Machiavelli: A Cynic?
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Many writings argue that human kind is born capable of evil things or that they are born either good or evil. Machiavelli argues simply that man is self-centered and only after self preservation. He argues that mankind is immoral and greedy. His opinions are apparent as he states, “It may be said of men in general that they are ungrateful, voluble, dissemblers, anxious to avoid danger, and covetous of gain,” in the eighteenth paragraph of The Prince. These thoughts and views have gained him the title of a cynic. More than a cynic however, Machiavelli is but a realist.
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 Machiavellis 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.
When found in a threatening situation, it is only human nature to survive. One would lie, cheat, steal, or hide in order to alleviate the threat. If one were to feel as though they could commit crimes at will, what would stop them? Laws are placed in our world to maintain order amongst all that exist with each other. In the same way that laws instill order, they also instill fear with the promise of repercussions. Repercussions such as imprisonment, monetary fines, and ultimately death aid greatly in controlling the masses. Fear is what gives these governing rules their power and effect. Todays justice system defines crimes that also serve as morals. In the same aspect that people follow laws from feelings of fear, it also benefits one to live