Machiavelli: Do the Ends Justify the Means?

Topics: Political philosophy, Niccolò Machiavelli, Cesare Borgia Pages: 3 (922 words) Published: October 10, 2013
Niccolo Machiavelli, arguably the finest political theorist of his time, wrote in his famous work “The Prince” that a ruler use any methods available to him to maintain stability, for even though some methods might seem abusive and purely attempts toward staying in power, in reality they benefit the people because the ruler manages to maintain stability which is all the people could ask for. If another country is about to attack yours and your people are at risk, would you even hesitate in bribing the other country's ruler or diplomat to prevent escalation? True, the ethics are questionable, but being that the ends are so positive, it would be futile to look at it otherwise. Plain and simple, the means are irrelevant if the ends are positive enough to trump them. Machiavelli defends these conclusions using both explicit and implicit language.

Machiavelli states, “Therefore, a prince must not worry about the reproach of cruelty when it is a matter of keeping his subjects united and loyal…”. There he is using “the ends justify the means”. He’s saying that it is okay to use cruelty (considered bad means) in order to keep his subjects united and loyal (a good end).

Machiavelli also states, “A Prince, therefore, unable to use this virtue of generosity in a manner which will not harm himself if he is known for it, should, if he is wise, not worry about being called a miser; for with time he will come to be considered more generous once it is evident that, as a result of his parsimony, his income is sufficient, he can defend himself from anyone who makes war against him, and he can undertake enterprises without overburdening his people…”. Again, “the ends justify the means”. It’s okay for the prince to be considered a miser (bad means) if in the end he is financially able to support his country in a time of war, or on other enterprises (good ends).

More explicit language taken from Machiavelli’s essay states, “I conclude, therefore, returning to the problem...
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