The autumn leaves are falling like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are always two cups at my table.

T’ang Dynasty poem

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~


Friday, April 29, 2011

Machiavelli

Walter Russel Mead over at StratBlog wrote a very good article on Machiavelli. An excerpt is below. The whole article may be read here.


Stratblog: The Virtues of Machiavelli


Niccolo Machiavelli is one of those rare writers so well known that his name has become an adjective; ‘Machiavellian’ means crafty and ruthless.  And over the centuries, Machiavelli’s most famous book, The Prince, has vexed moralists for its seeming defiance of all moral laws.

The ruler, Machiavelli tells us, must not just learn to do good; he must learn to do evil — and learn to do it well.  It is better, he tells us, to be feared than to be loved.  A ruler must not be afraid to commit atrocities — but he must commit them at the right time so that they will serve their intended purpose.  

It is wise to break promises to the weak, and often necessary for a successful ruler to lie.  It is useless to think of wars as just or unjust — it is only necessary to know when wars can bring success.

Machiavelli has been a scandal for almost 500 years — a shocking contradiction at the heart of the western canon.  A long moral and philosophical tradition going back to the ancient Hebrews and Greeks insists on the opposite: that to do good is to do well.  God will bless those who deal justly and punish those who mistreat their fellow beings.

Since Aristotle tutored Alexander of Macedon, the wise have counseled the great to be good.  Machiavelli says that is all balderdash, and counsels rulers to be devious and ruthless rather than honorable and fair.  He is so shocking that we can’t quite make our peace with him — but also too smart to ignore.

1 comment:

The Accidental Aikidoist said...

I just say to hell with it and just don't do anything that will screw yourself over - be it a "good" decision or a "bad" decision.