Martin Luther King & Niccolo Machiavelli

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Martin Luther King & Niccolo Machiavelli

By | December 2012
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Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Niccolo Machiavelli were two important leaders and philosophers from two different time periods. Martin Luther King was a strong and respected leader who preached against segregation and racism during the civil rights era. Niccolo Machiavelli was an Italian diplomat and political philosopher known for his political views and writings. Though King and Machiavelli were known as philosophers, their views on certain topics could not be more different. Machiavelli believed that being vicious and ruthless in order to obtain a desired outcome is acceptable. On the other side, King believed that someone should do everything in their power to reach a moral goal, without acting in a violent manner. King's non violent direct action might not be the same as Machiavelli's ruthless beliefs, but King's idea of breaking the law to end segregation constitutes a Machiavellian argument. In Letter from Birmingham Jail King addresses the need for non violent direct action and how it could end the fight against segregation. King states, “since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court's decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, it is rather strange and paradoxical to find us consciously breaking laws” (Austin 207). By breaking the law to reach a just and moral goal was Machiavellian on King's part because he was doing what it took to achieve the end of segregation. Though King is against breaking the law he knew that needed to be done for segregation to end and that called for ignoring unjust laws by non violent direct action. King justifies what it takes to reach a moral goal, and how it does not have to be through Sam 2

violence. King preaches that “non violence demands that the means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek” (Austin 216). This means that using immoral means to acquire moral ends is unsuitable. King also says “it is just wrong, or even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends” (Austin...

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