Free «Points of Agreement and Disagreement by Political Theorists Kant and Machiavelli» Essay Sample
Machiavelli advocates for the application of either good or bad qualities based on the prevailing situation. However, the situational application of morality is criticized by Kant. According to Kant, honesty should always be regarded as the best policy regardless of the situation. Kant supports the idea that it is essential to hold the rights of men sacred at all times; politics should be capable of bending its knees before the right (128). Machiavelli provides an example of two types of leaders whose position later led to their downfall. He uses the example of Roman emperors like Commodus and Caracalla to justify that adverse cruelty can lead to leaders’ downfall. At the same time, Machiavelli uses the example of Alexander and Pertinax who refused to indulge the army at the expense of their people due to their good characters. As a result, the leaders’ good characters led to the conspiracy against them. It even became the cause of their deaths. In Chapter 19 of The Prince, Machiavelli states that “hatred is gained as much by good work as by evil” (Macheavelli 71). Thus, Kant and Machiavelli agreed and disagreed on various issues in their political theories.
The idea that Machiavelli advocates for can be compared to Kant’s perception that is communicated in the Appendix to Perpetual Peace in Kant and Beck (370-386). The titles of the appendix give an indication that Kant recognized Machiavelli’s notion but attempted to give it a different look. The two political theorists agree on corruption as a human nature. At the same time, Kant speaks about wickedness as an inherent trait in humans. The theorists also agree on the fact that people act unjustly and wrong not as an indication that they are unaware of justice and morality but due to the fact that they do it despite their knowledge. It is believed that in their private and public relationships men can hardly reject the idea of right or trust themselves (123). The theorists also have a common view that the main reason behind people’s unjust and wrong acts is the perception that they will be subjected to the same kind of treatment. As such, Machiavelli recommends that rulers should not always support their points if they contravene their interests.
Kant disagrees with Machiavellianism in the point where Machiavelli (64) argues that in case all men were good, the precept would not qualify as a good one. Instead, he suggests that men are bad and that they are unlikely to observe their faith with others; hence, it is not an obligation to trust them. According to Kant, people have a moral virtue or duty to keep peace with each other although there are the people who are unlikely to keep faith (122). Based on a Kantian point of view, when it is realized that people are likely to break their contracts, the viable moral reaction is to avoid making contracts with them instead of making the contracts only to break them later. Kant also suggests that people have a moral duty to work so that they could overcome the situations of broken faith. They are expected to have such situations replaced with the ones where everyone holds a reasonable expectation that they will be treated justly by others. Kant has such idea expressed in section 44 of the Doctrine of Right by arguing that people have a responsibility to abandon the state of nature where everyone does what he or she perceives to be right. People should contribute to a civil society by exposing themselves to the external restraint of public compulsory laws. It should be done due to the understanding that man cannot count on anything else but force to establish the judicial condition (118).
Kant’s perception is that the state of nature should not be represented as full of injustice. Instead, it should be characterized by lack of authority that is mandated to facilitate dispute settlement. Besides, Kant recommends that the state of nature should correspond to the situation where no one is secured against violence (97). In such state, people understand what is considered as just but there is no authority that makes people to act in accordance with their notion of justice, other than people’s own consciousness. It means that people are likely to feel a strong temptation to act unjustly if it is believed to benefit them. In case they reach a genuine disagreement about what is just and their interests can hardly be satisfied, it is not possible to solve the situation unless by use of force (118). Kant says that in case such state existed before the existence of the civil society, it was necessary to have it replaced with a civil society in which states are governed by laws. In such situation, the application of force would be limited to situations where its application is deemed necessary to ensure obedience to the law so that to have judicial and moral obligations (131). In a situation where freedom does not exist and where there is no morality that is based on freedom, everything that occurs only occurs by the mechanisms of nature. In such case, politics involves the application of practical wisdom, making the concept of right become an empty thought (119).
In conclusion, Machiavelli agrees with Kant in the perception that it is necessary to have people forced to accept government by law in a state of nature. He also agrees with Kant on the need for some level of cruelty. However, the two vary on the duty of the ruling group or the ruler. According to Machiavelli, it is the responsibility of the ruler to facilitate the existence of order and stability by using any necessary methods either cruel or dishonest. However, Machiavelli is opposed to breaking of faith or needless cruelty. Kant presents two strong arguments against Machiavelli.