Machiavelli: Ends versus Means

Machiavelli: Ends versus Means

‘It is far better to be feared than loved if you cannot be both’, such and more is the devious logic of Niccolo Machiavelli in his most famous and also most hated book across centuries, The Prince. The 15th century master’s shrewd intellect shows through this realpolitik treatise, perhaps as a means undertaken to justify the ends? – to curry favour with the Medici, who returned to power after elbowing out the Republic, of which Machiavelli was a key figure.

It can be no coincidence that he extols the virtues of the Medici, at the same time putting to paper his knowledge of politics, reverently suggesting that the book may be perceived as a gift, as a way to understand in the ‘shortest time all I have learnt in so many years’.

And yet, the general nature of the book, which basically advises princes (or any ruler) on how to retain power, incited such passions across Europe that the word ‘Machiavellian’  meaning devilish cunning, unscrupulous political dealing and manipulative genius – came into use before any translation of the text had been published. For holding views such as, ‘Idealistic politicians are ineffective politicians,’ and challenging the idea of Christian virtue as the governing principle in the conduct of a leader, the Catholic Church banned the book soon after its publication.

At the same time, it is impossible to deny the pragmatism the book conveys in matters of state and power, as in the following sentence: A blunder ought never be perpetrated to avoid war, because it is not to be avoided, but is only deferred to your disadvantage. Or, ‘Those who by valorous ways become princes, acquire a principality (kingdom) by difficulty but retain it with ease’. Or even, ‘It is necessary for a prince wishing to hold his own to know how to do wrong, and to make use of it or not according to the necessity’.

Such candid discourse did not then, and even now may not find favour with everybody but it forces us to look at systems of power and people in those places minus rose-tinted glasses. For, while illustrious men have come and gone, yet through centuries, lands have been plundered, atrocities have been committed, wars have been raged, human faiths have been misused, citizenry has been deceived, by the rulers. And, while these continue, it does seem less than pragmatic to lose oneself in moral discourses on power and authority.

Therefore, in his own defense and in his own words, following words come to the fore: It appears to me more appropriate to follow up the real truth of the matter than the imagination of it because of how one lives is so far distant from what ought to be done, that he who neglects what is done for what ought to be done, sooner effects his ruin than his preservation.

Cunning intellect is at work when Machiavelli states that it is unnecessary for a prince to have all the good qualities I have enumerated, but it is very necessary to appear to have them, clearly conveying that too much of a good thing could be a detriment to a ruler’s position. He explains that the prince who is too liberal with finances and not mean enough, spends his way to scorn from his people, making his kingdom vulnerable to more powerful armies. Here and above is ample challenge to that over-simplified comparison between Machiavelli and the political genius of Chanakya, who authored the Arthashastra.

Chanakya’s concept of kingship implies that the office is an aggregate of the people whose welfare is an end in itself. Here, the king was expected to be a virtuous person in words, thoughts and deeds. If he had to be cruel by necessity, it was to make virtuous life possible for all. There is an emphasis on the creation of a state closest to an ideal.

On the other hand, Machiavelli details the methods a ruler can adopt to retain and grow his power, regarding the aspects of defence, governance, reputation, choice of secretaries, etc. The citizens’ welfare, if advocated, is limited to being governed by a suitable ruler.

In effect, there are some similar advices from both on how to maintain armies, how to choose one’s noblemen, how to manage finances, but the distance between these is from the viewpoint of the goal behind these concerns.

Machiavelli proves his astuteness in understanding the human nature thus: This is to be asserted in general of men that they are ungrateful, fickle, false, cowardly, covetous, and as long as you succeed, entirely yours.

And, just as Chanakya advocated the use of reward and punishment, Machiavelli is of the belief, ‘Men have less scruple in offending one who is beloved than one who is feared, for love is preserved by the link of obligation which, owing to the baseness of men, is broken at every opportunity for their advantage; but fear preserves you by a dread of punishment which never fails’.

50 thoughts on “Machiavelli: Ends versus Means

  1. “It is far better to be feared than loved if you cannot be both”…. Machiavelli mentions here that commitments made in peace are not always kept in adversity, however, commitments made in fear are kept out of fear. Yet, a person must ensure that he is not feared to the point of hatred. Here we could interpret fear to a certain extent as respect too.
    The author also says ?Men worry less about doing an injury to one who makes himself loved than to one who makes himself feared….? Fear is simply a means to an end, and that end is security for the prince. The fear instilled should never be excessive, for that could be dangerous for a prince.

  2. ?The Prince? is an instinctive and pragmatic guidebook for acquiring and retaining power over the subjects. Power and politics apart, the book also appears relevant in most day to day decisions to be taken at an individual/family/team level. We may tend to reject some ideas as outrageous. But, a careful analysis reveals that the book is just a documentation of the ?True Self? which is often camouflaged by the ?False Self?. However, Machiavelli takes a very narrow view of mankind in saying ?The citizens? welfare, if advocated, is limited to being governed by a suitable ruler? Today?s larger interests of the mankind do necessitate an ethical behavior which may seem impracticable but do stand to the tests of reason and time.

  3. The most relevant aspect that characterize Machiavelli as a philosopher and a politician is that he got the meaning of the world in which he was living. Abandoning the aristotelic “zoon politikon” and the medieval idea of harmonic world, he set up and spread his own idea of politician. Despite all the common critics about moralism the book had, I think we can appreciate and interprete it from another point of view: he wrote the truth about politicians and powerfull men because he showed up the real human nature hidden by social and moral rules that characterize the modern society.

  4. Machiavelli sees warcraft as both an academic discipline that can be studied through historical examples and as a matter of practical experience. For Machiavelli, all affairs of government are viewed through a military lens, because the ultimate goal of a government is self-preservation; military defence (embracing ideas of strategy), diplomacy, and geography (is the means by which governments preserve themselves). Machiavelli does not conceive of the prince as a man skilled in many disciplines, but rather as one whose sole responsibility is to ensure the stability of the state that he governs.

  5. Yes, we can view the book from the perspective of the state and in the larger picture and stake a claim that Machiavelli has to be given more credit than he has been afforded historically. If leaders could stop being hypocrites and accept, at least to themselves, that they only care for their own advance, then the state might function better; It is the constant self deceit that is at the root of most political strifes.

    But at the same time, look at the depressingly pessimistic view that machiavelli has about humanity! Is it true that no one can really have all those virtues without seeking to profit from them? Is it a virtue if you profit from it? After all, it is said that you lose your humility the moment you think you have it. Is it not the same for all virtues? So by accepting that machiavelli could be right and should not be dismissed, are we not also accepting the underlying assumption that men are incorrigible? And finally, in terms of the the golden rule or the kantian ethical system, should a true leader not measure every action and intention of his by the yard stick of the categorical imperative?

    PS. What I would love to see is the dynamics if a Machiavellian Prince gets a councilor like Iago…

  6. I often come across people who live life as if it?s a fairy tale. They talk and act as if this world is devoid of all vices. It amazes me how this could be possible. How a person can manage to survive and get ahead in life by staying oblivious to the negativities around him? Based on my observation there are two things that could be possible: Either the person had a very protective upbringing and is yet to come to terms with the realities of the world or it?s the cunning intellect at play which Machiavelli talks about in “The Prince”. In either case I believe there is someone, somewhere fighting off the vices in a shrewd way and projecting the image among people around him that this world is a morally sound place.
    While reading the book I was reminded of the words of John Adams, the first Vice-president of United States. In a letter to his wife, Abigail Adams, he wrote, ?I must study politics and war, that our sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy?. These words find a great parallel with the Machiavelli?s words in the book ?..that he who neglects what is done for what ought to be done, sooner effects his ruin than his preservation?.
    If we talk about the relevance of this book in modern times, the wisdom shared by Machiavelli in ?The Prince? is not just a guide for industry or political leaders or people aspiring to gain or retain power in any sphere of life, it?s a good reference text for anyone who wants to understand the dynamics of human nature at work.

  7. The end justifies the means: I tried to find a reason for this controversial statement and I think it is also because Machiavelli?s thought was influenced by a pessimistic point of view: a prejudice toward human being (similar to later Hobbes?s one that judges mankind to be ?a wolf toward mankind?) that is considered to seek only for self-achievement and dedicat to overcoming just because it is his nature. I think this sentence roughly summarizes Machiavelli?s point of view and actually it is not written in The prince nor in none of his writings. It seems like Jesuit or Lutheran might have assigned it to him to bring discredit to him.
    In the end I would like to share with you this sentence taken by an Italian movie that actually has the opposite meaning: ? It doesn?t matter where you will be when you finish your run, it is important what you have felt while you were running?

  8. It is important to differentiate between ?ends? and ?means? when we talk about Machiavelli. I look at ?ends? as a result of continuous integration of ?means? and hence it is the ?means? that determine the ?ends?. Machiavelli is ready to exercise immoral ?means? to achieve his end which he perceives as good for himself. For arguments sake, let us assume that the ?ends? is good for all stakeholders-prince and subjects. Here Machiavelli disregards the futility of ?means? and assumes that all ?means? are carried forward till the ?ends? are achieved. So, if the ?means? are not carried out to its intended ?ends?, then where does it leave the prince or his subjects? Probably, worse off than they started.
    However, if we look at Machiavellis principles through the prism of our most basic instinct – survival, we see that it is consistent with what we are genetically designed to do i.e. To survive. That instinct practiced in its purest form conforms to the Machiavellian principle. The question then facing us is this – Should we stay true to the genetic message passed on to us OR should we as human beings possessing ?free will? and higher intellect than animals (who are also given the same genetic message) aim to be something more?

  9. Italy (1494 1527) witnessed many invasions, may it be by Charles VIII of France or Duke of Orlans , Louis XII. In those turbulent times when cities were constantly threatened by neighboring principalities Machiavelli?s method of viewing affairs through a military lens was a new paradigm in political thinking. ?The Prince? also reflects upon the fundamentals of ?Individualism? versus ?Collectivism?. Machiavelli articulates that virtues such as generosity, compassion and piety should be endorsed by a prince to a greater extent for his individual good, but he should not necessarily avoid vices such as cruelty or dishonesty if employing them will benefit the state. More often than not, modern day business realities require us to make such tough decisions. ?The Prince? promulgates the notion that we better be ?pragmatic? in our decision making, if not ?unscrupulous?

  10. In “The Prince”, advises against the use of “Mercenaries”. Machiavelli says that if the mercenary is capable then he aspires for his own greatness and need not necessarily serve the prince and if he is not capable then he would bring ruin in the usual way. I find this particularly interesting as more often than not managers are like mercenary captains. They work most of the times for their personal benefits (wages or career progress etc). Their interest may or may not be in line with the interest of the company. This is famously discussed in management theory as the “Agency Problem”.

  11. The words ?Ends justify the means? are the offshoots coming from the way Machiavelli lived his life. He has found himself in a lot of political situations in which the result was the only thing important, and everyone was struggling in order to get as much power as they could. As a consequence, a Prince?s valuable characteristic is the ability of hiding weaknesses from the enemies and from the staff, entirely controlling the power. I think that, no one can have all the abilities of this world, but still, managing the ones you have can be a good way to reach power and glory.

  12. When Machiavelli says that as long as one succeeds, men will be entirely yours – it is evident that he infers in todays world, most people value the end goals more than anything else. Here, it becomes difficult to stand ones own and think more of the means that the ends for it requires immense courage and belief in ones ideologies. For most of the times, the equity theory of human behaviour comes in where if the inputs and outputs may not be commensurate with our peers. Thereafter most lose the courage to follow the moral means, keeping just the end result in mind.

  13. ?The Prince? by Machiavelli is a book which talks about ?ends versus means?. The book provided insights which are completely different from other self-help or strategy related books which talk about being nice and honest in dealing with things. The writer, through his pen, has taken the path which might not be likeable but if we think from a neutral point of view, can understand its aptness. It instructs us to be mean at times, end ties if required, formulate multiple strategies to deal with things and above all, keep an eye on the coveted end result. It asks us to be focused in life and reinforces the importance of achievement.

  14. ?it is unnecessary for a prince to have all the good qualities I have enumerated, but it is very necessary to appear to have them?- which I feel is undoubtedly true in the current scenario. I would rather rephrase it to ?it is necessary only to appear to have them?. The superficial qualities that we exhibit are the only things that are valued. None has neither time nor patience to squander their energy to analyse others? behaviour or rationale. All just praise u if it seems good and add their part to defame you further if it seems wrong. And it is the generation of self-interested people that everything becomes NEWS and not worth even a penny beyond that. So being pragmatic and deceiving others in the favour of one to achieve what one wants though is not fair would be a safe game.
    Though I believe in ?means justifies ends?, I do feel that the above argument for ?ends justifies means? is also logical. But I am sure I will still stick to my values at any point in time 😉

  15. ?It is far better to be feared than loved if you cannot be both? and ?Ends justify the means? if these were to be true then we would have never seen leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, H.H. The Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Jr. and the likes. These leaders have always preached the use of just means for just ends and are loved than feared. If what Machiavelli said were to be followed then every person holding a position of power would have resorted to such means prescribed by Machiavelli. But its not so because what Machiavelli preaches is for people who crave for power and are under constant fear that someday they would lose power. This I believe is not the trait of a true leader. For a true leader is loved and respected, not feared.

  16. Machiavelli asserts that a number of traits are inherent in human nature. People are generally self-interested, although their affection for others can be won and lost. They are content and happy so long they are not victims of something terrible. They may be trustworthy in prosperous times, but they will quickly turn selfish, deceitful, and profit-driven in times of adversity. One would believe that the above are assumptions rather than observations, I feel they are very true in modern day scenario where we come across people who put the self above the rest.

  17. This is in so much contradiction with Alchemist. Santiago gave so much importance to the journey itself; to the means rather than the end goal itself… But this was possible because Santiago was not answerable to anyone but himself… No one back home was going to ask him if he found treasure or not; On the other hand, a prince has to keep his kingdom intact; He is answerable to his people; He cannot always look for means without thinking about the ends; He has to take tough decisions at times even if it goes against his own conscience for a greater good.. There is always a constant dilemma of individual choice v/s the collective one for a prince. Thus, I believe if power corrupts someone, it is for a reason because power brings with a greater responsibility.

  18. Machiavelli defines virtues as qualities that are praised by others, such as generosity, compassion, and piety. He argues that a prince should always try to appear virtuous, but that acting virtuously for virtue?s sake can prove detrimental to the principality. Virtue should not be pursued for its own sake: virtues and vices should be conceived as means to an end. Every action must be considered in light of its effect, not in terms of its intrinsic moral value.

  19. I agree with Machiavelli when he says that a prince should never lose focus of the art of war ?..for when princes have thought more of ease than of arms they have lost their states.? This explains how a businessman who thinks more about profits than the business itself, fails to build a successful empire.

    I also agree with him when he says that a prince should not hesistate to take sides and avoid standing neutral. This i believe, will at least remove a huge junk of hypocrisy hiding under the guise of diplomacy. On second thought however, being a true friend or a downright enemy seems almost impossible especially for a leader, who has to see much beyond his own personal tendencies.

  20. I infer that the premise behind the philosophy of Machiavelli is that human being is inherently selfish and every deed is driven by this instinct. This also resonates in the theory of natural selection by Darwin and in some modern hypotheses as proposed in the book Selfish Gene. Thus the whole acceptance/rejection of Machiavelli principles comes from the subconscious acceptance/rejection of this premise.
    Chanakya who preceded Machiavelli did not get as much recognition as Machiavelli although I think that he deserves is more. Chanakyas contribution is much larger. Chanakya can be considered the originator of the thought on politics while Machiavelli had many examples and references before him. Instead of calling Chanakya “Machiavelli of the East”, Machiavelli should have been called “Chankaya of the West”.

  21. ?Ends justify the means?

    If at the end of a tunnel I see light , Id traverse through dark
    What if there is a cliff unbeknown to me
    Marking the end of the journey ,I did (with a pure heart) embark?

  22. Going slightly out of the sphere of politics, Why is it that in any relationship there has to be some sort hierarchy and that someone should wield authority? Lets take a couple, why does it become important to know Who is wearing the Pants in the relationship. It might not be directly related to the fear and loving concept but I feel it has some significance here because having someone to fear you is a way of showing your authority over someone. What does showing someone his/her place mean in this context? Is it always necessary to make someone realize the power and authority wielded by fear? (Hopefully it did not become too much of a rambling!)

  23. I feel ends do not always justify means. Through “Prince” , we came to know that power and ability to achieve goal can only be established if we have a clear focus, and for that the means could be any. But I feel the way that leads to ones goal is more important than the goal itself because if the path is true, goal would follow.

  24. Machiavellis books looks at ways and means to enhance ends as the book doesnt evaluate the ethical aspects of being of attaining and staying in power. At the moral pedestal we all might very easily say its the means that is important but when we get to working this conflict would be difficult to resolve. For example in contemporary parlance it the similar to attaining high profits at the cost of disturbing the environment. This is one call that we as managers would have to take. And it is here we will have to talk about self interest and selfishness. If companies can redefine self as the Industry + Environment we might see a more constructive solution. Chanakya and Machiavelli are also different as the former mentions of Self Interest, where as the later doesnt deal with it explicitly.

  25. Machiavelli notes that a prince is praised for keeping his word but is praised irrespective of whether he does or appears to do so. This apparent pretense has parallels to “doublespeak” widely adverted in George Orwells “1984”. Yet when circumstances demand it, the prince must lie whilst appearing to be virtuous and impeccant. I believe these values have no vent in todays times as men today arent as gullible, unwary and naive as then.

  26. I find very close resemblance between the Prince and the current Chief Minister of Gujrat Mr. Narendra Modi. The end goals for him are very clear, to achieve total authority along with overall development of the state. He has achieved his goals with pristine perfection with means neither ethical nor moral. If you look at the progress of Gujrat it has been nothing short of remarkable and at the same time the man has never been short of charges and allegations. With eyes on Prime Minister-ship as he prepares to take the next step in the power hierarchy, it does present a very strong case in favour of Machiavellis concepts.

  27. Machiavelli was a staunch advocate of republicanism and in another of his treatises, ?Discourses on Livy? contradicts quite a few things he says in ?The Prince?. But that was before the rise of the Medici. That pretty much raises a question whether ?The Prince? was a pragmatic attempt to curry favour with those in power.
    Nevertheless, the Machiavellian approach to power is probably relevant when examined against the backdrop of 15th century Italy. But there has been a great amount of evolution in political philosophy since then and the relationship between the state and its subjects has been chalked out with more and more sophistication. Any statesman in today?s increasingly refined polities relying too much on Machiavelli may quickly find himself out of a job and a career. So, I believe, Machiavellianism may work in kinship based tribal societies or in authoritarian corporate environments, but its relevance in a large liberal democracy remains suspect.

  28. Machiavelli was a staunch advocate of republicanism and in another of his treatises, ?Discourses on Livy? contradicts what he says in ?The Prince?. But that was before the rise of the Medici. That pretty much raises a question whether ?The Prince? was a pragmatic attempt to curry favour with those in power.
    Nevertheless, the Machiavellian approach to power is probably relevant when examined against the backdrop of 15th century Italy. But there has been a great amount of evolution in political philosophy since then and the relationship between the state (the ruler) and the people (the ruled) has been chalked out with more and more sophistication. Any statesman in today?s increasingly refined polities relying too much on Machiavelli may quickly find himself out of a job and a career. So, I believe, Machiavellianism may work in kinship based tribal societies or in authoritarianism corporate environments, but its relevance in a large liberal democracy remains suspect.

  29. The first thing that came to my mind while reading The Prince is a line from Apocalypse Now- “Horror has a face… and you must make a friend of horror. Horror and moral terror are your friends. If they are not, then they are enemies to be feared”. At times I feel this is true, though not often. When someone pulls the rug under your feet, when you are double crossed, when you are taken for a ride…doesnt it ever occur to you that this World is not all that good? As much I hate to admit this, situations may come in our lives when we must take control of the uncertainties and the threats by exercising our power to afflict fear in the minds of certain people. However, its important to be judicious before taking such a step.

  30. Machiavelli naively ignores the power of devotion that a leader possesses by virtue of his position when he considers only the option of love and fear in making men followers. This has been exemplified by the Japanese royalty in modern times. Consider the case of Ashoka Maurya, the great king Ashoka of the Mauryan dynasty, grandson of Chandragupta Maurya. He had been groomed for leadership under the influence of Chanakya, considered by some to be the Machiavelli of the east. He followed the Machiavellian way for getting and preserving his power and was credited with the title of Chandashoka. The Kalinga War changed him and showed this world that a more benevolent way to rule exists.

  31. We could thus say here that the ?good? end does not justify the use of immoral means. But this is the question: why?
    Why could not we close eyes on debatable means thus the end is to reach the good end? Therefore, we would come maybe to condemn the Resistance during the Second World War (because it made a lot of deaths and other damages) even if its purpose was to reach victory against the Nazis? idealism.

  32. As for me, the simple ethics of the success of the realpoliticien, for which the political objective “dedicates” every means, even immoral, such as lie, fraud, treason, political murder and war, does not suit.
    The simple ethics of the conviction of the idealistic politician, for which a purely moral motivation and a good objective is enough, but which doesnt care about real balance of power, about the concrete execution and the potential negative consequences, does not suit either.
    Only a responsible ethic suits. It means conviction, but wonders in a realistic way about the predictable consequences, as well as about the negative consequences of a particular politic and also assumes the responsibility of it. It consists in associating the political calculation (the modern realpolitik) and the ethical judgment (the idealistic politic).

  33. At first sight, the word Machiavellian seems to be a synonym of tyrant according to Machiavellis description of the Prince. But he his responsible for the constitution and the society, that is why he cannot follow his whims otherwise he will jeopardize the Sates life. Thus he justifies his behavior throughout the book, because his will is to defend his State, even if it means to be feared.

  34. Machiavellis views are very interesting and relevant for a ruler whose goal is to retain his/ her power in an empire. But is this the purpose of leadership? Do leaders aspire only to continue their supremacy over their subjects? My opinion is that views like …it is unnecessary for a prince to have all the good qualities I have enumerated, but it is very necessary to appear to have them… seem myopic. Isnt the end just another mean for a bigger end? In short, I believe that Machiavellis views cannot be applicable to long term goals of leaders. I also believe that a leader attracts followers by virtue of the greater purpose, not through tactics like the ones mentioned in this book.

  35. One of Machiavellis main points are what makes a leader respected and possibly loved. He strongly recommends that the leader gives the impression that he has a number of positive and influential characteristics. The point is to make the impression as if he or she is in the possesion of these, even though these are true or not. From a leadership view of the world today, this can in some instances be seen as not far from the truth, at least by looking at the ethical aspect of running a business. Numerous organizations that has given the impression as beeing socially responsible, have later been uncovered as the direct oposite. So the questions arises ” will leaders make decisions that strives against the norm of moral values and ethics, if these were not in the risk of being uncovered?”

  36. Reading the Prince, the questions that popped into my mind were that would I want to be a leader of Machiavellis standards? Is it the information which has been fed into me from childhood which is deterring me from seeing the rightness in his words or do I really have the conviction that ends cannot justify the means? Am I just a part of the big universe, where power is the need of the hour, or do my actions really make a difference? It has left me thinking about my beliefs and values and I believe that whatever conclusion I come to now, will leave me with a better understanding of myself.

  37. The author describes the role of individual in politics and its impact on subtle issues.It teaches the use of intelligence in politics and how it can be used in daily life.Machiavelli emphasized the need for realism, as opposed to idealism. In The Prince he does not explain what he thinks the best ethical or political goals are, except the control of ones own fortune, as opposed to waiting to see what chance brings. Machiavelli took it for granted that would-be leaders naturally aim at glory or honor. The Prince starts by describing the subject matter it will handle. In the first sentence Machiavelli uses the word “state” in order to neutrally cover “all forms of organization of supreme political power .

  38. It seems that a ruler?s idea of man is strongly connected to how he rules. Machiavelli believes that human nature is selfishness.
    From Machiavellis view point all humans; residents, mercenaries and fellow princes, are completely selfish humans that have to be controlled, if necessary by force. One could ask with the logic of the self-fulfilling prophecy, whether this idea of men is the cause or the effect of Machiavellians theories.
    But the point that Machiavelli makes about facing reality is a very valid one. The saying: ?hope for the best but be prepared for the worst? might be a useful maxim in relation to human nature.

  39. I would keep arguments whether Machiavellian thoughts and ideas are coherent or not off the table. I admire the pragmatism of Machiavelli in sticking to reality. Though I dont see a unifying philosophy, the theme is self-preservation. And I would construe all blatant acts of self-preservation and self-interest as things which Machiavelli had guts to put on paper.

  40. Machiavelli advocates the use of fear and evil if necessary to acquire a principality or achieve ones ends.These ideas although might seem to be hypocritically outrageous now and hypothetically meant to be eschewed by one and all in the present day, several examples can be quoted in which military dictators, politicians et al have resorted to such ideas acting indifferent to the consequences and seeking absolute power. This is more shocking to see happening in spite of widely active and acknowledged support of human rights.

  41. End justifies Means is fallible if every individual applies it to her/his life. Therefore, this idea is not universal. Though in certain dire situations one may adopt it. However, one should be aware that for every force there is a resistance , resulting into loss of energy and time.

    Though one may argue that the ethical way of living is possible only in Utopian world. Agree.
    It is same as saying Newtons laws are applicable only in ideal situations. However, Newtons laws do govern our daily life.

  42. To what extent one can compromise on ethical and moral philosophy to achieve end goal has always been subjective and changes on a case to case basis. It depends on what the individual who is undergoing a specific situation thinks and feels about the decision to be made at the right time for the end goal. For a leader, in a political context, the constraints from the external environment and internal surrounding restrains from taking a proper decision during crucial times. Indeed “The Prince” by Machiavelli written during 16th century was a bold attempt in explaining this for a leader. But the question remains as to whether all different principles and idealogies would apply to the current context where an instigation to a wrong action would lead to chain of undesirable events in a small period of time.

  43. Machiavellis instructions may not be relevant in todays world, but the underlying philosophy is very pragmatic. Machiavelli recognizes that humans are selfish beings..and indeed the sole purpose of life is to survive by propagating ones genes. Even all altruistic phenomenon are to this end. So there is nothing wrong in being selfish if it maximizes your chances of survival. But if you were seen as a selfish person then it may not help your cause, hence the importance of “appearing” to be kind, helping, loving etc.

  44. When I read Machiavelli, I have the impression that he is focused on one purpose of life: power. However, I think that being a leader, in todays world or at that time, might not necessarily be by thirst of power, but can also be in order to lead a group in a state of peace and welfare.

    In that case, when we accomplish things in life, it can be useful to think bigger than in our point of view. It is necessary, when we have power, to be careful with it: that power can be negative if it is not used with precaution. Selfish use of it is easy, but if we are good enough to want the best of the majority, it can be useful to ask ourself if we are doing something for us our for the Welfare. Ends that we “have” to achieve might not be the ones we think it is. This is why it is important to be careful with the sacrifices we are ready to make for a cause we think is right. One day, it can appear that we thought wrong in the past and made mistakes in tough decisions we made. And past cannot be rewritten.

  45. In his book, Machiavelli is pragmatic and not idealistic. The substance of his thought is that the man is interested in power above all.It also considers that it is the passions that drive to power and not a contingent spirituality. Mankind likes to dominate and to do so, it requires a thoughtful approach that is consistent with the impulses, desires and anger of those they wish to lead. Machiavelli thus professed abandonment of ideals in favor of maneuver to a single result: take and maintain power. Whatever the means employed, the only thing that legitimate acts is the end. Thats what “ The end justifies the means” reflects .

    From a moral standpoint and ethics, we can understand that this may be shocking, to the extent that the individual can apply this quote to a lesser extent, given the people and the feelings involved in its race to the power and the glory. What would happen then , if the end is good, and the means bad and evil? Where should one stop?

    On the other hand, if the prince lived in the twenty-first century, it probably would work in a multinational firm. Indeed,The Prince has not aged a bit, and with great lucidity on men’s behavior, this book is the perfect manual for a “manager manipulator” ( an unscrupulous one as well)!

  46. Ends maybe justify the means, but only in the short term.

    I have acheive and accomplish some of my own goals, but the ekstase and joy is often followed by a emptiness. Then I start to look back of the journey I have taken to accomplish this goal. If I have not acted as a good person, neglected my personal values and sacrificed friends and love ones. The victory could becomes worthless.

    I am not an idealist, I know it is hard to govern without getting dirty hands. But for the sake of human kind the least you can do. Is doing it with integrity and try to reduce the humiliation of the people involved.

  47. “The end justifies the means” signifies that you can do anything to get the result you want regardless of the methods used (legal or illegal, democratic or dictatorial,..). I believe this way of thinking inhuman because you cannot do anything you want just to achieve a specific outcome and get the desired result. For example, you cannot cheat to an exam just because you decide it is the price to pay to succeed it. To achieve an end, we have to take into account the people around us and try to make a trade-off between what we desire and how achieve without affect them but also avoid the selfishness. Be a ruler is not necessary equal to “Machiavellian”.

  48. ‘It is necessary for a prince wishing to hold his own to know how to do wrong, and to make use of it or not according to the necessity’

    Should we do wrong if we have to or is it always possible to act well? The sentence from Machiavelli supposed that the evil always triumphs against the good. If you are an honest and good person you will always be beaten by a mean and unscrupulous person. But even during wars, when people are rejecting their humanity, the peace comes at the end. So if a war always ends by a peaceful period, does it means that good always triumphs against evil? There will always be people acting badly but without them, are we able to distinguish the right and wrong? I think that bad people are necessary to this world, to be able to enjoy peace. Even if, as Machiavelli says, evil always wins against good in the short run, I’m sure that good always triumphs in the long run.

  49. This is a horrible question but that allows in my opinion no hesitation. The end should never justify the means, because if this is the case the end will justifies everything. Including the worst. In this case we will have just to hope for something to happen, and undertake every effort to make it possible, even if this thing by nature is immoral.
    It is questionable from a logical point of view and it is morally irresponsible. I think it is inconceivable to act like that.
    This does not mean that we should give up to ours end. But that mean that the desire is producer of meaning and not the end in itself justifies the desire.

  50. For many persons Machiavellianism is a synonym for evil but i can understand him considering the time he was living in. During his life he experienced a very unstable political environment going so far that he was tortured and sent to exile because the government he was working for was overthrown. Many other people of that time experienced a similar fate. Also the book cannot be understood as a normative guidance but rather as a realistic analysis on how to gain and sustain power. This becomes very clear when we look at another book written by him, “Discourses on Livy” where he proofs himself to be a republican. But this is about the prince.

    Assuming that the main goal of a government, business, environment or even family is to sustain, many of his arguments become very logical and are as relevant as ever. “It is far better to be feared than loved if you cannot be both”. Seeing the slowliness of countries disarming their nuclear weapons (none of us will probably ever experience a world without) or even renounce the army clearly shows that. Also Machiavelli says that a ruler does not have to be generous, as long as he has only his own money to spend. Many people would rather earn a bit less but have job security and the issue of extensive government spending became very actual in europe in recent years (see Greece, Spain, etc.). Of course all of this is still very controversial and there is not an universal opinion on such topics.

    For me, I can neither agree nor disagree that the end justifies the means as it is often very dependent from the context. As many others, I believe or rather hope that the good always wins over the evil and that the beloved sustain while the feared dissapear but it is too easy to blame Machiavelli for his realistic Analysis of the world. But as a student of political science (I study International Affairs at University of St. Gallen), dealing with this book has been very instructive.

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