Leo Strauss's Thoughts Of Machiavelli As A Teacher Of Evil

Great Essays
I. Introduction: topic and each political theorist
Throughout history many political thinkers have quoted the words of Niccolo Machiavelli. Founding father, John Adams and philosopher John Locke claimed to be students of Machiavelli (Viroli Intro). Machiavelli is considered a founder of political philosophy, but his work is not without opponents. Leo Strauss, a political philosopher, argued that Machiavelli was a “teacher of evil” in his book Thoughts on Machiavelli, written in 1958, in which he discusses his interpretation of Machiavelli’s work. Strauss thought to look at Machiavelli’s work without considering this fact was to take away what is admired about his work . Michael Ledeen, Maurizio Viroli, and Harvey Mansfield provide insight that
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These examples include Machiavelli’s discussion of murder, robbery, and ingratitude (Jackson p.45). For example, Machiavelli suggests that the measures men like King David, ancestor of Jesus, must employ at the beginning of their reign, in order to establish their states, are “most cruel and inimical, not only to every Christian manner of living but to every human manner of living as well (Strauss p.49) .” Strauss does not make an exhaustive critic of Machiavelli’s work, but rather a comprehensive one. Strauss considered Machiavelli to be an extraordinary political philosopher, but he argued that Machiavelli’s work must be considered within the context of the Renaissance (Jackson p.32). Strauss argues that Machiavelli was a true enemy of true faith, calling him immoral and irreligious (Jackson p.41). Machiavelli addresses the difference between the people and an actual prince. “Of people everyone speaks evil without fear and freely, even when they reign: of princes one always speaks with a thousand fears and a thousand respects (Strauss p.49). ” Despite Strauss’s assertion that Machiavelli was a teacher of evil he reveals his respect for him by pointing out that Lucifer was in fact a fallen angel(Strauss p.13) (Jackson …show more content…
Ledeen embraced Machiavelli’s argument that to be a good leader is to fight for freedom from domination, only to dominate others (p.1). Machiavelli argued that men were more prepared for evil than good (p.1, 89). Ledeen points out that part of human nature is to seek out wealth and power as if they were addicted and good never be satisfied (p.2, 88). He argues that human nature overwhelms our sense of reasoning, and makes men and women behave no better than animals (p.88). Thomas Hobbes argues that in a state of nature men are saddled with an irrational impulse (need to cite). Ledeen seems to agree with Hobbes assessment (p.89). Machiavelli rejects the notion that men come together for a common cause. He argues treason and deceit are commonplace. People promote their own personal satisfaction over the common good (p.61). We must be forced or inspired to be good and this may require leaders to be cruel (p.62). Ledeen wrote, “All manner of nastiness may be required to keep us under control (p.90).” Machiavelli says that a leader may have to “enter into evil” in order to balance the threat of human nature (p.93). It is comments like this that make Machiavelli both feared and admired, the very thing Machiavelli suggests a prince should strive for

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