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2003-12-13 | |
We often wonder what drives us to succeed, what is our motivation, well for Machiavelli it is greed and for Mirandola it is God. Humans define their own nature, whether to be a fervent believer in God, a violent person, power hungry, or a well rounded person. These and more are characteristics of human nature. It is the essence of man, who we are and what we are “made” of. As humans we commit mistakes, because we are not perfect, but the mere fact we recognize that we have failed is exceptional. There are times when faith can no longer guide us and we must trust our sense of reason and moral values. Human nature is who we are on the inside and outside, it is what defines what we are and what we will be. We have limited control over our destiny, but we can characterize our personality and the way our peers perceive us. There have been many philosopher and great minds who have tried to solve this jigsaw we know as human nature, for example Niccolo Machiavelli and Pico Della Mirandola. Who’s works contributed to their era greatly and are still conveying great knowledge and changing our typical way of thinking and rationalizing. Machiavelli and Mirandola threw their respective works of literature have expressed and achieved a higher sense of understanding of human nature; whether it be moral or dissolute. The Prince by Machiavelli and the Oration on the Dignity of Man by Mirandola are exceptional works of literature which have endured through the decades because of its transcendental message of human nature.
In The Prince, Machiavelli goes into detail on the behavior of princes toward subjects and allies. He says that a reputation for generosity is thought to be desirable, but can be dangerous to develop. They must keep up a lavish public display to be seen as a generous ruler, because men are generally fickle and greedy. Every prince will want to be considered merciful, but mercy should not be mismanage. Cesare Borgia, for example, restored peace and order to Romagna by being cruel. No prince should mind being called cruel for keeping his subjects peaceful and loyal. By punishing those who start the trouble you will stop others from joining and creating a major disorder. Machiavelli says that if one cannot be both loved and feared, then it is better to be feared. Even though a prince is feared he must be sure that he is not being hated also. However, when a prince commands an army, he must be cruel in order to control his troops and be respected. Take Hannibal for instance, he nearly defeated the Roman power; he was feared in every nation, not because he was kind to his troops and those that surrounded him. He gained his reputation by being violent, inflicting fear in the hearts of many, and by being “inhumanly cruel.”
Machiavelli says that princes should keep their word, however history shows that princes who have accomplished the most, have been very deceiving; a wise prince would never keep his word when it would go against his interest. This is why a prince must be a good liar and always find people willing to be deceived. It is very useful to seem to be virtuous, but you must be ready to act the opposite way if the situation requires it. Machiavelli states that a prince should do good if he can, but he should be ready to do evil if he must. “ It is therefore necessary for a prince to know well how to use both the beast and the man,” a prince must be aware that at times he must fight by law or by force. Meaning he must control his human nature to his advantage. If he is obliged to fight as a beast he must imitate a fox or a lion. A fox is very slick and sneaky, very aware of its surroundings, but a lion is easily caught in a trap, however his strength is his greater force. A prince must imitate these creatures, so as to be able to manage the way people perceive him and to control these people. The nature of a prince is vile and heartless. He does not care for the people he rules over, he only cares for the material possessions and of course power.
The use of faith is questionable, if a prince believes it prudent, then he will use it. Faith is only expressed if it is utterly necessary, if not, it is cast aside. Machiavelli shows how men can be deceived easily; one cannot feel people’s faith; one can only see t when they practice it. By this I mean that a mass of people watching a prince cannot tell if he really feels the faith he is proclaiming; they can only hear and see his “profound” discourse on how faith has enlightened him. However, we must not forget that a prince is a great actor in the play of life, as Machiavelli said, “everybody sees what you appear to be, few feel what you are…” Appearances are meant to deceive those “who allow themselves to be deceived.” Machiavelli also states that prince are successful one day and ruined the next, with no change in their nature. If a man is successful by acting one way and the circumstance change, he must change his methods or else fail. Man, the prince, must adapt himself to change if he desires to continue and protect his reign. The vulgar rule in the princes’ courts, an they rule in the biggest and most powerful nations of the world. They are the majority and those who are not vulgar are “isolated” when the vulgar have a gathering or meeting, so that those who are sincerely good cannot rule.
Pico Della Mirandola believes that our destiny takes shape by the way we shape ourselves; we are free to acquire any destiny we wish. The Oration on the Dignity of Man explains why man is the most wonderful of all creations. Mirandola points out the opinion of Abdala de Saracen and Hermes Trismegistus the Egyptian priest. It states that nothing is more wonderful than man, who is considered a great miracle. Some of the reasons given for the magnificence of human nature, are that man is close to the gods, he masters over the lower creature, and he is the nodal point between eternity and time. Mirandola thinks that these may be good reasons why man is wonderful, but he also considers the fact that man is so much more than this past mentioned. Man has a rank, that even the stars, and minds beyond this world envy. Mirandola feels that man is only second to God, because after he made the heavens decorated with the angels which symbolize intelligence, and he created the lower world which included the animals, then he began to think about creating man, to ha something to wonder and ponder his masterpiece. Man was like nothing else that had already been made, he was completely unique.
Another reason why man is so magnificent according to Mirandola is that god gave no limitation as far as place to live or function, that is his choice alone, man enjoys the freedom of choice. God gave man his own desires and judgment to acquire whatever wants. All other things have a limited nature and are bound by our laws. Man, who was placed in the center of the world has the power to degrade himself into the lower forms of life, like beasts. He has the power contained in his intellect and judgment to be reborn into the higher forms, the divine. Still another reason why man is so great is that he shapes himself. However, when an animal is born it has all that it will ever have at that time. Man is crated with seed of every kind. Whichever ones he plants are what he becomes, unlike a spiritual being will be whatever he is, for eternity. And because he transforms himself into any form and becomes any creature he wants to, he is to be the most admired.
Machiavelli’s idea of a “perfect” man or prince is very superficial and there seems to be a desire to be the all powerful being, God. Machiavelli describes this man if without conscience or any moral ethics, he is ruthless and without respect of faith. The Machiavellian man has a putrid mind, and is willing to reach its highest by means of deceit, violence, fierce competition, cruelty, corruption, and deceiving oneself. He is a man who tries to deceit people and himself. A liar only lies to himself, no matter the consequence, the prince will strive, because he is merciless. Machiavelli does try to portray a prince that is both good and evil, but both cannot exist in a princes’ mind. The prince, just as evil, only does good when it is to his advantage. He is only concerned with his appearance and wealth. He appears to be a great leader, but inside he is wicked and horrid. The Machiavellian prince covers his true identity with a mask of deceit; he no longer needs to lie because he uses what comes to his advantage, be it good or evil. The Machiavellian prince is a person with no dignity or moral standards. Mirandola describes a man who is the complete opposite of the Machiavellian prince. He describes man as being a unique being, as the most exquisite masterpiece of God. Mirandola la advises that we should not take our abilities lightly, but use these special qualities or gifts to our advantage, not to cause others pain and humiliation as in The Prince. Man should let a holy ambition enter into his soul, so that he should not just want to be average, but strive after the highest and use all his strength to achieve it. Man is a being that shapes himself; if he turns out good or bad that is up to him. Furthermore, man is able to achieve anything as long as he sticks to it and tries his best. Unlike the Machiavellian man, Mirandola expresses faith in man’s decision, he does not need to use deceit to get where and what he wants, he needs only faith and reason. It is up to man what happens on that fateful day, the Day of Judgment, in which he can either take his rightful place next to God or Satan
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