The Dragonfly and Raven

The Dragonfly and Raven

Monday, May 30, 2016

How and Why Did Machiavelli's Idea of Prudence Differ from Existing Models?

The late Fifteenth Century and the beginning of the Sixteenth Century was a period of great turmoil and change on the European continent. In 1492, there was the “discovery” of the American continents by Christopher Columbus. In this time period, you also had the rise and fall of the notorious Borgia Popes, and Italian Wars, culminating with the partition of the Kingdom of Naples between France and Aragon (though this deal would eventually fall through, and Aragon would gain sole control of Naples, which would later be taken over by Castille after the Iberian Wedding. What also occurred during this time was the ousting of the Medici family from Florence, and the rise of an infamous political philosopher named Machiavelli. Machiavelli served the new Florentine government for fourteen years, acting in a role much like that of the United States' Secretary of State, until he was forced into “retirement” by the re-instillation of the Medici family by the Spanish. It was during this forced retirement that Machiavelli wrote the work that he is most famous for. Titled The Prince, this work detailed how best a ruler of a principality—that being anything state that is not republican—should act prudently. The goal of this essay will be to examine the prudence that Machiavelli prescribes in The Prince, comparing it to the established models of prudence, in particular, the model that is given by Cicero's On Duties.

To begin, let us first establish the idea of prudence that Machiavelli is setting out in The Prince. After establishing what is meant by a principality (see above), and then establishing the differences between hereditary and new principalities (hereditary being long-lasting principalities, and new being ones that are new), Machiavelli moves on to discuss the prudence associated with conquest. He promotes either the establishment of a tributary, puppet government or direct rule of newly conquered territory by moving into said territory and making it the conqueror's home. He does not recommend changing existing laws, however, as he believes that the best way to rule over a conquered population is to provide as little change as possible until one's rule is well enough established as to not have rebellious tendencies for the changing of a long-standing law, or the introduction of a new tax. Machiavelli then goes on to discuss the different ways that one can come into power, and the benefits and disadvantages that come with each means of ascension. These, while interesting, will not be discussed in the course of this essay, except in the case of the wicked ruler. The interest in the wicked ruler is not about how they come into power, but about how they hold power. According to Machiavelli, a ruler who is wicked, and comes into their power through their wickedness, is apt to rule in a cruel manner. This, to Machiavelli, is an ineffective way to rule, and he believes that by ruling in such a way, one will not be able to hold onto their power. This will be important later.

Another point that is made extremely clear by Machiavelli is that a ruler should trust nobody. This can be seen time and again throughout The Prince. It is seen when describing the way that one might come into power through installation by nobility, when discussing the use of mercenary armies to fight in wars and of auxiliary—or borrowed—armies, and when dealing with people in one's court—whether they be ministers, or merely courtiers. This distrust of the rest of the world for ruler is based off of the idea that in order to maintain power, one must not become complacent. One must always be on one's toes, and should work to address not only problems that are occurring, but any problem that could occur as well, all of which could stem out of the previously listed things that a ruler should distrust. It is from this logic that Machiavelli's infamous line on whether or not a ruler should be feared or loved is based on. In answering the question of whether a ruler should be loved or feared, he believes that rulers should aim for both, but if they cannot achieve both, that it is better to rule with the people fearing you, since one cannot trust people, as they are apt to betray you. If they live in fear of you, and not in love of you, then you as the ruler will be able to better tell who is likely to betray you, as you will not have your mind clouded by flatterers and their ilk.

Now that we have examined the distrust that Machiavelli believes is imperative for any ruler to posses, let us turn to the other traits that he believes a prudent ruler should possess, as well as some of the methodology that should be used by a ruler to exercise their power, and to cement their position. First, Machiavelli believes that a proper ruler should have a martial focus in their rule. A ruler should always be engaged in military campaigns, and if their land is not engaged in an active state of war, then rulers are to be practicing for war, and studying the art of warfare. This is because, in Machiavelli's eyes, the only way that the rulers of principalities obtain power, and therefore the only way that they maintain power, is through warfare. It is then, through this practice and study of warfare that the rulers of principalities can prepare themselves for any situations that may arise to challenge their power—and thus maintain their power.

This theme, that being of the maintaining of power, is of the utmost importance to Machiavelli. He has little concern with the actual governance of principalities. Rather, he is concerned with how a ruler can govern in a manner that secures their existing power, and that allows for avenues of expanding that power, going so far as to say that, “a ruler who wishes to maintain power must be prepared to act immorally when this becomes necessary.” For example, Machiavelli recommends the use of propaganda to drive the public to the side of the ruler. He also believes that a ruler should be ready to break their vows at any point in which honoring them would injure the ruler, but at the same time, the ruler needs to be able to come up with some sort of excuse for the breaking of the vow, in order to protect their reputation and image. This is important, because as was mentioned earlier, Machiavelli believes that being a cruel ruler is a surefire way to end one's rule. This is due to the feelings of hatred and contempt that will arise when a ruler has a cruel reputation. It is through this than that the reputation of the ruler affects their power through how it affects the stability and the unity of the realm as a whole. Because the stability and unity of the realm as a whole has an affect on the power of the ruler, it is Machiavelli's opinion that the ruler should be concerned with the unity of the realm. This is why he believes that while cruel acts are necessary, that they should come down in largely together, in confined areas, and during a small period of time. This works then to confine the cruelty, thereby preserving the reputation of the ruling, and securing the unity of the realm.

Another aspect of the maintaining power comes as a direct counter to the actions that Cicero believes that a prudent ruler should do. This contradiction to Cicero occurs when discussing the idea of generosity (or as Cicero calls it, liberality). In this, we see Machiavelli continue to preach his rhetoric of pure self-interest. To him, being generous is simply willing injuring yourself by giving away what you have. He also acknowledges, though, that being seen as generous is important, as it can help one secure and gain power. He comes up with a compromise between these two aspects of generosity then, by advising that rulers give only enough to appear generous, and no more—for what really matters, he concludes, is the appearance of virtue. For what difference is there between a generous ruler, and one that appears generous to the common man? There is none, at least to Machiavelli. This same logic applies to the other virtues that a ruler is traditionally supposed to posses—these virtues being primarily the ones that are outlined by Cicero in his On Duties, among other classical philosophers.

Now that Machiavelli's idea of how a ruler should rule prudently is established, let us look at how it compares to the existing model that is given by Cicero. To Cicero, the most important thing that any citizen can do (not just rulers) is to live up to, and fulfill their duties—with the most important of these duties being toward the Republic. Now, while Machiavelli is talking of principalities, and not of republics, this duty to the republic that Cicero is discussing can easily be applied to the duty of the ruler to the commonwealth. Having established that, the fulfillment of this duty to the commonwealth is achieved through the completion of honourable acts, which are in turn acts that are in accordance with virtue. This is in direct opposition to the model that is given by Machiavelli, who believes that only the appearance of virtue is what matters. Cicero also believes that those who strive for military command, and for honor, and for glory, are acting in a manner that is dishonourable, and thus unfit for a ruler. This then also is a point in which Machiavelli and Cicero appear to disagree on.

On the subject of cruel rulers, it would seem that Machiavelli and Cicero would tend to agree, except on one count. While they both agree that being a cruel ruler—what Cicero would call a tyrant—is wrong, Cicero would also have believed that acting cruel towards subjects at any time would be wrong as well. This is because to act cruelly is to act unjustly, which is both dishonourable and tyrannical in a ruler. Machiavelli is more of a pragmatist in this (and in most things), believing that the ends justify the means. It is because of this view of a ruler needing to do only what is honourable that Cicero would also not be able to accept that acting immorally could ever be justified. In fact, Cicero would go so far as to say that to act in such a manner actually injures a rulers position, and can end in them losing their power—such as what happened to the dictator Caesar in the Senate.

The last of the differences that will be examined between the work of Cicero and of Machiavelli is again concerning virtues. In particular, it is concerning the idea of generosity, otherwise known as liberality. As previously stated, Machiavelli believes that generosity of any kind is harmful to the person who is being generous, as it decreases their material power. At the same time, he views appearing generous as essential to maintaining goodwill. For this, Machiavelli has Cicero to thank. It was Cicero who outlined liberality as a virtue in On Duties. While he did recognize that one could be too liberal, to the detriment of themselves (and thus recommended against this level of liberality), he did not believe that being liberal in itself was harmful to individuals. In fact, he believed it was beneficial, and not only because it was virtuous, but also because one citizen being liberal would begin, in his eyes, a chain of liberality that would then seek to improve the well-being of everyone involved, and thus, the commonwealth as a whole. Machiavelli, then, is in disagreement with Cicero on this as well. It would seem to be that this disagreement, and the other disagreements that they have, stem from the interests of the two writers. Cicero is interested in the commonwealth as a whole, while Machiavelli is concerned with the ruler of the realm.

If one were to characterize the ideas of Machiavelli in The Prince, they would not be amiss in calling it a work cynical pragmatism. It is a work that is focused on the rulers of realms, and how they can maintain power. In it, Machiavelli turns away from the established model of prudent governance as established by Cicero on many counts. He disagrees with the idea that leaders should be virtuous, and that they should care for the commonwealth—instead advocating for leaders acting purely in self-interest who exhibit only the appearance of virtue. He is by no means afraid of immorality, and in fact supports it in the actions of rulers, unlike Cicero, who believes that acting against virtue is dishonourable, unjust, and tyrannical. Thus is how Machiavelli sets out his idea of prudent governance, and how it compares to the model of prudent governance that existed previously, as set out by Cicero.


Cicero. Edited by M.T. Griffin and E.M. Atkins. On Duties. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1991. Print.

Machiavelli. Edited by Quentin Skinner and Russel Price. The Prince. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2009. Print.

Friday, May 27, 2016

What is the Importance that Mill Ascribes to Individuality in On Liberty?

There are several ideals that the people of the United States, and the greater part of the “Western” world has incorporated into their political ideologies. Among these are the belief that there should be a freedom in the thoughts that an individual can have, and then the freedom of the individual to be able to express those thoughts, so long as they do not infringe on the rights of other individuals, through either the spoken word or through the written medium. This is based on the idea of individualism, or the importance of the individual identity, and the rights that are therefor granted to the individual for the express purpose of promoting this individual identity. These ideals were expressed several times throughout history, but they were perhaps best encapsulated and explained by the English political philosopher J.S. Mill. Mill lived during the Nineteenth Century, and his work is considered to be some of the most influential of the era. Mill was the son of James Mill, who was a utilitarian philosopher, and friend of the famous Jeremy Bentham. It is from both his father and the work of Bentham that Mill draws many of his views of the world, seeing it through a predominately utilitarian lens. However, that is not to say that these are the only people who influenced Mill. In particular, his work drew heavily off of the writings of the Prussian Wilhelm Von Humboldt's The Limits of State Action. It is the goal of this essay to examine the political philosophy of the late J.S. Mill, as presented in his essay On Liberty, while at the same time looking at how he borrows and reformulates the opinions and ideas presented by Humboldt in The Limits of State Action, and then also incorporating the commentary and analysis of the American political philosopher John Rawls in his lectures on Mill. This essay will seek to answer the question of the importance that Mill ascribes to individuality in On Liberty.

First, it would be prudent of us to look at the greater context of Mill's writing. In this, we will turn first to the lectures of John Rawls. In these lectures, Rawls believes that it is important for us to note that the works of Mill are rather unique, in the sense that they are not written from the point of view of a scholar, nor of a politician, with experience in the field of governance, but rather they are written from the point of view of an educator—and in this, we can see that Mill is trying to educate the reader. He is, in essence, trying to shape, to mold, the opinion of his audience with the principle of liberty that he presents in On Liberty. This is why, as Rawls sees it, that Mill's writings are almost entirely iterative, and why he does not extend his political theory into deeper, uncharted waters. In regards to the underlying principle of his work, Rawls notes, as was previously stated, he was greatly influenced by the utilitarianism of his father and of his father's friend Bentham. However, Mill does have a clear distinction in how he views utility, which is in opposition to Bentham's views. This distinction is that Mill believes, unlike Bentham, that the principle of utility is too narrow to be applicable in all situations on its own. For Mill, legislation must take cues from not only utility, but also from history and the natural world. This idea, that laws should come from, or be influenced by, the natural world and order, is an idea that Mill draws from the writings of Humboldt—the idea being that the natural world is better at organizing life (or as it is applied to legislation, society) than human social constructs. This all being said, Mill did still value the principle of utility. It was still to him the underlying principle that should be adhered to—the principle that other principles should be based off of.

On Liberty aims to answer a question that Mill was preoccupied with—that question being what the balance should be between the individual rights—those being civil rights—and the right and ability of the state to interfere, to restrict, and to take-away those rights. To answer this question, Mill presents two main ideas: those being that the individual is of great importance, and that his civil rights must be upheld. More on how this is applied to the actions of society later though. First, let us look at how he views the individual, and on their value. His belief in the value of the individual seems to stem directly from the utilitarianism of Bentham, as well as the writings of Humboldt. To Mill, the value of the individual is self-evident, though he goes on to explain and to defend it (here, again, we see the influence of his career as an educator showing, and with it, the need to explain all parts of a concept, so that the student, or in this case, the general audience, is able to better understand the concept, and form their own opinions on the matter at-hand). To him, the value of the individual comes about when the individual is afforded the civil liberties that they require to flourish—these civil liberties being the liberty of thought and of feelings, of consciousness, of opinion, of expressing and publishing said thoughts and opinions, of the ability to pursue what one wills (given that the pursuits are in no way harming another, or in any other way illegitimately depriving them of their individual rights), and lastly, stemming from the other liberties, the liberty to assembly in a peaceful manner. With these liberties, the individual will be allowed to grow, and will be cultivated. This individual then, with these liberties, will be able to contribute to the good of society through the pursuit of their interests in regards to how they can benefit the commonwealth, and then through the ability to think freely, and to express their thoughts. Through this expression of their thoughts, individuals will be able to contribute to the public discussion of issues—an extremely valuable thing indeed to Mill. These ways are how, as Mill sees it, individuals are able to benefit the society, and why individuals should be afforded the civil liberties that they are entitled to, other than the fundamental idea that the individual is to be valued purely for the reason of their existence, and their uniqueness in this world, which also seems to be part of Mill's thought, though not directly stated.

Now, understanding how Mill sees the value of the individual, let us turn to how he sees the balance of the civil rights of the individual with the actions of the society. In this, his principle of liberty is quite clear. The principle says that, “the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection.” From this, we see that the civil liberties that are afforded to all (as described above) should only be trodden on for self-protection. This means that laws made by society should regard not what the individual does that concerns only themselves, but rather, laws should be made that regard the actions of an individual with other individuals, and the society as a whole. It is in this realm of conduct that society is in its power to legislate, to punish individuals, and to offer guidance to individuals as to what is to be done. More on this later, though. Interestingly enough, this principle of liberty does not apply to all, as Mill excludes children, immature adults, those mentally impaired, and “barbarous peoples,” or, those living in states of significantly less development than the modern states of the world (here, referring to the European States, and to the United States). This, as Rawls points out, makes his principle of liberty subordinate to the principle of utility that is set out by Bentham, among others. However, there is an interesting dichotomy that seems to exist because of this subordination. For, Mills believes that the rights of the individual are paramount, especially in regards to their right to being able to freely think and to express those thoughts, with him going so far as to say that, “if all of mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.” The importance of this statement is twofold.

First, there is the importance of this statement in regards to the principle of utility and the principle of liberty. In this, we see the aforementioned dichotomy. Here, we see Mills asserting the principle of liberty, and the rights of the individual, being of extreme importance. This assertion of the importance of the individual appears to be in contradiction to the principle of utility, for the value of the opinion of an individual should be less than that of the opinion of the society as a whole—simple utilitarian calculus. This is, however, not a contradiction to the principle of utility. The reason that it is not a contradiction is that by allowing the individual to keep and to voice their opinion, they are contributing to the dialogue that exists in the public sphere. This maintaining of this dialogue is of the utmost importance, as without it, the value of the opinions and ideas dwindle away. Therefore, by extinguishing the opinion of an individual, the harm done is far greater than what would be gained by silencing them. Thus, this is not a violation of the subordination that exists between Mill's principle of liberty and the principle of utility.

Now, let us return to the topic of the discussion of ideas in the public sphere.  It is through this discussion that Mill ascribes one of the ways in which the individual is valuable—and through them, individuals and individuality as a whole. Earlier, the civil liberties that Mill believes all should have were laid out, and among those pertinent to public discussion are freedom of thought and the freedom to express those thoughts. Now, with the freedom to think there comes opinions, and these opinions often—if not most of the time—are related to interactions with other people. These ideas then, are debated, as people do when they disagree. To Mill, this disagreement, this debate, is extremely important, because it is what makes opinions valuable. In his mind, an opinion is of little value if it cannot be questioned, if it cannot be discussed. An opinion like that is akin to a tyrannical opinion, as that which is tyrannical cannot be debated nor discussed. So, contrary opinions are to be valued, even if they are contrary to a true belief, for they act as a check to the tyrannical nature of unquestionable beliefs at the very least. Opposing beliefs can also be used as educational tools, or they can be used to help better shape, to help refine, the opinion that they are acting contrary to. Thus is the importance of the individual within the sphere of public discussion.

Having discussed whom the principle of liberty is applicable to, the nature of said principle to the principle of utility, the seeming dichotomy that exists due to this and the valuation of the opinion of the individual as opposed to that of society—and the reasons for that valuation—, let us now turn back to the realm of legislation. As previously stated, mankind's—meaning society's—purpose is to protect one another. This is why we have laws. It is the duty of legislators, though, to make laws that do not infringe of the civil rights of individuals within a democracy. This is not to say that individual rights are to be valued above all else in the world—far from it. To Mill, the individual's rights are to be valued and protected only in so far as they do not harm others, or infringe on their rights. This allowance then, for the infringement of the rights of the individual, does not extend to the point that extreme proactive measures. Society is allowed, by this doctrine, to act to prevent a crime from occurring, but only if it is clear that a crime will occur, based off of the actions of the individual. The example that Mill uses is that of the production and sale of poison. Now, in the case of poison, if it were to be used for one purpose only, to kill another human, than society would be well within their right to prohibit its sale outright. However, that is not the case. Poison has multiple, legitimate uses. Thus, society has only the right to regulate and restrict the production and sale of poison to those specific purposes—such as killing pests. Thus is a brief explanation of how Mill outlines the scope of laws in regards individual rights.

Now, Mill is afraid of what a democracy has in store for the freedoms of the individual, which is one of the reasons that he is writing this piece. Greatly influenced by Tocqueville, Mill sees the tyranny of the masses, and the tyranny of the popular opinion to be both a great and real threat. As Rawls notes, Mills is worried about the uneducated masses making decisions based off of irrational feelings, incongruous with the rational thought that should be driving their decision-making processes. This is, in many ways, in line with the fears of Bentham. This is the reason, according to Rawls, that Mill puts forth his principle of liberty, so that it may serve as a guide to the masses, both educated and uneducated alike, as to how they should take on legislation. Thus is one of the main purposes of this piece, as explained by Rawls.

There is one final point that I will examine in this essay, and that is the other main boon that Mill says is had from individuality—that being, the value that is had from individuals pursuing their interests. For this, Mill takes from Tocqueville. Tocqueville, in his Democracy in America, is concerned with the moderation that is brought by democracy. While it does move to bring people out of poverty, while also decreasing hunger and illiteracy, it at the same time decreases the greatness of intellect that exists in the world—which to Tocqueville is a great tragedy. Mill is also afraid of this, though he believes that by promoting individuality, this can be avoided. Moreover, Mill believes that by allowing individuals to grow, and that by allowing them to pursue their interests freely, that society allows for individuals to better it through them bettering themselves. The logic behind this is quite simply, really, and it has its basis in utilitarian thinking. Essentially, the line of reasoning goes that the whole of society is no more than the sum of its individuals. It can ever be only as good, or as bad, as they are. This ties in quite nicely to the idea of the total utility of the society being equal to the added utility of its members, as laid out by Bentham in On the Principles and Morals of Legislation. Thus is how the individual can benefit society through the pursuit of their interests.

J.S. Mill was a crucial figure in the political thought of the Nineteenth Century. It was he who so greatly encapsulated the ideals of civil liberty and individuality that the Western world still values so greatly today. His ideas were highly iterative, based off of the utilitarianism of both his father and Jeremy Bentham, among other utilitarians. It was also heavily influenced by the Prussian Wilhelm Von Humboldt of seventy years prior, and the Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville. In his famous work, On Liberty, Mill lays out the argument for individuality based off of the utility that it provides for the society as a whole through the contributions that individuals give to the public sphere of debate and then also the benefit that they provide through the pursuit of their interests. In order for this to occur, however, Mill says that the civil liberties of freedom of thought and of feelings, of consciousness, of opinion, of expressing and publishing said thoughts and opinions, of the ability to pursue what one wills (without harming others or depriving them of their civil liberties), and the liberty to assembly in a peaceful manner must be respected, and not infringed upon by society—through legislation or by other means—except in cases where an individual is interacting with other individuals or the community as a whole in a manner that promotes or creates mischief. There then, is the philosophy of J.S. Mill as presented in On Liberty.

Bentham, Jeremy. An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation. Oxford: Dover
Philosophical Classics. 2007. Print.
Mill, J.S. On Liberty and Other Writings. Edited by Stefan Collini. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press. 1989. Print.
Rawls, John. Lecture on the History of Political Philosophy. Edited by Samuel Freeman. Boston:
The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. 2007. Print.
Tocqueville, Alexis de. Democracy in America: Historical-Critical Edition of De la democratie
en Amerique, ed. Eduardo Nolla, translated from the French by James T. Schleifer. A Bilingual French-English editions, (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2010). Vol. 1-4. 15 May 2016. <>.
Von Humboldt, Wilhelm. The Limits of State Action. Edited by J.W. Burrow. Indianapolis:
Liberty Fund. 1993. Print.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A Bad First Impression



“How have you been...since...well, you know.”

“I've been keeping busy.”


Besides being a story of all dialogue, this story is also written without adjectives.

“Yeah. Have to make it up to my parents after that impression you gave them Saturday.”

“Come on now, It is not like I was—“

“Really? Because I seem to remember you were an ass after those beers.”


“I mean, don't get me wrong, I love you Danny.”

“I love you too Trace.”

“But you have to get your drinking under control.”

“...I know. And I will.”

“How can I believe you though? You've said that before.”

“I know I have. But...I joined AA.”

“Wow...I...I don't know what to say.”

“You don't have to say anything. Just know that I love you Trace. I am doing this for you.”

“I love you too Danny.”

Judgment Day

It was the last day that life would exist on the planet Earth. It was time for the reckoning of the human race. It was the Judgment Day.

For the most part, things went just as planned. God brought the first death—that of the body—down upon all of His children. Many of their souls ascended to Heaven, to spend eternity with Him. A great number of souls also descended down into the depths of Hell, to spend an eternity of torment with the Betrayer, souls never knowing the greatness of God.

Except, there was a problem.

One, big problem.

When God eliminated life, everything either went to Heaven, or to Hell, except for one soul. This soul was so neutral that it required a personal judgment by both Satan and God.

Upon agreeing to meet with each other to judge this neutral soul, they both realized why it did not go to Heaven or Hell.

For the soul that they looked upon in judgment was Death.

Death smiled at the Lords of Heaven and Hell, letting out a hair-raising cackle, advancing toward the two, scythe raised.

“There comes a time when all must face Death.”

Monday, May 23, 2016

“More Rhetorical than Philosophical.” Is this an Apt Way to Characterize Humanist Political Thought?

Around the end of the Thirteenth Century, the great majority of the Italian city-states gave up their republican forms of government. They did this in the interest of greater civic peace, vesting power of the sovereignty with monarchical and aristocratic governments. This shift away from republicanism would be challenged by certain outspoken individuals, chiefly among rhetoricians, until in the Fifteenth Century, a new ideology called Humanism established itself in the minds of many thinkers in not just Italy, but the greater part of Mediterranean Europe. Humanism has its roots in the previously mentioned resistance of rhetoricians, drawing their ideas heavily from classical writers such as Aristotle and Cicero, among others. Given this, the question that this essay will pose is as follows—does the phrase “more rhetorical than philosophical” serve as an apt way to characterize the political thought of humanists? To do this, this essay will draw on the writings of Quentin Skinner (The Foundations of Modern Political Thought), Leonardo Bruni (“Panegyric to the City of Florence”), Guillaume Budé (select passages of “On the Education of the Prince”), and Lorenzo Valla (Treatise on the Donation of Constantine).

To begin, let us first look at the end of the majority of the Italian republics in the late Thirteenth Century. Here, we see due to class divisions and the unrest that is resultant of those divisions the people of the various republics vesting vast amounts of power into the hands of individuals, called Signores. This led to the birth of two distinct trains of thought. First, there is that of those who are in favor of this new way of life. From people of this mindset we see many works published praising the bringers of peace, propaganda promoting the unity of the dictatorship of the Signores versus the chaos that existed with liberty. The other school of thought that arose from this change in governance in the Italian Peninsula is that of proto-civic humanism. This ideology was brought about by rhetoricians who studied the Ars Dictaminis and the Ars Arengendi. These men wrote about, and in favor of, the Roman Republic, believe that is was the greatest of the governments that have existed in the world. They also argued that rulers should be prudent, magnanimous, temperate, and just—basing their political thought off of classical scholars such as Cicero and Aristotle. Believing republicanism was the best form of government, they argued that government itself was corrupted, and brought away from this righteous way by the rise of factionalism within republics, and then also because of the accumulation of gross amounts of private wealth (though it should be noted that some of the rhetoricians of the time thought that private wealth was, in fact, beneficial for republics, as it could be used to benefit the commonwealth)8. They believed that the way to fix these problems that brought down republics was to convince people to see the problems of the community as their own problems, and the same with that which benefits the community9. Thus, to them, it was those individuals who were virtuous that were the most suitable for ruling, as they could see that the interests of the community were in fact their own interests. This was controversial though, as it allowed for people of all classes to be rulers, and to be noble, and not just those who had wealth, through heredity or through good fortune. They originally wrote political advise in-line with these views to the general public, but later they wrote primarily to magistrates and to princes, in an attempt to win them over to their school of thought.

It is then from this tradition of rhetoric that the Humanists drawn much of their thoughts from. It should be noted that, while civic humanists were highly influenced by these medieval Italian rhetoricians, they did differ form them in several aspects. These Humanists were focused on the ideals of republican liberty, much like rhetoricians, but unlike them, the Humanists were not nearly as concerned with private wealth, nor factions, seeing them as more of a tool, one that could be used toward nefarious ends just as easily as it could be used for the benefit of the commonwealth. To them, liberty was the paramount concern. It meant independence for individuals and self-government. Moreover, it meant equal opportunity in involving oneself in government, and the freedom to say whatever one pleased. To them, this liberty will benefit the commonwealth through people being able to choose to develop their talents and then applying those talents for the good of the community as a whole. Humanists, like the rhetoricians before them, believed that the way to achieve this community of citizens devoted to the common good was through education, and in particular, an education in the classics, so that one might be able to understand the intricacies of virtues as they were laid out in the pre-Christian world, and that by studying these works, they could become virtuous—which is an utter rejection of the Augustinian school of thought, in which virtue comes solely from God. That is, in briefness, the extent of the philosophical thought of the Civic Humanists. It is a rather simple philosophical mindset, and the writings of Civic Humanists focus much more on their rhetoric than their philosophy, as we will see when examining the works of three such-minded individuals.

First, we will look at Leonardo Bruni's “Panegyric to the City of Florence.” Europe, at the time that Bruni was writing, was in the middle of the Italian Renaissance, and at the heart of that renaissance was the Tuscan Florence—a fact that Bruni makes abundantly clear to his reader. To him, every aspect of Florence is perfect—from the strategic foundation of the city, to its equidistance between the two seas that border Italy, to the architecture, the art, the constitution of its people, etc.—even going so far as to openly challenge anyone who reads his work to find a city that is better than it in any manner. Bruni devotes a majority of his page to this endeavor of his to show the greatness of Florence, using rhetorical techniques to do so. What, then, is his explanation for the eminence of the Florentine State? To answer that, Bruni turns to the founders of the city—that being Roman republicans—and their grandeur, and the greatness of their ideals—those being that of the liberty that comes with a republican government. Here we see what little exists of the Civic Humanism philosophy. Upon identifying that it is because of these republican foundations that Florence is able to claim opulence, Bruni spends the rest of the panegyric using rhetoric to explain how the liberty that the Florentine people have through their republican form of government allows for them to resist tyranny of a despot—especially with provisions such as no man being above the law, laws being made for the common good, and not for the individual, and judges being brought in from outside of the community, so that they can remain impartial—, and how their republic Roman constitution allows for them to resist the tyranny of the masses. So in this approximately thirty-page panegyric, Bruni brings up only philosophical point, leaving the rest of his writing to rhetoric.

Next, let us look at the writing of Guillaume Budé through select parts of his “On the Education of the Prince.” Budé was a French Civic Humanist, and he wrote for King Francois I. In his work, he is chiefly concerned with how a prince—or in this case, a young king—should act in order to remain a legitimate, and just ruler. In the first of the select sections of Budé's writings, he is concerned with the proper dispensation of honors and their like by the king in the name of justice. In this, Budé hearkens back to the writings of classical philosophers, arguing that honors must be bestowed upon those members of the community that would make best use of said honors in regards to benefiting the community as a whole. This idea, that the monarch must look back to the philosophers of yore for guidance, is the core tenant of Budé's writing in this piece. He believed that it is through studying these historical and literary texts of yesteryear that monarchs are able to better their worldly wisdom—which he says all monarchs desire to do. He also believed that superiority of the soul came through eloquence of, and grace in, language, which he again explained was achieved through the study of the classics. He also explained how prudence, which is a virtue in kingship, bettering the judgment of the monarch, is gained best through the reading of the classics. So, we see in Budé's writing another example of the rhetoric of Civic Humanists ruling out over their philosophy, with the main philosophical point that Budé raises being that rulers should look back to the teachings and thoughts of the classical thinkers—of the Greeks and the Romans—to better themselves, and the rest of his writing being rhetoric to support this point.

The last of the Civic Humanist works that will be examined in this essay will be Lorenzo Valla's Treatise on the Donation of Constantine. This work was written as a response to the Donation of Constantine, a document, allegedly written by Constantine to Pope Sylvester, that granted to him, and to the Papacy, dominion over the western half of the Roman Empire. His goal in writing this peace was to expose the fraudulent nature of the document, and to raise a critique of Papal conduct as whole during the era. It is with this work that we see perhaps the greatest example of Civic Humanism being more rhetorical than philosophical. In this document, you have only an iota of Humanist philosophy—that being that the will of the Roman people is important, and that they would therefor not allow for Constantine to divide the Roman Empire into two on account of his new-found religious beliefs. But even in this, there is almost no trace of Humanist philosophy, as the Roman people at that point were not members of a republic, but an empire, and thus did not have the liberty or the self-government that comes with the former. The rest of Valla's writing is purely rhetorical. He starts with a critique on the motives of Constantine in giving away his territory (of which he finds none great enough to explain such an extreme action)28. He then goes on to raise reasons why he would not do this action, including depriving his children of inheritance, the aforementioned unwillingness of the senate and the people to such a measure, and a plethora of religious reasons as to why Pope Sylvester would not have accepted such a donation. He also critiques lack of any other records existing of not only the transfer of dominion, but of Papal administration and stewardship over the Western Empire. Not being a man who is satisfied with half-measures, Valla spends an additional fifty or so pages going through the Donation of Constantine line by line, and pointing out every error that exists therein. So, we are able to see the rhetorical overcome the philosophical in the third of these Civic Humanist texts.

Civic Humanism was an influential ideology of during the Italian Renaissance, in both Italy, and abroad in such places as France. It's fundamental tenants are that of republicanism and the liberty—that being independence, self-government, and equality in the ability to participate in government—that is inherent within it, of citizens acting in the interests of the commonwealth, and of education and virtue through the study of classical Greek and Roman philosophy. Besides the Greek and Roman philosophy that they value so highly, Civic Humanism is directly influenced by, and descended from, the traditions and writings of medieval Italian rhetoricians. Due to this influence, it has been said that Civic Humanism is “more rhetorical than philosophical.” Upon examination of the writings of Leonardo Bruni, Guillaume Budé, and Lorenzo Valla, it would appear that this is an apt characterization of Civic Humanists and their political thought.

Friday, May 20, 2016

"Grace does not abolish nature but perfect it" How does this maxim influence Aquinas' political thought?

I never thought that I would be uploading this essay. I thought it was a complete and utter failure, as it was 1500 words (as opposed to the desired 2000) and because I feel like I didn't do the question justice. However, my tutor believes that this is the best essay that I have ever written for her. So, I am publishing it now. However, there are a few things to note before going into this essay.

First, I missed the most important part of the grace that God bestowed upon man, and that is the ability to reason. For, without reason, man can not have the natural law, and without that, man cannot have human law, and without both of those things, man cannot correct its perverted nature.

Second, I do not really go into the political implications of this, and the grace of God in particular. The most important aspect of this reasoning is that it is a divergence away from the writings of Augustine. Augustine believed that it was possible, if only just barely, to have a just government made by man. This was only possible though if it was led by good Christians, full of virtue and wisdom. Aquinas breaks away from this, and sets out the idea that reason is what is important, and that if a government is led by reason, then that government, even if it is not spiritual, and not led by Christians, is still a just, legitimate government. This is the first time in the Christian ethos that this idea is really presented.

But, that is the point of these tutorial essays. They are the starting point for the conversation. They are the way to get your thoughts rollings, to then be corrected and expanded upon during the tutorial sessions.

Now, given that preface, here is the essay.

During the Thirteenth Century, European philosophers were marveling over the writings of both St. Augustine of Hippo and the newly rediscovered works of Aristotle. Great thinkers of the time, such as St. Bonaventure and St. Albert the Great, spent a considerable amount of time rethinking political philosophy with the guidance of either Augustine's or Aristotle's writings, respectively. It was St. Albert's student, St. Thomas Aquinas, who would work to bring the philosophy of Augustine and Aristotle together, having tremendous respect for both of them. This essay will look at the political thought of Aquinas, looking specifically at Summa Theologiae IaIIae 57-60 and 90-97, those being a section on right, justice, and judgment, and a section of law, respectively. In particular, this essay will seek to answer how the maxim “grace does not abolish nature but perfects it” informs Aquinas' political thought.

Aquinas devotes quite a bit of his time in an attempt to understand and define what nature and the natural law is, and how this differs from the other manifestations of law. He begins by defining law as part of reason, as it deals with the rules and measures of human acts, which are ruled by reason. He then goes on to argue that laws are created by the community as a whole, or a trusted person, for the common good. After setting up these basic definitions of what makes a law, Aquinas then shifts to discuss the various types of laws that exist. There is the eternal law, that being the law of God, created from His Divine reason. Then there is the natural law, which Aquinas says is resultant of the participation is the observance of the eternal law by the rational creatures of God's green Earth. Human laws, then, are further derived from the natural law, and are meant to order the temporal, earthly society that we as humans naturally form. There are then lastly Divine laws, of which the eternal law is but one of.

Grace, being the goodwill and benevolence that God shows to the race of men, influences how Aquinas views the role of law, in both the sense of human law, but also in the sense of the natural and Divine laws. It is apparent from reading Aquinas that he believes, as many Christians do, that God is an omni-benevolent being. Augustine went so far as to say that He—that being God—is the one, sole good, that is simple and unchangeable. This idea of His grace being given to men is easily seen in how before the Original Sin was committed, only the eternal and natural laws reigned, and during this time, man lived in a literal paradise. After man was perverted by sin, however, God withdrew some of his grace, requiring instead the need for one to be virtuous and good in order to gain his favor. This is also present in the idea of Confession, where God forgives the faithful of their sins. While those are all true, they are all tangential to how Aquinas sees grace influencing and perfecting nature. For this, we look to his role of law. In his mind, Aquinas sees the role of law to be to make men good. This idea he takes from Aristotle, both from his Ethics and from his Politics. From Ethics, Aquinas takes the idea that by being virtuous, one is being good. From Politics, he takes the idea that obeying the law is a virtue for citizens. Thus, the law makes people good when they follow it. Law can also do this by punishing, or threatening to punish, bad behavior, thus modifying people to be good based on fear, which he also views as acceptable.

This ties into grace perfection nature thusly. All human law, which is what is being discussed when talking about making people good and punishing them for being bad, is derived from the natural law, which is imprinted on us by God. He gives us this law out of His grace, so that we might be able to live lives that are good and wholesome, and that we might one day be able to shed our mortal coils, and join our souls with him in Heaven, as opposed to spending an eternity without knowing Him in such a manner. So, by giving us the eternal law, by giving us the natural law, He seeks to improve us, and fix our perverted nature. This appears to be quite obvious to Aquinas, who additionally adds that virtues are given to us by God, as an additional way to redeem ourselves in His eyes.

How else though does grace perfect nature? Well, this is seen quite well in a discussion that Aquinas has as to whether or not the law of nature can be abolished from the hearts of men. In this section, he discusses how sin can blot out from the hearts of men parts of the natural law, and the grace of God. However, the general principles of the natural law cannot be entirely removed from the hearts of men. The way that this blot is removed, according to Aquinas, is through God's grace. So, here again we see that nature is not being abolished by the grace of God, but is, in fact, being restored by it—being brought back into perfection by His benevolence.

On the other side of law is justice and what is right. Justice, according to Aquinas, is about establishing equality between multiple parties, in attempt to make things right between the aforementioned parties. Thus, by doing what is right, justice is a virtue, and virtues are, as previously stated, give by to man by the grace of God to allow us to better ourselves, and to perfect our nature. Justice is unique among the virtues, as deals with multiple parties, and how they interact with each other, and thus is a virtue that is not only of one person, and also is able to rule over, or direct other virtues. Justice, then, seeks to control and regulate what is the “positive right,” which differs from the natural right, in that the natural right is the natural exchange between two or more parties that occurs, and satisfies all of those involved, and the positive right is such interactions happening through some sort of agreement or contract. So, justice then acts as a way for men to make and keep peace among themselves in the temporal world, as it is a virtue imparted on us by God, that seeks to perfect our perverted nature.

Judgment then, is the last of what Aquinas discusses in his section on rights, justice, and judgment. In discussion judgment, he sees it as a person, who is vested to be knowledgeable, fair, and a representative of the community and its interests, imparts justice on a situation. So, judgment is how justice is dispensed, and is vital in the maintenance of an ordered society. It is through the word of God that we are given this instruction to judge (from various Biblical entries). Thus, this is another way in which God's grace has been bestowed upon us to help us perfect our nature.

The maxim “grace does not abolish nature but perfects it,” is a major influence on the political thought of Aquinas. It is from this maxim that Aquinas views virtues. It shapes how he believes that laws are supposed to function, and how justice and what is right are to be seen. This maxim appears to be one of the central tenants of the political thought of Aquinas.

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Wife's Diary

“Have a good trip Hun!” Conner said, waving at his wife as she pulled out of their driveway in her small black convertible. “I love you!”

“Love you too Hun!” He hears her yell back as she turned into the col-duc-sac. “Take good care of Tommy!”

And with that, she sped off, and making her way around the circle of asphalt, and then out into the greater part of the city.

Conner turned away from the street, and stepped into the living room, closing the front door behind him. He walked to his office, and sat down at his computer. Before him was a massive spreadsheet of numbers. The latest set of statistics he had to analyze for work. After toying around with them for a few minutes, he was graciously interrupted.

“--No! No! No! No! No! No! No! Mama Mia! Mama Mia! Mama Mia, let him go!”

He picked his phone up from off of his desk. The caller ID read Samantha.


“Hey Conner! I was just calling to see if Brooke was around? Her phone is off.”

“Ah, yes. She is off to the airport. She has to fly to Seattle for work.”

“Oh, I see. When is she getting back? I was hoping to catch up with her.”

“She's coming back Sunday.”

“Three day trip? It must be pretty easy work then.”

“Relatively. She just had to serve as an expert witness for some corporate dispute.”

“Okay then. Well, give her my best. I'll try again Monday.”

“Alright, have a good day Sam.”

“You too Conner.”

He set the phone back on the desk, turning back to his spreadsheets, when he felt something brush against his leg. Looking down, he saw Tommy, his gray-white house cat. In reality, he belonged to both Conner and Brooke, but Conner liked to think that the cat liked him more. After all, he did feed him and deal with his litter. Tommy looked up at Conner, and meowed.

“What's up buddy? Do you want some food?”

Tommy meowed in response, with what seemed to be enthusiasm.

Conner got up out of his chair. “Okay buddy, let's get you some food.”

Making his way into the kitchen, Conner started for the dry food, before going to the cupboard and grabbing a can of tuna. He opened it, and poured it into Tommy's food bowl.

“Here you go buddy. A treat since Mommy's gone.”

Tommy meowed again, quite pleased with the break from the norm.

Deciding that he did not want to continue his work sifting through his work spreadsheets, Conner instead decided that he wanted to go on a walk in the park. He went to his bedroom to change. Upon entering the room, however, he noticed something strange. On Brooke's bedside table sat an unfamiliar book. It was a black leather book, with small gold-looking clasps on its front. Curious, Conner walked over the table, sat down on the bed, and opened the book. After thumbing through it, he realized that it was Brooke's diary. Conner had not known that Brooke had a diary, but he was not surprised. The amount of information that Brooke had to deal with on any given day for her work as a chemist was astonishing, and he did not understand any of it. He was about to close the diary, and put it back how he found it, when he noticed his name on one of the pages. He could not resist looking.

January 15th, 2007.

Today was a hard day at work. Johnson seemed to have an fire under his ass. He kept checking in every ten minutes or so on my progress. I think that he has a lot riding on my work. I just hope that I can deliver. 

I had lunch today with Jeremy. I feel bad, because Conner doesn't like me meeting with him. He gets so jealous! I don't think that I will tell him about it...not for a while at least.

Conner's ears began to burn. It was a good choice that Brooke did not tell him about her meeting with Jeremy. Jeremy was her ex-boyfriend, and he had shown up drunk to their wedding, and professed his love for Brooke. Brooke seemed to think that it was not a problem, but he had always thought it was strange for her to be around him after that. Wondering what else she had been keeping from him, Conner continued to read.

January 20th, 2007

Today thing were weird at work. Johnson was waiting for me when I arrived at my lab. When I got in, he slammed the door behind me, and asked me how the project was coming along. When I told him that the specimen had lived, his face went stark white. He asked me if I had submitted the results. I had. When I told him, he got this look in his look in his eyes, almost like that of a caged animal. He didn't say anything after that, and he left the office. 

I went back to my work, and a few hours later, Richmond came in, which never happens. She brought with her a man I've never seen before. His name was George Cook. She said that he was replacing Johnson, who had been transferred. She never said where he was transferred to though. I think he was fired. I think he was fired because my tests hadn't brought the results that Richmond wanted. I hope that he's okay.

January 27th, 2007

After a week with Cook, I have to say that he is not the worst boss in the world. He checks in more than Johnson used to, but he is always pleasant. Today he even bought me a coffee. I think things are going to go well with him and I. I still feel bad about Johnson though. I mean, it wasn't his fault that the results didn't pan out right for him.

March 24th, 2007

I think that I am getting close to the solution. The last few tests have proven extremely successful, with the sample's dying every time, and no trace remaining of the chemical remaining after several hours.

March 25th, 2007

Cook was waiting for me today outside of my office. He said that he was happy with my results, and that we were going to go to visit Richmond, but instead of going up to the third floor, we took the elevator down to the basement. He led me down the long hallway to a small room. It was pitch black once he closed the door behind us. Then, the room seemed to move beneath our feet. This happened for a few seconds, before the wall opened, and a different hallway appeared before us. 

He took my arm, and pulled me along the corridor. It was whiter than snow, and there were glass windows along it's entire stretch. Inside of them, there were people in hospital beds, strung up with a bunch of wires. They were all asleep. 

We finally reached the end of the hall, and Cook opened the large, double door, shoved me inside, and then closed them behind me. Inside, Richmond stood with her back to me. She was looking at a single, large medical room.

She turned when the door shut, smiling at me. She said that she read my findings, and was pleased that I had succeeded. She had me come up to the glass, so I could see my chemical being tested on a full sized subject.

But, to my horror, I realized who was in the room. It was Johnson! Richmond laughed when I realized who it was. She told me that he had volunteered to be the first test subject. I asked if he was sick, which only made her laugh more. She explained to me that I wasn't testing an new medicine. Then, Cook entered the room, and injected Johnson with the chemical. After a few minutes, he began to violently convulse. Then, after a few moments, his head snapped violently back, and foam began to ooze out of his mouth. He was dead.

It was then that Richmond told me the true purpose of my research. I had developed a new poison for her. She wouldn't tell me who she worked for though, and who had wanted this poison. She just told me that I was now complicit, and that if I told anyone that I would regret it. They said that both Conner and I are under constantly under surveillance, and that if we do anything, that they will know.

Conner set the diary down. He could not believe what he had just read. Had Brooke really been working on creating poison? Was she really responsible for Johnson's death? He picked the diary back up, and continued to read.

March 26th, 2007

Today, I went back to the hidden facility. I have decided to call it Hell, for that is what it really is. They are having me test the my poison on more people, to prove its efficacy under different circumstances. Today, I had to watch as young man, whose convulsions were much more mild than Johnson's. Instead, he slowly asphyxiated on the white foam that filled his lungs, and then trailed down his chest. His name was Brian. The chart said that he was a homeless man that they had taken off the street, offering him a bed and food for participating in a clinical trial. Looking at the other charts, it seems like that is how they got most of the people.

Then there was this young woman. Her name was Michelle. While I was administrating the chemical to her, she grabbed my arm. As the poison took its hold in her, she began to shake violently, and her grip tightened hard around my arm. I had to pry her hands off after she had finished convulsing. 

I had to kill ten others today. I don't know how I am going to do this. I can't keep killing people, but if I stop, they'll just replace me and kill Conner. And if I tell anyone, they'll kill Conner...and I can't let that happen. 

Please God, forgive me.

The next two months of entries went into great detail as to what she had done each day, giving the names of all of the people that she had tested the poison on, and going into ever more elaborate prayer for forgiveness from God. Tears streamed down Conner's face. Tommy jumped onto the bed, and meowed at him. Absentmindedly, he reached out and pet him, eyes still glued to the diary.

June 5th, 2007

Today is the first day that I didn't have to descend into Hell. Instead, Cook sent me to the lab that I had originally developed the chemical in. He told me that the poison had been discovered, and that they needed a new one, one that would be unknown to the world. I can't believe that I have to make another way for them to kill people...but at least it keeps me out of Hell, at least for a little while.

The next few months were devoid of any entries.

October 11th, 2007

I finished the new poison today. They took me back to Hell. 

The next few weeks detailed her tests of the new poison, ended with an entry from the day before.

December 2nd, 2007

Tomorrow, I have to go to Seattle. They want me to go to some central lab there, and meet with some other scientists that the company has. I am afraid of what is to come. I hope that Conner and Tommy with be okay. 

Conner set the diary down, and went back to his office. He grabbed his phone, and dialed Brooke's number. It went straight to voicemail.

“Brooke, honey. It's Conner. I found your diary. Are you okay? Please call me back. I'm scared honey.”

He stood there, eyes locked on his phone, his hand shaking.

Then, he heard someone knocking at the door.

He made his way through the living room to the door, and opened it. Standing there was a man in a black suit and sunglasses. He smiled, and pushed Conner back, into the house. Stepping in, he closed the door behind him, and then stabbed Conner with a syringe. The man held him down for a few minutes, and then dragged his body out of sight of the front door and windows, and then left him lying there, alone in the house.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Does Democracy Represent a New Threat of Tyranny for Tocqueville?

The Nineteenth Century was a period of great change, of revolution. It was during this time that the spirit of democracy swept across the continent of Europe, bringing the poor masses of people to flock to its banner, rising up against the aristocracies and monarchies of the era, and establishing new governments founded on the principles of liberty and equality for all. Or at least, that is the image that is commonly held today. At the time, democracy was new, and it brought with it an uncertainty that is, by its very nature, unsettling. While there were many great authors who wrote, contemplated, and discussed the ideals and consequences of the newfangled democracy, one in particular stands out as an figure of note, and that is the Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville. Tocqueville lived through a period of severe instability in the history of France, and saw first-hand the affects of the revolution to the French society. He is known best though for his two-volume work Democracy in America, in which he discusses the intricacies of democracy, and how it relates to the American States (these comparisons are drawn from the time that he spent in the United States). It is from this work that this essay will be based on. The question is, given his background and experience, was Tocqueville afraid of democracy? The answer to this question is self evident, and immediately apparent upon opening Democracy in America—he is terrified of it, and the threat that it represents to society, to a level bordering on religious terror. Moreover, he is also saddened by the great moderating force that, in his mind, the ideas of uniformity and equity bring to the world, blunting the extremes that to him, make the world so great. What is the more interesting, and more important question, which this essay will seek to explore is why Tocqueville was afraid of democracy, and, why he thought that the American Democratic Republic had been able to, and continues to, overcome the inherent problems with the democratic state, and thus maintaining liberty and equity for all of its citizens.

Tocqueville was first attracted to America because of the equality of conditions that it possessed—something that has not existed with liberty within the European continent. While equality of conditions did exist in Europe, it was equality under the rule of the aristocracy, in which almost all were in the same abject poverty. In America, this was different. In the United States, liberty and equality were a fundamental aspect of the founding of the state, with the English bringing with them the knowledge and positive valuation of the jury, of freedom of speech, of freedom of the press—which he views as vital in the maintaining of equity in a democratic state, when individuals are all relatively powerless when compared the the state—, a sense of the significance of individual liberty, the importance of independent courts, and the idea of individual rights. These together created a foundation for free institutions that did not exist on the mainland of Europe, which had spent its time under the control of various monarchies and aristocracies. This is one of the integral reasons why the United States is different, and an exception when discussing the habits and trends of democratic states and peoples, lying in the Providence of the United States (as does its isolation from other great powers, and its vast reaches, allowing for expansion without conflict and the ability to turn what would be vices—that being the desire for the accumulation of great wealth and the drive to be independent—actually serve to benefit the state, as it allows for the colonization of the extensive uninhabited parts of the nation, among other things). The other axioms that hold the American Democratic Republic together, keeping it from the ruin of tyranny, are the laws that it has, and the habits and mores it possesses.

As to the laws in which the United States has, Tocqueville is referring in particular to the administrative system of Federalism that exists within the United States, the political power that the town has, and subsequently the way in which power flows from the people and the town upward toward the federal governments, as opposed to the opposite in France, and the underlying foundations of the judicial system in the United States, and how it acts as a counterweight to the unchecked evils of democracy.

The model of federalism in which Tocqueville so greatly admires is based on the idea of decentralizing the administrative capabilities of the state. In France, there exists a hierarchy of the administration, with each level of administration accountable to the one above it, and with the eventual head of the administration, that being the monarch, accountable to the people, not in the way of being elected, but in the way that if he were to act against their interest, they would be able to rise up and overthrow him. With democracy, Tocqueville does not believe that this is possible, as each individual is quite weak, having surrendered their power to society, and through it, the state. Tocqueville believes that in order for the state to do anything substantial, it needs to have a certain degree of administrative centralization (with states being able to accomplish more the more centralized they become). However, administrative centralization also creates a government that is in the perfect set of conditions for despotism and tyranny to take hold. Federalism works to counter this, with the federal government making laws that apply to everyone, but only dealing with aspects of life and governance that are extremely specific, and laid out in the American Constitution, leaving all else up to the States. The States in turn legislate only on the issues that are held common between all of the counties that exist within its borders, and the counties do the same for towns—leaving the smallest political institution with a great deal of power, and spreading out the administrative duties of the government out across four different levels of government.

The political power of the town in America is, in itself, quite simple, and so it will not be explored in great detail. Suffice to say, towns are directly democratic institutions that see the most of the everyday needs of the people who live within them, and act as entities on the behalf of their citizens when dealing with the other levels of government, and due to their power as an entity, they have the ability to exert great influence over the proceedings of the county and the state.

Last on the list of the three things holding the American Democratic Republic from ruin is the court system that it has. What Tocqueville notes as important in the American court system is that it has a strong, independent judiciary, which he believes is vital if liberty is to reign supreme. The American judiciary is able to remain independent, and yet somewhat accountable, by the nature of jurists being appointed by the executive, and approved by the elite of the two branches of the legislature—that being the Senate, when regarding the federal Congress. After they have been appointed, however, the American jurist is able to exercise extreme freedom in the judging of cases, and of laws, for unlike in other states, the American jurist is able to act as a legislative agent in the sense that he can strike down or modify laws that are viewed as contrary to the Constitution of the country. This allows for the jurists to put an end to any laws that would seek to work against the democracy as a whole, which they—the jurists—are in favor of, for it favors them, thus forming a symbiotic relationship between the two. Together, these three facets of the American Democracy serve to counter the inherent problems of democracy, which we will now examine.

It was said by William Churchill in an address to the House of Commons that “democracy is the worst form of government, except all of the other forms that have been tried.” In this, Tocqueville would tend to agree Churchill. Tocqueville's fears of democracy are founded in the way in which democratic peoples think about themselves, and about the world. One of the core principles of a democracy is that all people who have suffrage—that being all of the citizens—are equal to each other, at least under the law. This is the important distinction between democracies and aristocracies, in the latter of which you have a small elite that are given the right to vote. In this form of government, you have an inequality that is then implicit between the aristocrats and everyone else. The benefit of this system is, according to Tocqueville, that because people are unequal, people have the ability to rise up against tyrannical forces, whenever they rear their head. This is not possible, in Tocqueville's mind, for democracies, as democratic peoples, believing themselves to be equal to all of their fellow citizens, and having sacrificed much of their own power to the state and to society, will not able to fight against a tyranny that installs itself within the state. Democratic peoples would argue that this is not a problem, as the society would stop the tyranny from materializing in the first place. This is, at least in Tocqueville's mind, not the case.

Tocqueville observes that when there is an equality of conditions within a society that the people of that society tend to stop believing in the supernatural. Instead, they move to believe in the greatness of human reasoning, a belief that he thinks is often inapt. This belief in human reasoning is then translated into a trust in the beliefs and decisions of the public, for such a vast amount of people is certainly incapable of being wrong. It is here that the danger that democracy represents begins to emerge. For, the belief in the public leads to ever more extreme consequences. First, with the belief that the public is going to be correct in its decision making, people are willing to sacrifice a great amount of their power as individuals to the state, since it is the greatest embodiment of the public and its opinion. This initial forfeiture is just the begin of the rights that will be given over to the state. Another cause of people willingly handing over their rights to the state is when they feel unsafe, or when they feel as if the peace of the society is threatened. This can be combined with, and exploited by the person or persons who are entrusted to lead the state, as Tocqueville notes that democratic people hate complicated things, and thus relegate enormous amounts of power to their leader or leaders, favoring simplicity over the potentiality of exploitation for tyranny and despotism. This, Tocqueville views, as one of the many weaknesses of democracy. It is a way in which it can be corrupted. So those are the avenues in which democracy becomes perverted, but what is the result of the perversion? Tyranny and despotism are warned of, but how do they manifest themselves while the state remains democratic, and does not fall to dictatorship?

There are two answers that are presented to these questions. The first is presented quite early on in Democracy in America, and the second comes near the end of the work. The first, and most simply form of tyranny that can exist within a democracy is the tyranny of the masses—or, by another name, the tyranny of the majority. Democracy, by its nature, works to benefit the greatest number of people, which is something to be admired about it. However, this can be abused. The worry of the tyranny of the masses is that the masses will use their power to oppress the minority of the society. In democracies like the United States, because they are set up to favor the majority, the institutions that exist within are made in such as way as to allow the majority to rule like a tyrant. A perfect example of this is the treatment of Japanese and Japanese-Americans in the United States during the Second World War, in which the majority decided that to deprive people of Japanese descent of their rights and their liberty for the duration of the war, fearing that they would pass along information to the Japanese Government, purely on the basis of their heritage. This suspension of the writ Habeas Corpus and to a free and speedy trial as guaranteed to everyone under the Constitution occurred because of the tyrannical majority. It is this kind of scenario that Tocqueville fears, though it is not the only form of tyranny that he fears comes from democracy. For, the tyranny described above is the tyranny of the democratic people, not the tyranny of the democratic state, which has the potential to be equally as terrifying.

The tyranny of the democratic state is resultant of the aforementioned process of the consolidation or centralization of the administration of a state into the hands of one person or a small group of persons, as well as the forfeiture of many or all of the rights of individuals to the government. This centralization seems to correspond with the level of equality in a society. As the government increases its power, it is thus able to increase the dependence that the individuals in the society have to it, and thereby is able to increase the state of servitude that individuals have to the government. As a result of the increased power, the government then begins to take over aspects of society and of life that were never before under the purview of the state during the times of the aristocracies. Among these facets of society that the government takes control of are charities, education, and industry. The cost of this now much larger administration is much higher than it was in the past, which then requires new avenues for the generation of revenue for the state, as cultivation of the lands held by the government and taxes no longer suffice. This leads to two problematic situations, in the eyes of Tocqueville, though I believe that only one of them would be considered a problem today, and that is the government having to take out loans from the rich, thus becoming debtors to them. The fear here is not that the rich will be able to ruin the economy by calling in the debt that the state has, as that would be counterproductive to do. No, the worry here is the undue amount of influence that the rich are able to gain by lending money to the government. By giving money to the state, they are able to make their opinions have more weight to legislators and the executive than those of the common people. This is an inherent threat to democracy. The other worry that Tocqueville has with funding is banks, and in particular those led by the state, however, as time as showed, banks are not to be feared, so long as there is regulation and an amount of banks that is great enough to prevent an oligopoly.

Now that the state has increased power, and the core of democracy is corrupted by the rich having undue influence, we can see the beginning of what Tocqueville fears is the tyranny that the state will exert. The tyranny that Tocqueville sees is one in which from birth, people are shaped by the government to fit a particular mold, a particular role for it. They are raised to do as they are directed by the state, to be docile, like a herd of sheep, with the government being their shepherd, constantly hindering them, and obstructing their liberty and their right to self determination. He believes this is possible for the reason listed above, but then also because he believes that, for the most part, a large amount of people want to be led. However, since they also want to be free, it ends up being that people essentially are choosing “freely” their masters, who they will then obey without hesitation. This is a tyranny that is unlike any of the others that has existed in the whole of Humanity's existence, and because of that, Tocqueville is afraid of it.

Earlier in this essay, it was mentioned that Tocqueville believes that everything is moderated by democracy. This is because democracy promotes unity and equity. This is a beneficial aspect of democracy in many respects, as it is able to abate poverty and hunger, and bring the masses of the uneducated into literacy. It also moderates the wealth of individuals, eliminating aristocracy. It can even, in Tocqueville's mind, moderate tyranny that will assert itself within democratic states and peoples. It also has negative effects, such as the moderation of great minds, and all other good extremes that exist in the world. Due to this, Tocqueville is saddened by the shift toward democracy, and the moderation it brings, for it, in his mind, makes life much less interesting and diverse.

It is quite clear and simple then what Tocqueville believes about democratic peoples and states. Tocqueville is both terrified of democracy, and also conceded that it is inevitable. He believes that democratic people, through their misplaced faith in human reasoning, give undue credence to the will and opinion of the majority, and thus, to the government. This power, and faith, can then be used and exploited by the government to gain additional power, and expand its influence into facets of life and society that until recently have been considered completely private matters. By amassing power at these levels, the state is then able to shape and control citizens at a subconscious level, and is able to deprive them of their right to self determination. The other aspect of this faith in the majority is that it allows for the majority to, on its own, act tyrannically toward minority groups, such as was done in World War Two with the Japanese internment camps, or as is still going on today with institutional racism in the United States, and elsewhere. Tocqueville does have some hope though in the stemming of the tyrannical tendencies of democracy, and those manifest themselves quite exemplary in the American Democratic Republic through its Providence, its laws, and its customs and mores.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Satan's Telemarketer

“Hello, is Francis Moore available?”


“Is this he?”

“It is.”

“Hello Francis. My name is Carl, and I am calling on behalf of the Lord of Darkness, Satan, with a once in an eternity offer! How do you feel about selling your soul to the Devil?”

“Jack? Is this you?”

“No sir, this is Carl, calling on behalf of the Lord of Darkness, Satan.”

Francis laughs, “Okay Jack, whatever you say. I'll see you at the Danny's tonight, yeah?”

“No sir, I am not 'Jack.' My name is Carl.”

“Keeping to the gag, eh Jack? I like it! See you later tonight mate.”

The phone clicks off. Carl pushes away from his desk, tearing off his headset.

“What's wrong Carl?”

Carl sighs.“The usual Jerry. Nobody takes me seriously. I am so far behind quota. At this rate, I am going to go back to the Inner Seventh Circle.”

“Oh, come on now Carl, it can't be that bad. Besides, it's just part of telemarketing. It is a tough game, but it is better than the desert of burning sand and the burning rain though, right? I'll take the First Circle and this hell any day.”

“Yeah, this is certainly better. I am just so very bad at selling things. I want to get into the PR Department. I feel like I would shine there.”

“Ha! You want to work in PR, but you can't get people to sell their souls? Come on, there is no way you're getting into PR unless you shine here.” Jerry scoffs.

“Yeah? Well, fuck you Jerry! It must be second nature to you, coming from the First Bolgia.”

Carl turned back to his terminal, and punched in the next number.

“Hello, is Emily O'Brien available.”


“Hello Emily. My name is Carl, and I represent the Lord of Darkness, Satan. I am calling to give you a once in an eternity opportunity, a chance to sell your soul to the Devil!”


“Emily? Are you still there?”


“So, what do you say? Do you want to sell your soul to the Devil for amazing power in the mortal world?”

“Is this a joke?”

“No ma'am, I am one-hundred percent serious. If you sign today, you can have your powers immediately. All that is required is your desired gift from the Lord of Darkness, and give an oath of eternal servitude.”



“Yes, yes. I am still here. I am just trying to wrap my head around this. You're saying that I can have near limitless power, and all I have to do is make some sort of oath?”

“Well, yes. Though, it isn't some random oath, it is a pledge of eternal servitude to the Lord of Darkness.”

“Okay. I know you're pranking me, but I'll humor you. Yes, I will sell my soul to the Devil. In return, I would like to have ten million dollars.”

“Ten million? Okay, not a problem, I can most certainly authorize that.”


“Okay, in order to finalize the sale of your soul, repeat after me: I Emily O'Brien.”

“I Emily O'Brien”

“Do, of my own volition, grant my soul in eternal servitude.”

“Do, of my own volition, grant my soul in eternal servitude.”

“My soul to the Lord of Darkness, Satan.”

“My soul to the Lord of Darkness, Satan.”


“That's it?”

“Yup, that's it!”
“ when do I get my ten million?”

“Check your bank account. It's all there.”

“Yeah, okay. Sure.”

“I assure you it is. The Lord of Darkness always keeps his bargains. On behalf of our Master, I would like to thank you for selling your eternal soul to him. I can't wait to see you once you die!”

Carl ends the call, and pushes his chair back, hands held high.

“Jerry! Jerry! I did it!”

“You did what Carl?”

“I got someone to sell their soul, and only for ten million dollars!”

“Hey, there you go Carl! Good on you! Looks like you won't be going back to the Inner Circle after all, eh?”

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Does Augustine's Theory Imply That the State is a Servant to the Church in City of God?

Saint Augustine of Hippo, hailing from what is now Tunisia, was one of the premier thinkers of the Christian Church, and was responsible for some of the first great advances of Christian theological thought since the New Testament. While he wrote an enormous amount of books and essays, the most extensive of his work would have to be his Concerning the City of God Against the Pagans. This work, comprised of twenty-two books and spanning over a thousand pages, discusses various areas of debate within the Christian world, including such things as the discrepancies between different editions of the Bible, why there must be evil in this world if we as a species are to have free will, the creation of our world and the Universe as a whole, and much more. Augustine also discusses the idea of the City of God, and the City of Men—which he also refers to as the Heavenly City and the Earthly City, respectively. The goal of this essay will be to explore the relationship that exists between these two cities, with the ultimate goal of determining whether or not the state should be a servant to the church based off of the theories presented by Augustine in City of God.

Augustine, in City of God, is writing a theological work—being that it assumes the existence of God, and views him as predicate for the existence of the Universe. He believes that we must all follow what the Scriptures tell us, for they tell the truth of the world, as they are the word of God, passed to us through his messengers—that is, the prophets. Now given this, Augustine defines the City of God as a city that is upheld by the Scriptures, with the guiding power of God's supreme providence. It is from this city that joy spreads to the whole of the Earth. To be a member of this city, one must subjugate themselves to the one true God, and not the false idols that those of the Earthly City have a tendency to worship. In many ways, this City of God is essentially the Heaven that we think of today, with it even being populated primarily by angels. Through worship of the one true God, that being the god of the Catholic Church, and subjugation to him while in the Earthly City, one makes themselves a pilgrim for the length of their stay in the Earthly City, with the ultimate reward for their devotion being ascension to the City of God after the death of the body in the Earthly City.

Going back to the time of Adam and his prodigy, we see two distinct lines. There is that of Cain, who created his line after fratricide, created the first physical Earthly City. They were not to ascend to the Heavenly City, due to their sins. This is in contrast with the sons of Seth, who were the devout, servants of God, and through the purity of their devotion, were to ascend to the City of God. The corruption of the Sons of Cain grew to such a great extent, however, that the line had to be removed by the biblical flood—though the Earthly City itself would remain, as all men are a part of it, and many of the children of Noah and his sons would be members of only the Earthly City, and not the City of God.

The Earthly City is that of which all men are a part of. The hope is that through worship, and service to God, one will have only to experience the death of the body, and that they will not have to experience the second death, which is the worst punishment of all—life without God.  The reason for the existence of the Earthly City is that we as a species corrupted ourselves through sin from the original perfection that God gave us. Thus, we live a life of perversion in the Earthly City, to be freed of the perverted form upon ascending to the City of God. God gave us a way to salvation though, and that is through worship and obedience to him, and his son, Jesus Christ. One form of obedience to Him and His laws is through humility—which Augustine says exalts the mind. In addition, one can better themselves and show their devotion to God by doing acts for their own sake, which betters oneself and society as a whole. In contrast, doing acts to better oneself, and for the purpose of being prideful is to ultimately hurt oneself, for being prideful is asserting one's own dominion as more important than that of God, thus breaking the fellowship that exists between God, oneself, and one's fellow man. However, it is important to note that while the Earthly City and Heavenly City are distinct, they are also intertwined, and they evolved together.

Augustine goes into a bit more detail as to how human society is formed, and how the Earthly City is organized. As men spread out after the Great Flood, they began to form different groups. These groups were built on the fellowship of those who shared common geography and culture, and these groups worked to benefit themselves primarily. Thus, human society, as it naturally formed, is divided against itself. In essence then, the common aim of human society, of Earthly City, is worldly advantage and satisfaction of desires. According to Augustine, this is not what the final aim of the Earthly City should be though. The final goal of all things should be peace, as peace is instinctively desired by both the irrational beast, and by the rational man. This, Augustine argues, is evident in how people conduct themselves. Even those who seek war, he says, are really only seeking to redefine the order of peace to better fit themselves and their position.

Augustine believes in a multitude of peaces, each satisfied by some ordering of relevant variables. Most important to the discussion of the role of the state and the church, however, is the peace between men, and thus, the peace of the Earthly City. This peace is established through an ordered agreement between two or more people. Peace with the Heavenly City is different, with it being achieved through “harmonious fellowship in the enjoyment of God, and a mutual fellowship in God.” Thus defined, the peace of the Earthly and Heavenly Cities are different, and require different conditions to be satisfied. This is the foundation of the argument that Augustine lays out for the separation of the state from the church.

He argues that the use of temporal things is related to the enjoyment of the earthly peace, which is different from the eternal peace of the Heavenly City, which comes from service and subjugation to God. This use of the temporal goods that God gave to the world, then, must be to satisfy the bodily pleasures enough to quench the thirsts of the irrational soul, so that one may exercise and satisfy the rational soul, which is satisfied through the acquisition of some sort of profitable knowledge that he will use to order his life and his moral standards. This requires the direction of the Divine, which can only be gotten by adhering the the guidelines given above to enter the Heavenly City. This process, then, is one that is for individuals. It in no way suggests or warrants the church having dominance over the state. This idea of individuals needed to work toward salvation, and the difference of the objectives of the Earthly City and the Heavenly City are continued throughout the rest of the nineteenth book of the City of God, which is where Augustine focuses on the role of the Earthly City in relation to the Heavenly one.

In addition to setting out how one is to interact and use the temporal objects of this world, the Scriptures also set out clear commandments on how one should live their life in relation to others. First, one should love God. Second, one should love their neighbor as they love themselves. The need to love God is fairly self-explanatory, though the reason to love your neighbor requires a bit more of an explanation. One should love their neighbor because they should want their neighbor to love them, so that if they are in need of assistance, their neighbor will help them. Therefore then, one should also help their neighbors, for this relationship of mutual love can only exist if both sides are satisfying their part of the arrangement. If this is had, then society will be organized in the righteous way of a peace among men based on a mutual love, with man doing harm upon no one, and coming to the aid of others. Again, this does not lend toward the state being a servant of the church, but toward men acting in the interest of the common good of the Earthly City. It just so happens to also be in-line with the Scriptures, and thus also satisfying part of the requirement to enter the City of God.

Important to the ideal ordering of society that is listed above is the domestic peace of individual households. Individual households are what society is based on, and so the peace of society is based on the peace of individual households. The heads of households should achieve this peace by giving commands based off of faith, and by treating all of people within the household as the same, with punishments being given to benefit the offender, being meant to deter them or others from re-offending. All of this then, should be based off of the laws of the city that one is a part of, to prepare those in the household to be obedient to the city they are also members of. Thus is how societal peace, and thus earthly peace, is in part achieved. Yet again, the church has no place in this.

So what else is involved in the earthly peace? For it is ordered agreement among men, based off of neighborly love and domestic peace, but there is more to it. In this, Augustine is heavily influenced by Cicero, taking from him the idea of needing justice and service toward the commonwealth being essential for society. Wrong institutions and states, then, would be interested only in the good of the strongest, or some other smaller part of the society, which would then be contrary to the commonwealth, justice, and therefore the early peace. This is then a reason for the Church not being the master of the state, as it would be interested in serving a particular group of people—that being Christians. This causes issues when one considers that society is not comprised of solely Christians, but of people of other faiths as well. Thus, the Church holding power over the state would create an injustice. Augustine acknowledges this, explaining that the Earthly City, being based not in faith, must aim for the earthly peace, as it is concerned with the interactions in the temporal existence between mortal men.   It is assumed that because of the impiety of the Earthly City—which is a result of the philosophical minds of men being able to be swayed from the truth—that it is lacking the justice, as without true religion, there is no true virtue. This then requires there to be laws concerning religion and tolerance in the Earthly City, those do not exist within the Heavenly City, as to exist within the Heavenly City, one must accept the one true God and be subservient to Him.  Due to the nature of the Earthly City, the temporal peace must be shared by both the good and the bad alike, as Earthly or temporal peace requires cooperation between the members of the society, while only through one's own actions can they achieve heavenly peace. Thus, the Heavenly City does not interfere with the laws of the Earthly City and that which is requited for mortal life, though it does require a level of devotion and loyalty to it while in the Earthly City (as stated previously).  Augustine concludes then that all seek to get to the City of God, but only those who pass personal judgment will one get there—those who are wretched will not enter the City.

Thus, it would seem, that Augustine is not in favor of a religious state. In fact, it appears that the contrary is true—that he is in favor of a secular state. For he explains that the Heavenly City does not care about the differences between cultures, laws, languages, and all of the other aspects of human existence that are used to divide us, as long as such states that have these qualities promote the earthly peace, and do not hinder the worship of the one true God. This can be combined with his aforementioned belief in the need for the Earthly City to be run as justly as possible, and to have not a group that would be favoring any particular group—as the Church would—and not the commonwealth as a whole and the fact that one can only ascend to the City of God through their personal efforts, it is clear that Augustine would not want the state to be subservient to the church.