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ModernThinkers (Machiavelli, Hobbes, and Locke) Vs Ancients Thinkers
Societallife throughout the world is greatly influenced by the politics ofthe state. The Ancient philosophy of Plato and Aristotle has providedbreeding grounds for modern philosophy by Machiavelli Niccolo,Hobbes, and John Locke. This was in a bid to establish which form ofgovernance is more sustainable considering both the leaders and thecitizens. It should be noted that the transition from the ancient tothe modern philosophy was gradual with a few overlaps as well asconcrete differences. Modern philosophy deals with humankind as he isand not how he ought to be in the ideal, as in Plato’s ancientutopian theory. This paper will look into the contributions made byMachiavelli, Hobbes and Locke. Moreover, it will as well lookinto, and enlighten on the divergence between the three theorists.Finally, the paper will look at the relations between ancientphilosophy (philosophers) and modern philosophy (Bosworth, 40).
Machiavelliis one of the most controversial modern philosophers due to his viewson the acquisition and maintenance of the state by use of power. Hedraws his thoughts from history rather than ideal scenarios onpolitics and hence is deemed to have been realistic. According tohim, human beings are self-centered and scheming and thereforeleaders should also use any method to safeguard their position: theend justifies the means. They should strive to be feared than to beloved and thus the Machiavellian theory takes more of a tyrannicalapproach. Machiavelli also emphasizes the importance of war andviolence, that is, he suggests that arms should be above the law.However, according to the ancient philosophy, good laws together withmorality precede authority contrasting the Machiavellian theory whereethics are not to be considered (Hochstrasser& Peter, 2003).
Accordingto Hobbes if there was no system of governance and individualsexisted in the state of nature, it would be impossible to securebasic life requirements. Therefore, men seek the commonwealth toensure protection from war and suffering. This means that the stateof nature, especially when there is scarcity of resources is initself a state of war as each individual is self-interested. Hobbeshas been termed the realist for suggesting that sovereigns exist inrespect to one another and civil wars are worse than being undersovereign rule. Hobbes regarded all individuals as equal, subject todominate and capable of dominating. The assumption that men are bornequal is called the individualist liberal theory. This is in contrastwith the ancient philosophy whereby individuals were not equal. Womenwere regarded inferior to men and positions of leadership were forthe elite (Bosworth, 50).
JohnLocke suggests that all men are equal and are governed by naturallaw, which is discovered purely by reason. People move progressivelyfrom the state of nature, by a civil government with legislative andexecutive powers. The main idea of Locke is that for efficientleadership man chooses the sovereign consensually for protection ofproperty life, liberty, and possessions. Unlike the ancientphilosophy in which monarchies were dominant, Locke argues that thereare problems inherent in that system of governance. Another disparityis that ancient philosophy required all men to be subject to thesovereign without question. However, Locke strongly advocates for thepeople’s rights to dissolve the government in cases of breach ofcovenant (Bosworth, 48).
Differencesamong the Modern Theorists
Statecraftversus Social Contract Theory
Theidea that individuals move from the position of nature to one wherethe rights of each are safeguarded collectively is called the socialcontract theory and both Hobbes and Locke portray it. People chooseto stop individual selfish ways of living and enter into a socialcontract where they live in peace with each other. Although bothHobbes and Locke believe in the social contract theory, there are afew differences in their explanations. While Hobbes argues that astate of nature would lead to war, Locke is more positive aboutcoexistence in the same state and hence has been displayed as anoptimist. In terms of protection of property, Hobbes argues that acentral sovereign is necessary. On the other hand, Locke argues thatpower should be separated into the legislature and the executive sothat the sovereign is not so supreme such that it is above the law(Bosworth, 55).
Machiavelliadvices leaders not to follow conventional qualities for which,people has good reputation as it is often essential to act againsttheir favor. When possible they should observe these virtues,however, they must be ready to initiate necessary evil referred to asthe Machiavellian virtues. This is called the moral dilemma ofstatecraft. While Machiavelli advocates that power should be imposedin a manipulative way, both Locke and Hobbes concur that power shouldonly be exercised with the consent of the people for protection ofproperty as a whole (Kateb, 1002).
Machiavelliis seen as a critique of Christianity as he advocated for theambition and the pursuit of glory as part of prudence and virtue. Heused these terms ironically to encourage men especially leaders seekfortunes so as to shape their future hence he is regarded as amaterialist. Machiavelli also regarded Christianity as a drawback asit stops human beings from being actively involved in politics andthe civil life. Hobbes work portrays religion as a social factor,which affects the political movement negatively. Hobbes was thereforea humanist who in his philosophy advocated for civil religion(Nichols,2001).Locke on the other hand, insists that true Christianity is reflectedin charity, meekness and goodwill toward all men includingnon-Christians. Locke believes that true religion should be in linewith natural law, that is, natural law gives rise to divine law.Whereas the natural law is comprehensible to all by pure reasoning,divine law is only for those whom God’s special revelation is upon(Kateb, 1002).
Principlesof Modern Philosophy
Modernphilosophers, including Machiavelli, Locke and Hobbes show certainsimilarities in their explanation of political philosophy and how itcame to be. Though they are considered modern, it would be impossibleto overrule the fact that all of them borrowed from the ancientphilosophers. They referred to some of their works to come up withcertain propositions and sometimes agreed with them. Plato andMachiavelli both believed that positions of leadership were for a fewchosen people with Machiavelli writing that princes were rarelyhistorically. Locke’s principles are also in line with Aristotle inthat they both believe in good laws as a firm foundation for thestate and are important in avoiding tyrannical leadership (Nichols,2001).
However,Machiavelli, Hobbes, and Locke as modern philosophers show similarityin that they use historical and realistic phenomena to develop theirtheories. This is unlike the ancient philosophers who normally useideals to formulate theories. These ideals are rare if in existencebecause every society has challenges. Therefore, the modernphilosophers give a more practical way in which to deal withchallenges in running the affairs of a society.
Themodern philosophers are also the first to deal with politicalphilosophy by investigating individualism and consent in politicallife. This is especially so for Locke and Hobbes, who were pioneersin giving individuals a voice in the running of political affairs.Machiavelli as a intermediary figure connecting the early and modernphilosophy, concentrates more on the leader’s well being more thanthat of individuals subject to him. He advocates for the illegitimateuse of power as a means to an end and hence for him individualismshould be emphasized on the leader.
Thethree philosophers (Machiavelli,Hobbes and Locke),are mostly regarded as the modern philosophers. All the three areentitled to dealing with the man as he is aspects such as rational,self interest and not how men should to be. Reasons behind them beingtermed as modern include the aspects such as their idea to look intodistinctivenessand approval in political life. One of their key and majorcontribution as well as a difference from the ancients is the factthat, they have insisted that, men are born the same (equal), andthis has in turn positioned the stage for the grow of contemporaryindividualist liberal theory. The modern philosophers have sharedmore ideas with the ancient ones than the ones they are credited foras their contribution. This has in turn led to the notion that, thephilosophers are not modern as such, however, their contribution hasnoteworthy among people in the society, and hence the name modern(Nichols,2001).
Politicalphilosophy is a progressive discipline, which is complex and dynamic.Although there are more recent works on the topic, the ancient andmodern philosophies have played a major role in steering certainregimes. Locke has been credited for his devotion to the rise ofsmall governments due to the optimistic nature of his theory. Hobbeshas been highly credited for coming up with the social contracttheory, which gives people the right to decide their government andto protect their liberty. On the other hand, Machiavelli has helpedunderstand the working of tyrannies by exposing or giving guidelineson how to operate to maintain power and sovereignty.
Theprinciples each of these three philosophers hold are highly relevantto our society today. They differ to some extent from the ancientphilosophies. However, the ancient philosophers laid a firmfoundation for reference. Despite there being a difference in timebetween the ancient and the modern thinkers, their contribution hasbeen immense in people’s lives. It’s clear that both sets ofthinkers have some aspects that they share or agree on. Numerouspeople has fall out on the idea that, the three modern philosophersmade an important and vital crack with the early philosophers,however, in my opinion, some of the mystery behind the famous ancientPlato and Aristotle continued and formed basis for modern theorists.
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Hochstrasser,Tim J, and Peter Schröder. EarlyModern Natural Law Theories: Contexts and
Strategiesin the Early Enlightenment.Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2003. Print.
Kateb,George. "Locke And The Political Origins Of Secularism." SocialResearch 76.4(2009):
1001-1034. AcademicSearch Premier. Web. 22 Nov. 2014.
Nichols,Mary P. Citizensand Statesmen: A Study of Aristotle`s Politics.Lanham: Rowman &
LittlefieldPublishers, 2001. Internet resource.