Virtue of Aquinas and Machiavelli: Positive Moral Character

The author’s end in this essay is to measure the definition of virtuousness harmonizing to Aquinas and compare/contrast that with Machiavellian virtuousness. Following this rating the writer will try to discredit Machiavellian virtuousness as being shallow and impossible. Trusting on inquiry 55 from the Summa Theologiae and assorted chapters from The Prince. the writer hopes to put a solid and concrete statement against Machiavelli. It is deficient to compose of Aquinas without first adverting Aristotle and the relationship Thomas Aquinas had with his work.

Aristotle writes at great length of the human good. The good for adult male. harmonizing to Aristotle. is an active usage of those modules which separate adult male from the remainder of nature. viz. ground and will. which are distinguishable from lower modules such as feeling or reaction. One rule that profoundly influenced Aquinas was Aristotle’s theory that the moral virtuousnesss are each an norm of two opposing human traits ( which is how the mean individual gauges ethical motives today whether they are witting of it or non ).

Courage is found between cowardliness and heedlessness. generousness between stinginess and extravagance.

The highest good for Aristotle is found in the contemplation of truth. he believed this was the highest portion of man’s nature ; that it was so because of its trust on man’s mind and ground. Thomas Aquinas took the contemplation of truth a brilliant measure farther by contending adult male. through seeking his ultimate terminal. as take parting in the very nature of God.

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For Aquinas this engagement is the province of Grace. A individual in the province of Grace possesses certain powers. these are referred to as virtuousnes.

More specifically they are infused virtuousnesss that can be separated into two distinguishable sorts: Theological virtuousnesss and Moral ( or Cardinal ) virtuousnesss. Before diging excessively profoundly into the particulars of these virtuousnesss it is of import to set up some land work. Thomas Aquinas defines virtuousness as “a good wont bearing on activity” . We can besides associate this definition to a good module. viz. wont. Intrinsic to the construct of virtuousness is habit. Habit harmonizing to Thomas can be within the natural order or elevated to the Divine by Grace. Habits are seen as “stable dispositions” . or qualities. that guide the modules to move a certain manner.

Habits can be infused or acquired depending on the module. Of class non every wont is a virtuousness but merely one that guides a module. through the usage of ground. toward the good ; the good being the Ultimate terminal or the Beatific Vision which awaits us when our life here on Earth is over. Aquinas makes a cardinal point about virtuousnesss. The cardinal point made is between what Aquinas refers to as the infused virtuousnesss ( those which are God given and work in us without intervention from the modules of adult male ) and the acquired wonts. When these acquired good wonts become regular pattern for us we call them our “second nature” .

Our 2nd nature leads our actions to flawlessness. Elemental and perfectly necessary for the development of our 2nd nature are ground and will. our mind. The infused virtuousnesss. on the other manus. are a gift from God and are therefore called supernatural because they transcend ground and will ; they are gifts which we can non freely get or run. Among these infused gift virtuousnesss are two sorts: the first are the Theological virtuousnesss ( Faith. Hope. and Charity ) which are concerned straight with God and our ultimate terminal. which are unaided by ground. The theological virtuousnesss supply adult male with the love of God and learn us His will.

The 2nd and lesser of the infused virtuousnesss are the moral virtuousnesss. The moral virtuousnesss are concerned with human action and non with God himself. More specifically they are concerned with human behavior. The four moral virtuousnesss ( which are besides called Cardinal virtuousnesss ) are Prudence. Fortitude. Temperance. and Justice. Where the Theological virtuousnesss are tied into the supernatural. the Cardinal virtuousnesss are associated with the natural universe. Among the four Prudence is the highest because it is linked with ground. The rule act of Prudence is the executing of right or good ground. Prudence guides our ground.

Examples of this are good judgement and the ability to cover with the unexpected in a good manner. Fortitude is concerned with the ability to cover with what is painful or unpleasant. Temperance is associated with the impulses and cravings for what is enjoyable and eventually Justice towards the will of people. Emphasis must be made on the cardinal difference between the two types of virtuousnesss. Theological virtuousnesss ( covering with the occult ) and Cardinal virtuousnesss ( concerned with the natural ) . A moral virtuousness by definition avoids extremes by manner of the usage of human ground. the theological virtuousnesss transcend ground.

The supernatural and natural virtuousnesss are interconnected as Aquinas explains: “Grace ( the occult ) does non destruct but builds upon nature” . Ultimately mortal man’s modules can be described as holding ground which is enlightened by religion ; this elevates adult male into boundlessly higher fields than other animals. After sufficient discourse and account about Aquinas and virtuousness we come to a hamlets. Some four hundred old ages subsequently a new idea emerges with the deep and fractured ( some would state profoundly fractured ) head of Machiavelli. a adult male who continues to offer so much excessively so many slimey politicians across the Earth.

Machiavelli and his position on the human status and more specifically human virtuousness in footings of the political adult male is the 2nd subdivision of our probe. Prior to Machiavelli the position of a political leader ( or Prince. as referred to by Machiavelli ) was much different than his ain reading. A Prince and his functions in respects to political authorization were viewed as rightful merely if the exerting swayer had a strong moral character and was a virtuous individual. A swayer was viewed as making good merely when he sought the good. Rulers had to gain the right to be obeyed and respected.

This position of a swayer is called a “moralistic authority” and is exactly what Machiavelli criticizes in his work titled The Prince. In composing The Prince. Machiavelli sought to snuff out so current positions ( or at least present a radically different position ) of political authorization. Machiavelli preached that there is no moral footing on which to judge the difference between correct or illicit utilizations of power. Rather. whoever has power has the right to command ; since goodness does non guarantee power and the good individual has no more authorization merely because he is good.

Good or morality is ineffective in the acquisition and care of power. Obviously this position is in blunt struggle with the thoughts of a moralistic political ideal. For Machiavelli the merely existent concern of the political swayer is the acquisition and care of power entirely and non the common good of the community. Virtue. as had been taught by the philosophers preceding Machiavelli. is really frequently incompatible with his impression of effectual usage of power. This is so because those who are willing to utilize tactics without any moral backup are certain to throw out he who acts harmonizing to his virtuousness and is unwilling to use other. immoral tactics.

Harmonizing to Machiavelli the lone confidence that a prince can get the better of the strains of political relations is if he is willing and ready to travel against virtuousness when necessary. This kind of swayer must non be low to utilizing tactics such as slaying. misrepresentation. graft. use. and any other manner of immoral behavior he sees fit if certain state of affairss require it in order to keep ( or addition ) power. For Machiavelli it is precisely this attack to opinion that he sees as the “virtues” of leading. The usage of any manner necessary to obtain and keep power is virtue.

Through this bold attack to opinion we are given an wholly new return on virtuousness and arguably mankind itself. With this new vision of political regulation. purged of any moral influences. we are given a wholly new attack to the exercising of power. It is now rooted in the foundations of de-moralized political relations. This new and audacious attack to “power politics” is exactly what Machiavelli calls virtuousness. Machiavelli employs this new construct of virtuousness to mention to a scope of qualities a prince will happen necessary to get. in order to “maintain his state” and to “achieve great things” . the two necessities of power for him.

This makes viciously clear that there is no similarity between conventional Christian virtuousness and Machiavellian virtuousness. One can therefore sum up Machiavelli’s position of what it is to be a virtuous individual as such: A prince above all else must get a “flexible disposition” . A swayer must be capable of switching his/her actions from good to evil and back once more “as luck and fortunes dictate” . Precisely how does Machiavellian virtuousness affect the exercising of power? In order to reply this inquiry we must analyze another cardinal rule of his virtuousness.

Therefore enters the construct of Fortune. As discussed in Chapter 25 of The Prince. Machiavelli teaches the reader that luck shows itself where virtuousness and wisdom are missing. Fortune harmonizing to Machiavelli is a menace to the security of the province and must be fought against as such. Fortune is a force outside of ground that is wholly unpredictable which brings wretchedness and catastrophe to mankind. As Machiavelli provinces: “it is better to be hotheaded than cautious. because Fortuna is a adult female and it is necessary. in order to maintain her under. to crush and maul her” .

Fortune is therefore viewed as a beginning of force which must be answered with force if one hopes to command it. Virtue is the lone readying one has against luck. Virtue provides the ability to react to fortune whenever and nevertheless necessary. Machiavellian virtuousness affects the exercising of power in everyway. Machiavelli’s construct of virtuousness is wholly integrated with the exercising of power. The effectual and utile exercising of power is virtue. for Machiavelli. The tools and methods a Prince utilizes to demand his bid and guarantee his place are his virtuousnesss.

Machiavellian virtuousness is so basically different than true virtuousness ( virtuousness as defined by Aquinas ) that an surrogate word would do to specify it. When analyzing the two philosophers the differences between them are rather obvious. but one must look deeper than what is given at face value in order to happen the true effects of Machiavellian virtuousness. Once a individual has a basic apprehension and cognition of Machiavelli and his plants one can so come in into brooding thought on him and happen a deeper effect to populating a Machiavellian virtuous life.

What is adult male if all that has traditionally defined him has been reduced to mere tools which help him to accomplish an terminal? What is the him of the adult male? If virtuousness does non specify the individual. what does? The greatest defect in Machiavellian virtuousness is that adult male loses his individuality and his character. Virtue has been redefined from that which develops ethical motives and character to that which helps to procure power. Emphasis is now on the power and non the individual. With Machiavelli virtuousness covers merely one facet of the individual. Man as leader and power trader.

What is left of the adult male. if there are no longer any specifying traits. if adult male no longer has an individuality? Without any formal individuality adult male is no longer viewed as being “like God” . the supernatural facet of adult male is gone. that which is our true individuality. We have learned from Thomas Aquinas that virtuousness is developed through wont ; these wonts become who you are. If we remove that. what of the remainder of the adult male? Man is reduced to something of a retainer to “power” . Aquinas elevates adult male to the supernatural. as existences created in the similitude and image of God. made to portion in the Divinity of God.

Aquinas’ virtuousness covers the whole individual. Thomas lists the cardinal virtuousnesss which guide all the facets of human life. from Prudence to Charity and Temperance to Faith. By developing these virtuousnesss we become virtuous people. the virtuousnesss that we cultivate forms who we are and order our desires in line with the will of God. For Aquinas virtuousness leads us to God and our ultimate terminal which Beatific Vision. For Machiavelli virtuousness is merely the agencies of executing a undertaking. instruments that can and should be employed to make an terminal which is merely of this Earth ; viz. the securing and expanding of power.

For Machiavelli all that affairs is what is of this universe. Man is reduced to nil more than animate being with mind. nil supernatural and no life here after. As I have antecedently stated above. the greatest defect in Machiavellian virtuousness is that adult male loses his individuality and character. One other obvious and dramatic restriction to Machiavelli’s position of virtuousness. and therefore adult male himself. is that he speaks merely of adult male as swayer. non adult male as provincial. or servant. or adult male in the familial sense. If adult male were to specify himself precisely as Machiavelli proposes. he would genuinely lose his individuality.

If virtuousness is redefined than it would look that adult male excessively is redefined. Either Machiavelli missed something so foundational and necessary. such as the other functions people play in society. or his aim was. in specifying virtuousness. to merely redefine the swayer. Machiavelli must hold realized his position of adult male was limited and flawed ; his true purpose was to alter society from the top down. Resulting would be a society that sought merely selfish desires and the acquisition of power. Machiavelli had no interesting apprehension adult male merely to ordain his thoughts and go a Prince.

Man in accommodating these new thoughts is making nil less than lead oning himself. Virtue is a really wide subject which deserves rating. If we are to better understand ourselves and our civil society it is imperative that we learn what we can about those people who have. are presently. and will determine our ideas refering ourselves. God. and nature. What I have attempted is to turn to two really different positions on virtuousness. Aquinas continues to be the root beginning of our apprehension of virtuousness. Many efforts have been made by many people to redefine adult male ; Machiavelli is merely one of many.

Machiavelli holds the rubric as the first philosopher to whole-heartedly effort to retrace adult male in his ain similitude and image and to extinguish God. As foolish and impossible as that seems from a Christian position. he succeeded and continues to win in winning over new ( non ) trusters. By the very nature of turning off from God we deceive and are deceived. all of his bold new tactics sum to little more than misrepresentation. Deception laced with penetrations and deformed images of adult male. Man every bit viewed as non fallen from Grace but instead nescient to his “true” capableness and intent. Machiavelli offers us another apple.

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Virtue of Aquinas and Machiavelli: Positive Moral Character. (2017, Sep 12). Retrieved from

Virtue of Aquinas and Machiavelli: Positive Moral Character
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