Preview

St. Augustine vs. Machiavelli: a Comparison of the Good Society

Powerful Essays
Open Document
Open Document
2815 Words
Grammar
Grammar
Plagiarism
Plagiarism
Writing
Writing
Score
Score
St. Augustine vs. Machiavelli: a Comparison of the Good Society
Ben Parrish
St. Augustine vs. Machiavelli: A comparison of the Good Society
Final Project
09/01/13

Both St. Augustine and Machiavelli believed that in order to understand the true nature of society you must see men for what they truly were. Augustine and Machiavelli are similar in their pessimistic views toward human nature, looking at human self-love and self-interest and believed it to be full of evil, cruelty, betrayal, violence and tied that relationship into the creation of war. For both philosophers a good society is actually something that for almost all men is an unreachable attribute that can only be written about and not actually fully experienced in my view. For Augustine I feel it is a truly heavenly earth where all men are divine and are as close to the city of Heaven as you can be on earth. For Machiavelli it is a state of complete acceptance of each man’s role and how that role fits into society like a puzzle piece. In order to examine each philosopher’s view further, we must break their thoughts into three separate categories which are: human nature, political authority, and religious beliefs. This essay will take an in-depth look at both St. Augustine and Machiavelli, compare and contrast their views, and provide evidence that on some level the two thinkers were very similar in their ideology.
Augustine viewed human nature in only one way: good and evil. Augustine lived in an era when the pillar of strength and stability, the Roman Empire, was being shattered, and his own life, too was filled with turmoil and loss. To believe in God, he had to find an answer to why, if God is all-powerful and purely good, he still allowed suffering to exist. Augustine believed that evil existed because all men on earth was granted, at birth, the power of free will. He states that God enables humans to freely choose their actions and deeds, and through our own action and choices evil is established. Even natural evils, such as disease, are indirectly related to

You May Also Find These Documents Helpful

  • Good Essays

    St Augustine (354 – 430CE) based his arguments on the Bible, especially the accounts of the creation and the fall in Genesis. His influential theodicy rests upon two major assumptions; evil did not come from God since God’s creation was faultless and perfect, and evil came from elsewhere and God is justified in allowing it to stay. Augustine started from the assumption that God is wholly good and that God created a world free from faults. Following the teaching in Genesis 1, Augustine emphasised that ‘All God has made pleased Him’; suffering and evil were therefore unknown. He made the logical point that it is not possible for God to be responsible for evil since evil is ‘not a substance’. Instead, evil refers to what is lacking in a thing; it is a ‘privation of good’. Augustine used the analogy of blindness, which is not an entity in itself but an absence of sight. If God cannot have created evil, Augustine traced its origin to those areas within the world that have free will; specifically, angels and human beings. These abused God’s gift of freedom and chose wilfully to turn their attention away from God, the supreme good, and to idolise instead ‘lesser goods’. In keeping with the story of the fall in Genesis 3, he argued that the desire for power proved too much for Adam and Eve, who were tempted by Satan, a fallen angel, to break God’s command and to eat the forbidden fruit. Having explained the origin of evil, Augustine went…

    • 745 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    However, Machiavelli, no matter how extreme, violent at times, rigorous, and blunt he may come across, by setting examples and guides structured around the utilization of ruthlessness and egocentric cunning as the process of gaining political power, showed what a clear mind he had on what it takes to be an awe-inspiring leader, master of the art of winning a battle, and conquering lands. In this paper, by comparing the two, human nature and political potency, through the use of different ideologies of both, Plato and Machiavelli, corroborated that they were very powerful, unparalleled influences in the philosophy of human nature and the processes of political power as theorist of their…

    • 566 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    Machiavelli: a Cynic?

    • 660 Words
    • 3 Pages

    Machiavelli feels that mankind is selfish and only exemplifies good qualities from fear of punishment, or when it is to benefit them. One can easily discern Machiavelli's views on this matter from his statement as he argues that it is better to be feared than loved. "Love is held by a chain of obligation which, men being selfish, is broken whenever it serves their purpose; but fear is maintained by a dread of punishment which never fails." This is evident today through the structure of two main outlines that greatly shape our lives and develop our world views: our justice systems and religions. Religion and cultural laws always seem to model somewhat after one another. This is an affirmation of the power that fear holds. People greatly fear the religious repercussions of immorality; thus governments tend to take advantage of such a tool and incorporate the same thoughts and ideas into their laws. The two play hand in hand in directing the actions that mankind plays out.…

    • 660 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Satisfactory Essays

    Plato, Machiavelli

    • 512 Words
    • 3 Pages

    Nicolo Machiavelli is known as being an realist who accepted that fact that humans are brutal, selfish, and fickle while Plato was an idealist who believed people could be ruled by a philosopher king who ruled over the warriors and tradesmen of his ideal republic with rationality. In his view the philosopher-king was in charge of making the state a "utopia" in that everyone had his/her place and all worked together for the common good of the state. Machiavelli said that this was a foolish idea. Machiavelli philosophy of government was centered on the ruler. He believed the king, or despot, had the right to do whatever was necessary for his own gain, or whatever the monarch considered the "good of the state" which he called Virtu’. Machiavelli believed the only purpose for a ruler was to make war, and protect its citizens from attacks by other states. He advocated the slaughter of surrendered generals in order to crush hopes of revolution - even rationalizing that it was worth the risk of revolution should it anger the people. Machiavelli believed a ruler should be immoral using deception and illusion for power and never allowing the people to know the “real” him…

    • 512 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Satisfactory Essays
  • Powerful Essays

    Human nature is usually the manner in which individual’s of a certain society reason and act on that reason. The reasoning can be constructive or unconstructive to the institution as a whole. This concept of human nature is constantly seen in Thomas More’s Utopia and Machiavelli’s The Prince. Each believes human nature to be corrupt; however, More offers an alternative to correct such a problem while Machiavelli does not. Therefore, the creation of an ideal institution is not seen possible by one of these literary works. Both works do describe the community that is possible under certain circumstances.…

    • 1702 Words
    • 7 Pages
    Powerful Essays
  • Powerful Essays

    Literature has played an important role in our attempt to understand reality, and it does this through portraying thinking patterns and social norms that are existent and important within a society. In this sense, literature is important because it portrays different stages that man encounters in life; some of the great literary work provides society with a certain level of guidance through life. Reading literature entails more than just acquiring knowledge which too is important but it goes further into giving us different contexts that help us in understanding life. There is a great variety of literary work that one can read in order to acquire a certain level of understanding life as we have mentioned before; in this essay though we have decided to focus on two very influential readings in the prism of literature. The first one being that by Confucius entitled Analects and the second reading by Machiavelli entitled The Prince. We will be trying to compare the two authors based on different themes and concepts; but before doing that we must acquire a certain level of background about both the two authors and the two readings.…

    • 2672 Words
    • 11 Pages
    Powerful Essays
  • Better Essays

    This paper examines St. Augustine’s view on evil. St. Augustine believed that God made a perfect world, but that God's creatures turned away from God of their own free will and that is how evil originated in the world. Augustine assumes that evil cannot be properly said to exist at all, he argues that the evil, together with that suffering which is created as punishment for sin, originates in the free nature of the will of all creatures. According to Augustine, God has allowed evil to exist in the world because it does not conflict with his righteousness. He did not create evil but is also not a victim of it. He simply allows it to exist.…

    • 1756 Words
    • 8 Pages
    Better Essays
  • Good Essays

    St Augustine described evil as the ‘privati boni’ (the absence of the good) and Iago…

    • 739 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Powerful Essays

    Machiavelli as a Humanist

    • 1899 Words
    • 8 Pages

    A humanist is defined as one who is concerned with the interests and welfare of humans. Niccolo’ Machiavelli can be thought of as a humanist. Although opinions on this differ greatly depending on whom you speak with. Machiavelli’s life consists of so many examples and lessons that he has learned throughout his life. Through my paper, I intend to examine his perception of morality based on his political writings and life experiences.…

    • 1899 Words
    • 8 Pages
    Powerful Essays
  • Good Essays

    Augustine then moves onto the subject of evil, he found the subject of evil particularly evil as he thought it appears to surround us and is dangerous. It can hurt us physically but can also cause people to doubt God’s existence. His response to the problem is the traditionally accepted one. Unlike Irenaeus he did not think that god was responsible but thought that evil is privation of good, which means that it is a lack of good and in turn meaning it is not a substance, but an absence. To illustrate this he uses the analogy of blindness, the actual blindness is not an entity in itself but an absence of sight. However, because evil is a lack of good they still must have some good within them, even Satan. This then poses the question, how did good leave certain things. According to…

    • 1230 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    Augustine carries on and states that evil comes from free will beings who turned their back on God, which means that God granted us free will due to omnibenevolence and therefore he gave beings to make their own choices meaning that we are entitled to choose between right and wrong. Augustine considers the idea that Jesus was sent to redeem us from our sins, providing us a second chance as well as an opportunity to change ourselves and become one with God. Augustine’s…

    • 998 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    Human nature is defined by interpersonal relationships rather than communities. Machiavelli bases his political theories on these relationships. The Prince’s central message is the importance of a ruler’s relationship with his subjects. When discussing cruelty and clemency, Machiavelli explicitly characterizes the relationship between ruler and subject as “friendship” or “hatred” (Prince, Chapter 17). When he does advocate for…

    • 695 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Better Essays

    In St. Augustine's book entitled Political Writings, one could see that Christianity plays a very important role in his view of politics. His opinion on the morality or lack of morality in politics, to me makes it more evident that Christianity persuades his views. Although it seems his writings have become quite well known and admired, not everyone fully shared his beliefs. Niccolo Machiavelli, for instance, seemed to believe in a government that was not driven by morality, but more by practicality. In, The Prince, Machiavelli stresses that the moral fibers of government should not be so soft. Like St. Augustine, his work went on to become one of the most famous books ever written about politics. Throughout the two works there are some similarities and differences regarding politics, however it their view of Christianity and morality that many find most intriguing.…

    • 1396 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Better Essays
  • Good Essays

    Machiavelli's The Prince

    • 1518 Words
    • 7 Pages

    Is a just person the best choice for a ruler; many philosophers have laid out different ways in which they believe a society should be ran whether it be a single ruler such as a prince or multiple rulers like philosophy kings. Machiavelli intended for a society/principality to be ruled a strong ruler whether he be just or unjust, moral or immoral; whereas Plato believed for a society to work a just ruler such as the philosopher kings along with its other social counterparts was the perfect society. This paper intends to show how a just ruler was not something Machiavelli saw as pertinent to a society's survival whereas Plato deemed it to be at necessary for order and efficiency and for a city to work.…

    • 1518 Words
    • 7 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Satisfactory Essays

    There is only one reason that human history is filled with violence and controversy. This is because people were inherently evil. Machiavelli’s view of humanity is of a society full of selfish individuals who would choose success for themselves over the success of someone they love. His society however, was much different from the society we live in today. In his era, most regions were rule by single individuals or family lines which used cruelty and fear to keep their people in line. In our current era the use of democratic forms of government have become a symbol of political evolution and progress for human rights. Democratic systems of government did not rise in popularity until after Machavelli’s time, and so this is why he denied their…

    • 253 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Satisfactory Essays