Human Nature in The Prince by Machiavelli and Utopia by Thomas More

Human Nature in The Prince by Machiavelli and Utopia by Thomas More

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Human Nature in The Prince by Machiavelli and Utopia by Thomas More

It is difficult to determine Niccolo Machiavelli?s and Thomas More?s view on human?s nature. Each took a different approach to the topic. Through Utopia, Thomas More attempted to change man?s thinking by creating an ideological society. Niccolo Machiavelli, through The Prince, attempted to teach man how to deal with human nature. With this in mind, Machiavelli?s concept is much more realistic than More?s; therefore Machiavelli better represents human nature. Machiavelli?s view of human nature in The Prince, presents, on the surface, a view of governing a state drastically different for his time. Machaivelli believed that the ruling Prince should be the sole authority determining every aspect of the state and put into effect a policy which would serve his best interests. With this, Machiavelli uses the prince as man, and the state as the man?s life. These interests were gaining, maintaining, and expanding his political power. Though in some cases Machiavelli may seem harsh and immoral, one must remember that his views were derived from concern of Italy?s unstable political condition in the 1500s. Machiavelli seems to be teaching the common man how to live his life so that their life is good and prosperous. Machiavelli generally distrusted citizens, stating that ??since men are a sorry lot and will not keep their promises to you, you likewise need not keep yours to them? (Machiavelli 651). Furthermore, ? a prince never lacks legitimate reasons to break his promises? when, ?such an observance of faith would be to his disadvantage; and when the reasons which made him promise are removed? (651). Machiavelli did not feel that a Prince should mistreat the citizens. This suggestion once again to serve the Prince?s best interests. If a Prince can not be both feared and loved, Machiavelli suggests, it would be better for him to be feared by the citizens within his own dogma. He makes the generalization that men are, ?? ungrateful, fickle, simulators and deceivers, avoiders of danger, greedy for gain; and while you work for their good they are yours? (649). He characterizes men as being self-centered and not willing to act in the best interest of the state,? and when it (danger) comes nearer to you they turn away? (649). Machiavelli reinforces the Prince?s need to be feared by stating: ??men are less hesitant about harming someone who makes himself loved than one who makes himself feared?

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? (649). The bond of love is one which men, the wretched creatures they are, break when it is to their advantage to do so; ?? fear is held together by a dread of punishment which will never abandon you?(649). Machiavelli suggests that the key to being a good ?prince,? is deception. ?It is necessary to know how to disguise this nature well and to be a great hypocrite and a liar: and men are so simple-minded and so controlled by their present necessities that one who deceives will always find another who will allow himself to be deceived? (651). Machiavelli states that men judge more, ?with their eyes than with their hands.? And with this Machiavelli claims that, ?everyone sees what you seem to be, few people perceive what you are,? (652) and those who do realize what the Prince is, dare not tell, for the Prince has the power of the masses to protect him. Machiavelli, in a sense, describes how to live, successfully and prosperously, by dealing with the human?s nature. He details how one is to manipulate another?s thought, in order to place oneself in a more respectable position. With this, Machiavelli pronounces human nature to be very cold-blooded, deceiving, self-centered, and most of all temperamental. Thomas More, in Utopia, tried to express that the only way for a better life was through change. More?s key complaints of human nature were greed, power, and pride. More, seemingly, imagined a society, in which these three things no longer existed, believing that they were man?s downfall. The main thought that he attempted to instill in the minds of the English was this: Take a miserable spell of disastrous harvests, when many of thousand of men have passed on in hunger. If at the end of this famine the barns of the rich were searched, surely enough provisions would be found in them to have saved the lives of those who died from starvation and disease, if it had been rationed equally among them. Thusly, the suffering of a bad harvest was unnecessary. So easily might men get the necessities of life if that cursed money, which is supposed to provide access to them were not in fact the chief barrier to our getting what we need to live. With this, More described greed. At first glance, Thomas More?s Utopia appears as a socialist, communist society; however, if Utopia is a truly socialist state, then one can see that oppression is inescapable. It is clear that More attempted to create an egalitarian society to better the people as a whole, and not individually. His descriptions of the institutions of Utopia (i.e., A day in Utopia, The household, Utopian Beliefs, and Treatment of the dying) was precise and so well formatted that it is difficult to see any flaws, without peering deeply into his words. More outlines an utopian day as ??a six-hour working day?three hours in the morning, then lunch?then a two-hour break?then three more hours in the afternoon, followed by supper? (More 633). Each citizen in the society has an equal amount of responsibility. Each performs the same task, farming, and each has his/her own specialty (i.e., carpentry, blacksmith, etc.) With this he strips away pride. How can one man be proud if there are so many others perform the same task as he? He goes on to say, ?after supper they have an hour?s recreation, either in the gardens or the communal dining halls, according to the time of year? (633). More sets the sleeping time, almost as a law, taking into account the society rather than the individual. More, just as anyone, was a slave to the society in which he lived. His view on the English society, in which he resided, was one of oppression, being ruled by a higher authority. More attempted to create a society in which oppression did not exist; however, oppression did exist with the use of a Styward. A Styward?s only job was ??to see that nobody sits around doing nothing, but that everyone gets on with his job? (632). It is quite contradictory that More intended to erase power when he places the Styward with power.

Increasingly contradictory is that More states that women are the ??weaker sex?? (632) and ??are given the lighter jobs? (632). More goes on to state that ??wives are subordinate to their husbands?? (634). Not only does this express More?s own slavery to his society but does this not instill more power in the men? Thomas More unsuccessfully, and optimistically, describes human nature. He seems to believe that man is a creation of his governing authority; and that if the governing power is to be removed then man would be a less hostile force. He depicts that man by nature is good-willed and conforming. He forgets that man is an animal in the world, competition runs fierce. When it comes down to it, one man will overtake the other to better himself; and with this there will always be a governing power. Niccolo Machiavelli, on the other hand, triumphantly describes human nature. He depicts man in a form, though pessimistic, truer to reality. Machiavelli suggests that man will never change and that one will always attempt to overcome the other. He portrays man as an untrustworthy, ungrateful, greedy, and lying lot. Machiavelli admits the unchangeable faults of man in a way that stuns the reader, unlike More. Works Cited Machiavelli, Niccolo. ?The Prince.? Current Issues & Enduring Questions. Ed. Sylvan and Hugo Bedau. Boston: Bedford/St.Martin?s, 1999. 646-52. More, Thomas. ?Utopia.? Current Issues & Enduring Questions. Ed. Sylvan and Hugo Bedau. Boston: Bedford/St.Martin?s, 1999. 632-44.


Works Cited Machiavelli, Niccolo. ?The Prince.? Current Issues & Enduring Questions. Ed. Sylvan and Hugo Bedau. Boston: Bedford/St.Martin?s, 1999. 646-52.

More, Thomas. ?Utopia.? Current Issues & Enduring Questions. Ed. Sylvan and Hugo Bedau. Boston: Bedford/St.Martin?s, 1999. 632-44.
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