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Corruption is essentially the abuse of power by individuals in powerful positions (Minter 13). The corruption that exists among powerful officials is informed by various philosophies that have emerged in the course of history. Some of the philosophers that have perpetuated some aspect of corruption include Socrates a man known for upholding his principles and being an ideal citizen of Athens. This was a period after Athens worn a battle against the Persians that marked the beginning of the golden age of Athens. He is famous for being wise and upholding moral values such as obedience to the law. Machiavelli was another controversial philosopher who is renowned for his books, one of them, The Prince that is a guide for princes on how to maintain their power and leadership. The two had contradicting opinions on violence, and the aim of the paper is to unravel the strengths and weaknesses in their philosophies in a bid to understand which is more corrupting.
Strengths of Machiavelli’s position on violence
Machiavelli is one of the political thinkers famous for advocating for violence as a mode of leadership. One of his most famous opinions is the justification of the means by the result achieved. This concept urges citizens and leaders to engage in any possible means to achieve a better society. As long as the result is a better society then the means is justified. During the colonial times, the host country citizens were oppressed and the colonizers exploited their country resources. The formation of resistance movements that adopted violent means in most countries led to the colonizers leaving. This lead to better societies by which citizens were responsible for their countries’ leadership and use of their resources. The position proposed by Machiavelli was very influential in formation of the resistance movements that used violence to chase the colonizers from their countries.
We can do it today.
Weakness of Machiavelli’s position on violence
Many leaders have established dictator leaderships using the opinion by Machiavelli on use of violence to coerce respect and fear from the citizens. Muammar Gaddafi who was among the longest serving leaders in history led Libya using Machiavelli’s recommended ways. Citizens in Libya under his leadership had no say and were obliged to serve him in any way he required. There were prisons where he ordered any opposition to be tortured. He also initiated development projects that would be revolutionary not only for Libya but for the African continent. Fear and love were the main components of his leadership and this is why he ruled for a very long time without much opposition. His rule is an example of the many dictatorial states that were and are still present in the world.
The nonviolent stands proposed by Socrates have helped maintain peace in the world. Violence leads to more violence, the use of critique and dialogue to resolve issues have helped maintain peace in the world since the World War 2.
Weaknesses of Socrates position
Socrates was a huge advocate of obedience and non-violence. He proposed the rule of a society by the most knowledgeable, those that possess a complete understanding of themselves. He is also a major advocate of nonviolence, the use of peaceful reviewing of the forms of leadership. This line of thought is what led to the colonization of most countries by the European countries. It is said that the sun never set on the British Empire, meaning that they had territories all over. They viewed themselves superior to everyone else in the world and made it their responsibility spread civilization. The citizens of the colonized countries did not resist must since they viewed them as more knowledgeable. Most were also not that violent in nature and that led to their exploitation.
Morality as a way to prevent corruption
Violence in this context can be considered as harm towards an individual and his property. According to Socrates, violence is a sin even against one’s parents and is far greater to the country. (Rostbøll 4) This is a form of condemnation to violence rejecting it as a means to achieve anything in society. Socrates was an ethical man basing his arguments on ethics and morals. Violence is considered unethical and against the standardized morals in the society. This is contrary to Machiavelli’s argument documented in the prince, where he opines that the result justifies the means used (Minter 28). This refers to situations where immoral acts are necessary to achieve a better society. According to him, leaders should in any activities disregarding the morality to achieve the preferred model of society. This justifies the killing of rebels and opposition so that a leader can maintain his position in power. Socrates is no supporter of violence, in fact, he rejects any form of violence in the society conversely, Machiavelli advocates for violence as a means to achieve a better type of society, the end justifies the means. Nicollo Machiavelli is not considered a moral philosopher (Minter 32).
Socrates does not support democracy or tyranny rather he recommends an administration by the most intellect in the society. This would mean a just system and proper rules and regulations that would help maintain an ideal community that is obedient to the placed regulations. This form of society does not recommend violence since citizens are blindly obedient to the set laws (Rosano 452). The prince was a letter to the various leaders on how to maintain their power by use of fear and respect (Minter 31) as indicated in the book leaders should be concerned with maintaining love and fear from the citizens. This influences most leaders to involve in specific forms of violence to influence fear among the citizens. This would be informed of the killing of rebels or opposition people, also adequately exercised violence with an extent of sparkle should be used to impress power of the ruler on the people. Machiavelli’s proposed means of maintaining a state by use of violence are in contrast with Socrates knowledge-based system of leadership that leads to an obedient and subordination form the citizens.
Forms of opposition
During Socrates time there was a tyranny rule that included his friend Crito that responded to opposition by confiscating their property and condemning most of them to death. According to him, this was wrong, and he openly criticized to this form of rule, which includes some of the reasons for his death. This implies that he was against violence against individuals, but the way to deal with it was by openly commenting on the leadership without violating the laws of the land. (Rosano 452) In The Prince chapter xvii, there is consideration of types of combat necessary in society. War is considered extensively as a means to achieve the overall benefit of the community. Combat is described as the absolute apex of violence that is a necessary evil in the society. Therefore, Machiavelli does not support violence rather he proposes the use of violence as a means of achieving sanity in society. He also describes the natural desire of acquisition in the society that necessitates the use of violence to acquire more for oneself. In the political realm, the natural desire of acquisition makes leaders seek more territory that leads to wars to benefit himself and the community.
In conclusion, it is evident that Machiavelli does not only support violence rather he proposes its use in maintaining the society. His advice to leaders on the use of violence to acquire more territories and maintaining these territories is evident in the book. He also indicates in the book that there is a natural desire for acquisition. Getting more for oneself would ultimately mean use of violence. His arguments in the book are a form of justified violence since he advised leaders to ensure that there is a sense of fear and respect, the best way to do this would be the use of violence. However, Socrates proposes a rule by the most knowledgeable in the society, those with the greatest virtues and a complete understanding of themselves. This rule would be supported by the formation of just rules that are fair to the society, which would mean complete obedience to the placed rules in the society. He condemns disobedience to a state that one formed a social contract with indicating that there is an obligation to obey the laws set by the state. He dismisses the use of violence saying that one must not avenge when wronged (Rostbøll 3.) The use of violence is a corruption to ideal societal values in this case Machiavelli’s opinions are a proposal to the use of violence hence more corrupting.
- Disobedience, Civil, and Christian Rostbøll. “Violence, Non-Violence, or Nothing: Analyzing the Methods of Non-Traditional Participation.”
- Minter, Adam. “Machiavelli, violence, and history.” The Harvard Review of Philosophy 2.1 (1992): 25-32.
- Rosano, Michael J. “Citizenship and Socrates in Plato’s Crito.” The Review of politics 62.3 (2000): 451-477.