• dclements
    227
    While Machiavellianism is usually either frowned upon and/or found to be ..unsettling most members of the philosophy community as well as the public at large the concepts and the tactics taught by such a system of belief are more or less still being employed by those who have power as well as those who wish to obtain it.

    Although I personally find Machiavellianism distasteful I realize it is often closer to the truth than I want to believe and regardless of anything else it serves as a counter weight against beliefs that can be too idealistic. I often wonder if too many people were machiavellianistic , selfish, overly competitive, etc. that society might collapse and that would mean that such beliefs could be counter productive, but I guess that could be said of any religion or beliefs in certain situations.

    At any rate I wonder if anyone on the forum as any input on this issue. For example, it seems that nobody wants to fight in large world wide conventional wars like WW II anymore, but the major powers in the world seem to either be always involved a small scale conflict and/or participating in aggressive posturing/brinkmanship to better their own nationalistic agendas and/or profits for them and their supporters.
  • ernestm
    414
    that is the second topic ever written about in Western political philosophy, and this is pretty much the standard discussion of it within the last century.

    http://www.jstor.org/stable/4181704?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents
  • dclements
    227
    that is the second topic ever written about in Western political philosophy, and this is pretty much the standard discussion of it within the last century.

    http://www.jstor.org/stable/4181704?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents
    ernestm
    I think I agree with Socrates analysis in that "raw power/desire" isn't always the BEST way to resolve what should and shouldn't be done, but there needs to be some kind of temperance of one kind or another to better understand what OUGHT to be done. Or another way to put it, raw power+nothing= less power when compared to power+temperance. It is the same as the idea as a battle or war will not always go to the country with more men and resources but instead it MAY go to the country who is best able to use such resources.

    But Machiavelli already takes this into account when he talks about two aspects of the prince needs to take on: the first one is a gentle and kind person he portrays to the general public and the other one is described as the "fox"/animal which is the one who..is willing to break a few eggs to make an omelette so to speck. If you have the first without the second the prince is either a fool and/or just another pleb an may not have what it takes to rule. If they are the second without the first they become monster and too much of a threat so others who will likely work together to bring them down.

    But other than that what are you own opinions on this subject? Since we are discussing "morality" and what are the proper judgement calls to make your opinion is likely just as valuable as the people your quoting. :D
  • ernestm
    414
    My own opinion, which I dont think counts for much, is that it is rather pointless to argue philosophically when someone has a gun pointed to your head, so from an academic stance, its rather pointless saying anything more about it than Socrates does, and I dont really regard Machiavelli as much more significant, philosophically, than Mark Twain. That is, one may find his rhetoric engaging, but as there is no metaphysical grounds for his view, it doesn't really amount to much more than a polemic.
  • dclements
    227
    My own opinion, which I dont think counts for much, is that it is rather pointless to argue philosophically when someone has a gun pointed to your head, so from an academic stance, its rather pointless saying anything more about it than Socrates does, and I dont really regard Machiavelli as much more significant, philosophically, than Mark Twain. That is, one may find his rhetoric engaging, but as there is no metaphysical grounds for his view, it doesn't really amount to much more than a polemic.ernestm

    Well I guess I agree that having an academic discussion with someone pointing a gun to your head will not work: unless perhaps you are someone like Samuel Jackson in Pulp Fiction.

    In order to understand your position better could you specify the certain ideals of Socrates you are referring to? I have not had a lot of experience with either ancient and/or Greek philosophy so my knowledge of it is a bit limited.
  • ernestm
    414
    Well, the first stage is splitting the argument of Thrasymachus into the view of the governor and governed. Socrates points out that they will not agree with each other on what justice should be. He then argues that justice is an ideal principle that should be the same for all, whether they are those in power or those who are governed. That was the first assumption, and most people through time have decided that was right.

    When challenged with how people know what such law should be, Socrates later said some people discover it by finding a state of internal harmony. the test of whether the knowledge is true is whether the inner harmony results in outer harmony, which can only be known to those who are by nature philosophers. That was his second assumption, and over time most people have decided that was wrong, but as Plato wrote, only a few people ever discover that, so that was in fact in agreement with what Socrates actually said too.

    Socrates' own conclusions as to an ideal political system were however based on everyone accepting that philosophers were wise enough to know when inner and outer harmony are achieved. That has not been shown the case, because people who are not philosophers, as per Socrates' definition, assert that they are, but disagree with Socrates. So the system failed on that case. And that is a very rough summary of the Platonic view on politics.
  • unenlightened
    3.5k
    It is not a law of the universe that good will prevail. On the contrary, the greedy, the violent, the selfish, generally run rings round the kind, the generous the, peaceable. But this does not make evil good, or vice a virtue.
  • ernestm
    414
    Well, Dawkins wrote a very good counter to that in his book the 'selfish gene,' and it is very easy to read, one can pretty well read it in a day, and it will make you feel much better about the world, really, it is quite brilliant, I greatly recommend it.
  • dclements
    227
    Well, the first stage is splitting the argument of Thrasymachus into the view of the governor and governed. Socrates points out that they will not agree with each other on what justice should be. He then argues that justice is an ideal principle that should be the same for all, whether they are those in power or those who are governed. That was the first assumption, and most people through time have decided that was right.

    When challenged with how people know what such law should be, Socrates later said some people discover it by finding a state of internal harmony. the test of whether the knowledge is true is whether the inner harmony results in outer harmony, which can only be known to those who are by nature philosophers. That was his second assumption, and over time most people have decided that was wrong, but as Plato wrote, only a few people ever discover that, so that was in fact in agreement with what Socrates actually said too.

    Socrates' own conclusions as to an ideal political system were however based on everyone accepting that philosophers were wise enough to know when inner and outer harmony are achieved. That has not been shown the case, because people who are not philosophers, as per Socrates' definition, assert that they are, but disagree with Socrates. So the system failed on that case. And that is a very rough summary of the Platonic view on politics.
    ernestm

    I believe that most plebs have agreed that justice should be equal for all, however this is not the case for those who have power and can use it in order for themselves to get some leverage. In George Orwell's "Animal Farm" the animals come up with the phrase "All animals are equal", which is then changed to "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others." when the pigs secure their position of power. The "Animal Farm" I believe is a commentary of the state of society as well as a bit about the human condition.

    Whether or nor there can be "justice" when the plebs believe (or forced to believe) in it, but those in power use their resources to circumvent it is debatable. However I believe it is at least noteworthy to point out the why it may be true that "majority" of people may respect the idea of justice, the people with power (and perhaps the only one's who CAN choose to accept or reject justice) more often than not reject the idea of justice when it suits their needs and undermines any justice that may of been had. Which also undermines the whole theory of most people CHOOSING to accept justice be dished out equally, although it doesn't completely undermine it and is more of just an issue with the idea.

    If the first principle is undermined then it is unlikely that the others would be obeyed either. I think it is kind of a mixed result because there is no standard definition of a "philosopher" as it is not a title that anyone can give themselves. There are those of us who study philosophy and perhaps write about it, but try to avoid claiming to be a "philosopher" as it is only something that someone can say that you are and not something you can declare yourself to be.

    However even if those in power don't always use philosophers, they do employ advisers who sort of fill a potential position for a philosopher. Also some people in power choose to either be educated or learn enough to be a philosopher themselves, but I'm sure this is not the same thing as getting council by a philosopher. Whether or not advisers or being educated/self-taught are "close enough" to having advice from real philosophers (since rulers even before Socrates's time already used these tactics), I thought it is worth mentioning that although they may not use actual "philosophers" it isn't true that they don't use anyone who fills a sort of similar capacity when those in power rely on some kind of adviser who is often an expert in one or more fields.

    Socrates ideals work when people more or less have no choice but to accept them, but doesn't work so well when people have a chance at of creating double standards for their own advantage.Whatever this means if one was to compare what Socrates believes when compared to what Machiavelli says, I leave that to you and anyone reading this to decide.
  • dclements
    227
    It is not a law of the universe that good will prevail. On the contrary, the greedy, the violent, the selfish, generally run rings round the kind, the generous the, peaceable. But this does not make evil good, or vice a virtue.unenlightened
    Agreed

    On the other forum account I had as one of my quotes on my footer the following

    “Virtue itself turns vice, being misapplied,
    And vice sometime by action dignified.” ― William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

    Virtue blindly followed can become vice if one isn't careful, and vice when used properly or the right time could be acceptable (even if it isn't virtuous). I wish I could find the quote I'm looking for where
    Kierkegaard mentions that certain ethical choices are like "walking a tight rope", but I was unable to do so at the moment. I guess that I can leave it at that simply doing 'good' or 'evil' actions themselves are either 'good'/'evil' but it is the context that such actions on done that determines such things; and unfortunately we are not always privy to which is which under every circumstance.

    If you ever seen the movie "Primer" (where two guys invent and create a time machine in their own lab), who decide to use their time machines under certain rules and end up having to break their rules as well as their friendship in order to do what they felt was "right" even if it wasn't what was ideal for either of them. I guess such a dilemma is a situation where normal ethics don't really work, and instead they end up having to walk Kierkegaard's tight rope between ethics and faith, or perhaps something else.
  • mcdoodle
    998
    Well, Dawkins wrote a very good counter to that in his book the 'selfish gene,' and it is very easy to read, one can pretty well read it in a day, and it will make you feel much better about the world, really, it is quite brilliant, I greatly recommend it.ernestm

    What do you think Dawkins was countering? His was hardly a work of philosophy let alone of ethics.

    The modern world is full of apologias for selfishness, especially 'enlightened' (ha!) self-interest. The primary one for me was Mandeville's Fable of the Bees, an 18th century explication (in verse) of how the morality of the self-centred dandy and self-admiring narcissist lay at the core of modern enterprise, i.e. how vice has become purported virtue in the modern age. It was recommended by Joan Robinson, an armchair Communist and economist at Cambridge, who lectured me in my youth, as the ethical key to capitalism.
  • unenlightened
    3.5k
    Socrates ideals work when people more or less have no choice but to accept them, but doesn't work so well when people have a chance at of creating double standards for their own advantage.dclements

    Mariner on the old forum explained this rather well in religious terms. If goodness was always rewarded and evil always punished, then it would be mere selfishness to be good, and even evil people would be good. It is the business of government to try and arrange things in this way, so that there is less evil in the world, but it is not natural, or God's will. God will not purchase our virtue by bribery, nor compel it with punishment. The law of nature is that the scum always floats to the top, and the precious metals sink to the bottom.
  • ernestm
    414
    gee I,m sorry you didn't like it. It seems to me the hawks and doves model is a rather strong refutation of your position.
  • unenlightened
    3.5k
    Whatever gives you that idea?
  • jkop
    533
    If might makes right, then even wrong is "right" if might makes it so: anything goes.

    Unsurprisingly it can be in the interest of the mighty and their lackeys to make everyone believe that might makes right, as a means to maintain their might.

    Another kind of might, however, is the might of being right: when right makes might.
  • JJJJS
    207
    The law of nature is that the scum always floats to the top, and the precious metals sink to the bottom

    The scum has all the precious metals so that means everything is at the top

    ... or at the bottom
  • Ashwin Poonawala
    54


    Let us address the most basic issue.

    The only reason I ponder over definitions and meaning is to learn. The reason I wish to learn is to gain more control over my affairs. The reason I want to control my affairs is to become happier. So in the end my purpose is to be more happy.

    When a person, greedy for wealth or power puts me into a disadvantage position, I have no control over his attitude. But whether I do such things to others, when I have the opportunity, is the question in front of me. Would my greed add to my happiness, or subtracts from it?

    We all know that fear reduces happiness. Now, greed is the flipside of fear. It is fear of not having enough. What we feel is what we become. Nursing the fear of future increases it. A gain of million makes us feel bigger, in that, we could buy more than before. Once we test the fruit of the million, we may want to get ten million, and then a hundred, and so on. You see, greed is a fire that spreads as we feed it. Once we get enough for sustenance, to crave for more makes us unhappy. This does not mean that we reject what comes over way in the rightful manner. But greed makes us deceitful. Deceit results from fear.

    "Do unto others as you would have done unto you' are not just empty words. What goes around does come around. Arrogance always outreaches it self in the end, bringing misery.
  • Ashwin Poonawala
    54
    Foot Note:

    Machiavellianism made Europe hungry for power, culminating into devastating world wars, which basically produced nothing but losers. The greed sent them conquering the world, to acquire wealth and resources. That made the left-out belligerent nations (Germany. Italy, Etc.) feared the winners in the game. In the game of greed, all involved lose.
  • ernestm
    414
    What do you think Dawkins was countering? His was hardly a work of philosophy let alone of ethics.mcdoodle

    This was a much earlier work of Dawkins. I did eventually find the model for the interaction on the Wikipedia:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolutionary_game_theory#Hawk_Dove
  • dclements
    227
    Mariner on the old forum explained this rather well in religious terms. If goodness was always rewarded and evil always punished, then it would be mere selfishness to be good, and even evil people would be good. It is the business of government to try and arrange things in this way, so that there is less evil in the world, but it is not natural, or God's will. God will not purchase our virtue by bribery, nor compel it with punishment. The law of nature is that the scum always floats to the top, and the precious metals sink to the bottom.unenlightened

    That is of course assuming that there is a "God" as well as assuming that is his will in which neither one is really a given when one considers all the other potential possibilities. Also IF God exists and what Mariner says is true then morality is merely "arbitrary" then even following God's will is neither here nor there, because God happens to be bi-polar and some days decides to punish those that wish to obey him and reward those that rebel and other days vice versa. It is also ironic that supposedly he didn't wish to reward those that tried to make morality consistent yet that is EXACTLY what he happened to do with science making it so that people that can follow the rules of SCIENCE be able to get whatever rewards they they need IF the obey the rules of nature and physics well enough to build factories and what not if one tires of having to pray to a God who one moment wants you to pray to him and the next minute will punish you for doing so.

    Or maybe the whole bi-polar God thing is just an excuse created centuries ago in order to deal with questions and issues that where to complex at the time, and they merely left it at that because it was too difficult to accept that the world , as well as morality, is often FAR more complicated than we wish it to be. Although when I think about it, having to deal with either a very, very complicated universe or a bi-polar/mad God neither option sounds that great. Perhaps it is best for me to just leave this post with Nietzsche's "fellow creators" quote since I'm sure he was able to put it into words more eloquently than I can:


    "Companions the creator seeks, not corpses, not herds and believers. Fellow creators the creator seeks -- those who write new values on new tablets. Companions the creator seeks, and fellow harvesters; for everything about him is ripe for the harvest." ― Friedrich Nietzsche
  • unenlightened
    3.5k
    That is of course assuming that there is a "God"dclements

    Well not really, it's just a convenient way of putting it - rephrase it all in terms of nature if you like. The point is, if crime didn't pay, criminals wouldn't commit it; if kindness was rewarded, they'd do that instead.

    It is also ironic that supposedly he didn't wish to reward those that tried to make morality consistent yet that is EXACTLY what he happened to do with science making it so that people that can follow the rules of SCIENCE be able to get whatever rewards they they needdclements

    Well that explains why morality is not science or economics. There is no choice about the rules of science, step off a cliff, and you will obey the law of gravity - believe it or not.
  • Harry Hindu
    1.8k
    Does might make right? That depends on what you mean by "right".

    Someone can point a gun at me and give me the choice of accepting that the Earth is flat or not, killing me if I say the Earth is round. But that doesn't make them right - just someone who is wrong that happens be holding a gun.

    This idea of "might makes right" only becomes a dilemma for those that believe that the power behind a belief is more than the actual relationship between the belief and the way things actually are.

    Truth cannot be realized by means of tradition, authority or revelation - only by logic and reason.
  • dclements
    227
    If might makes right, then even wrong is "right" if might makes it so: anything goes.

    Unsurprisingly it can be in the interest of the mighty and their lackeys to make everyone believe that might makes right, as a means to maintain their might.

    Another kind of might, however, is the might of being right: when right makes might.
    jkop

    That's a little too simplistic as well. If one has might that makes them right, right up to the point when when an angry lynch mob has MORE MIGHT and and gets a hold of your sorry backside and strings you up, at which point THEY ARE RIGHT. Or as some people sometimes put it, live by the sword - die by the sword. Which may (or may not) be the best circumstance given certain situations.

    I think you have to elaborate as to how "right makes might", since in my experience might can take many forms and although might obviously "makes might", it is in no way a given that right does unless one is using the would "right" as a synonym for one of the various forms of might; such as I used for the lynch mob; which of course may or may not actually be 'right' under various circumstances.
  • dclements
    227
    Well not really, it's just a convenient way of putting it - rephrase it all in terms of nature if you like. The point is, if crime didn't pay, criminals wouldn't commit it; if kindness was rewarded, they'd do that instead.unenlightened

    I think I can sort of agree, every person in their own way does what they think is right (criminals committing crimes to punish the weaker and/or strong for whatever reasons, and the valuables they steal is their just payment for the work/risks they take) as well as people NOT being kind because they feel that such actions will likely create more problems as well. However this begs the question as to whether this is the will of God or if it is caused by nature.

    To this I have something I like to call the virus theory in that the perceive/moral agent can never know whether their actions are really "good" or "bad" but still has to be moral agent of some sort. The idea is that since life itself is dependent on DNA/RNA but errors with some of these slices of code are the cause of viruses (ie the DNA/RNA and their duplication mechanisms have no idea of what they are for other than a cells duplication mechanisms knows in it's own way that it is their job to duplication certain part of the DAN/RNA code to support a cells function) it stands to reason that beyond a certain threshold we can only speculate as to what certain unknown knowns and unknown unknowns mean and we are unable to really account for such things. That plus human fallibility as well as the human condition as well should be enough to give most human beings pause in deciding what their actions should be, given of course said person knowns enough about such issues and has time to pause while making a decision.

    I think Kierkegaard referred to this as part of the reason man is afraid/does not want his own freedom is at any moment the could become "unhinged" for whatever reason and become a Frankenstein type monster, just as Bruce Banner would change into the Hulk when he got too angry/stressed out. I think many people would be more than willing to sell their souls and/or whatever they can do to make the world a better place, but at the same time they are hindered at the idea as what they may become once they step outside of the world they are use to and potentially becoming some kind of monster that they fear if they for some reason are ungrounded.

    I don't know if this is the same thing as you are referring to as God not making it easy to know what is or isn't God's will but from what understand of the bible, God gave Abraham one of the greatest trials he could give a human being and from what I understand about what you are saying and from the things I just said, these things more or less apply the same way to the ordeal that Abraham went through.

    Well that explains why morality is not science or economics. There is no choice about the rules of science, step off a cliff, and you will obey the law of gravity - believe it or not.unenlightened

    Or it could also mean we are still too ignorant for it to be used as we would like science. At the moment "We do what we do, because that is the way that we do it" (ie. morality is somewhat arbitrary in regard to certain issues), but THEORETICALLY at least if we had better understanding of our universe and a better hedonistic calculus/game theory to work off of perhaps we could do a little better. Perhaps Nietzsche said it best with this quote:

    ""Man is a rope, tied between beast and overman--a rope over an abyss...
    What is great in man is that he is a bridge and not an end: what can be loved in man is that he is an overture and a going under..." --Nietzsche

    We may not be the end process of that which has come before us, but hopefully we will all for something to come after which will be able to overcome SOME of our shortfalls to some degree. Of course, this is not a given either but merely a hope.
  • jkop
    533
    I think you have to elaborate as to how "right makes might", since in my experience might can take many formsdclements

    Sure, for example, when the explanatory power of an argument trumps someone's will power, then right makes might.
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    739

    Does might make right? It depends if you are asking with respect to description or prescription. A descriptive statement is simply saying what is, making a mere observation. A prescriptive statement is saying what ought to be.

    Machiavellianism is correct as a description of human history, as you pointed out; but it is wrong as a prescription for moral behaviour, because it violates the golden rule of ethics: do onto others as you want them to do onto you.
  • dclements
    227
    Sure, for example, when the explanatory power of an argument trumps someone's will power, then right makes might.jkop
    But even if the "explanatory power of an argument trumps someone's will power" that DOESN'T mean it is a GIVEN that it WILL be ENOUGH to overcome one's INDIFFERENCE AND/OR IGNORANCE.

    Yes, under certain conditions the ability for one to be diplomatic and persuasive can be used INSTEAD of BRUTE force, but it isn't a given that it can ALWAYS be used instead. As Ted Roosevelt was know for saying "I speak softly, but carry a big stick" (ie I can use words or force depending on what is required for a situation). However this is merely a FORM of MACHIAVELLIAN ideals and not something to replace them.

    Big Stick ideology
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Stick_ideology

    You see, Machiavellianism ( as well as Sun Tzu's The Art of War) already considers the POSSIBILITY of there being advantages of using diplomacy instead of war because going to war when it isn't needed could be a waste of resources, and the loss of such resources could in theory cause one to not be able to fight ANOTHER conflict if that conflict is unavoidable. However avoiding wars for such reasons isn't about being a NICE guy but more about using cold blooded calculations to maximize one's own security.

    If I'm missing something or my analysis is incorrect please let me know.
  • darthbarracuda
    2.9k
    No, might does not make right, just as having power does not give one authority.
  • dclements
    227
    Does might make right? It depends if you are asking with respect to description or prescription. A descriptive statement is simply saying what is, making a mere observation. A prescriptive statement is saying what ought to be.

    Machiavellianism is correct as a description of human history, as you pointed out; but it is wrong as a prescription for moral behaviour, because it violates the golden rule of ethics: do onto others as you want them to do onto you.
    Samuel Lacrampe
    I like to think of myself as a nice guy and since I was a kid I think I have been taught that it is best to be nice whenever I can, and perhaps sometimes even when it doesn't seem like the best thing for me to do. However I often find myself in situations where other people do not behave the same way and I wonder if it is best to just be an a-hole right back at them, or as they say "when in Rome do as the Romans do" (not that I'm implying that Romans are a-holes or jerks, or at least any more than the rest of us are).

    I guess what I'm getting at is although there are some metrics that can be used to determine what description statement and/or actions are, the same is not true of prescriptive statement and/or actions which are merely arbitrary moral rules/behavior created by society as a sort of "rule of thumb" behavior to deal with the occasional break down of normal communication/negotiations, but are COMPLETELY ineffective when dealing with a there is a total social breakdown, people that wish to use brinkmanship, social manipulators, etc, etc.

    If I'm missing something or you need to elaborate on your previous post let me know.
  • dclements
    227
    No, might does not make right, just as having power does not give one authority.darthbarracuda
    Can you expand on your position more than that in order so we know WHY you disagree instead of merely knowing that you do disagree?
bold
italic
underline
strike
code
quote
ulist
image
url
mention
reveal
youtube
tweet
Add a Comment

Welcome to The Philosophy Forum!

Get involved in philosophical discussions about knowledge, truth, language, consciousness, science, politics, religion, logic and mathematics, art, history, and lots more. No ads, no clutter, and very little agreement — just fascinating conversations.