Modern Political Philosophy: Machiavelli and Hobbes
Two of the best known modern philosophers who have taken up questions regarding man and politics or man and his life in civil society are Niccolo Machiavelli and Thomas Hobbes. Machiavelli (1998), writing almost a century before Hobbes, produced in The Prince, a treatise which essentially asserted that morality has little or nothing to do with politics. Hobbes (1994) rejected Aristotle's teleological view of the universe, asserted that human life in the state of nature before the formation of society was harsh and brutal, and further argued in Leviathan that society created the notion of justice, but did not necessarily guarantee that rulers or leaders would behave justly.
The purpose of this essay therefore, is to answer a series of questions regarding Machiavelli's formulation of human nature, virtu, and politics and to assess that theory. Secondly, a discussion of Hobbes' dissatisfaction with Machiavellian political theory and the radicalization of Machiavelli's insights will be provided.
Machiavelli (1998) lived in Renaissance Italy in an era characterized by the competing forces of chaos and corruption on the one hand and an enormous burst of artistic, scientific, and philosophical innovation on the other. In writing The Prince, Machiavelli (1998) offered an important thesis, asserting that there is nothing moral about politics and that the Aristotelian linkage between politics and ethics had no reality in the world as Machiavelli knew it. Indeed, Machiavelli (1998) further argued that despite the fact that Christianity (specifically Roman Catholicism) had become the dominant normative spiritual ethos of Europe, what it presented was an idealized set of virtues that were given lip service rather than true attention.
Machiavelli (1998) further asserted that from time immemorial, rulers who were willing to be ruthless and to use methods that might be conside...