the rulers of the Roman republic used religion for the control of the plebs. [Thoughts on Machiavelli]

Leo Strauss wrote:
Traditional political philosophy took its bearings by how one ought to live or what one ought to do or by 'the good man'; it thus arrived at the description of republics or pricipalities which are imagined but "have never been seen and known to be truly" or which exist only in speech. The traditional teaching is therefore useless. Being concerned with usefulness, Machiavelli is more concerned with 'the factual truth', with how men are seen to live or with what men are seen to do than with imagined things and with what exists only in speech but not in deed. [Thoughts on Machiavelli]
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