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Do The Ends Justify The Means? A Comparison Of The Writings Of Niccolo Machiavelli And Lao Tzu

1252 words - 5 pages

"Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown." An apt quote from William Shakespeare's King Henry IV, Part II, on the trials and tribulations of those in power. Numerous writers have had their say on the subject, more often than not with vastly different ideas on how leaders should act. In this paper I compare and contrast the opinions of two different philosophers, Lao-Tzu and Niccolo Machiavelli, as to the principles by which a leader should govern.Niccolo Machiavelli lived from 1469 to 1527. A resident of Florence Italy, he was a social commentator during a time of powerful city-states. Machiavelli published his most celebrated work, "The Prince," in 1513. In this book he provided practical instructions for a leader (during his lifetime this was a prince of a city-state) to secure power by direct and effective means. What he did not address was the morality or ethics of actions, in his works the ends justified the means even if the means were neither moral nor ethical.Little is known about the man known as Lao-Tzu. It is thought that Lao-Tzu lived in China at approximately the sixth century BC. His most well known work is the Tao-te Ching, a philosophical document designed to serve as a handbook for politicians. "Tao" isn't easily translated to English. It means, "the way" whilst at the same time "the method." It was created to educate leaders on a way of thinking about the world and their place in it. The Tao-te Ching gives strong and moral advice to leaders about their place in the world and how to relate to those they govern. Since he considers the material (power, possessions, wealth) to be unimportant, Lao-Tzu advises against the seeking of such things. Lao-Tzu also advises politicians to adopt judicious inaction, interceding only when necessary and then only inconspicuously.In The Prince, Machiavelli presented some very strong opinions on how a prince (leader) should act. Outward appearances are of the utmost importance. A prince should always strive to avoid hatred by his own subjects and always cause caution and fear in his enemies. The Prince tends to recommend actions irrespective of morality and ethics, stating that a prince must adhere to a different code of conduct than the common man. He states that he's telling the reader how the world is, not how it should be."The prince"¦ should think about avoiding those things which make him hated and despised; and when he has avoided this, he will have carried out his duties and will find no danger whatsoever in other vices"- Machiavelli.Machiavelli held many points but none so strongly as avoidance of the hatred of his subjects. He feels that as long as a prince is not inspiring hatred he is doing his job. According to Machiavelli a hated ruler is one ripe for replacement by a less questionable person whilst a ruler who isn't will often be able to avoid the traps of conspirators and continue his leadership.""¦ Arises an argument: whether it is better to be loved than to be...

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