The Contrast Between Machiavelli’s Writings and Lao-Tzu’s Opinion

Published: 2021-09-29 03:15:04
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Category: Metaphysics, Machiavelli

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Martin Martinez Eng 151-1856 2/19/08 The Contrast between Machiavelli’s writings and Lao-Tzu’s opinion Lao-Tzu’s writings offered a basis for Taoism, a religion officially founded by Chang Tao-ling in about 150 A. D. However, the Tao-te Ching is an ethical document as much as about good government as it is about moral behavior. Niccolo Machiavelli was an aristocrat who had his ups and downs according the shifts in power in Florence. His writings encourage a prince to secure power by almost any means necessary.
Lao-Tzu’s Thoughts from the Tao-te Ching and Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Qualities of the Prince both have main goals of how to mold a better prince. Their views on government and the ways they attain their goals each differ in method. Machiavelli and Lao-Tzu have very different aspects about how a prince should govern his people. Machiavelli dwells over the fact, whether it is better to be loved or feared. He believes that the best way to maintain control over the people is by fear. Machiavelli says man is a sorry lot and are untrustworthy.
In order to gain control over his people he uses fear. ”[M]en are less hesitant about harming someone who makes himself loved then who makes himself feared…. ” (44) Since man is so hesitant to betray someone who they fear, the prince remains in control of his people. The terror of punishment keeps the people in order, which enables a smooth running government. According to Machiavelli this fear is the only way for a prince to govern his people and avoid harm. Lao-Tzu’s thoughts are completely different from Machiavelli’s.



Tzu believes in a smaller government, where the people actual govern themselves. He believes that the people should feel equal to the ruler and that the ruler must place himself below the people. Tzu stresses self control throughout the reading. Unlike Machiavelli he believes it is better to be loved than feared and he states that “if you want to lead the people, / you must learn how to follow them” (Section 66). Although Machiavelli and Lao-Tzu share a passion for how a prince should reach his goals, their ideas are completely opposed to one nother. Machiavelli believes that a prince should be deceitful in accomplishing his goals. By breaking promises and being able to manipulate the minds of men are the keys to attaining a prince’s goals. According to Machiavelli princes who have accomplished the most are the ones who do not care for keeping their promises. Tzu’s opinion on the matter is simply do nothing. “The Tao never does anything,/ yet through it all things are done”(Section 31). The prince is to just let things happen and soon enough what he wants to achieve will happen.
Lao-Tzu believes that once men and women are content with the idea of doing nothing, they can finally center themselves and the whole world will be transformed by itself. The peaceful attitude of Lao-Tzu and Machiavelli’s defensive ideas towards home military defense are far from the same. “Humility means trusting the Tao, / thus never needing to be defensive” (Section 61). Tzu’s ideas are simple, he doesn’t believe in violence. The prince should never need to be in a defensive position and that he should avoid violence at all times. According to Lao-Tzu, peace is the highest value and should always be the alternative instead of war.
Tzu doesn’t believe in harm to other men, he goes into battle with great sympathy. Lao-Tzu believes that there is no victory in war and peace is the highest virtue. Tzu’s belief is as long as all follow the Tao war is never necessary. Machiavelli’s attitude towards war and military defense is more conservative than Lao-Tzu’s. He believes that a prince’s profession must be to know the art of war. According to Machiavelli a prince “must, therefore, never raise his thought from this exercise of war, and in peacetime must train himself more than in time of war…. (38) Machiavelli believes that a prince must learn about his country in order to better defend it. Once a prince has study the geography of his own land he can now explore or take over foreign land. And according to Machiavelli a prince who lacks this ability lacks the most important quality in a leader. A prince must never be at rest and always be ready for any ambush or battle ready to take place. Machiavelli’s approach is less poetic and more realistic than Lao-Tzu’s. Both have the ultimate goal of making better leaders.
Lao- Tzu is all about following the Tao to achieve peace in the world. As long as one follows the Tao everything will fall into place. Machiavelli’s more controversial approach of the art of war is more of a believable concept than Lao Tzu’s ideas. Machiavelli’s do what ever it takes philosophy to become a successful prince is one of his main focal points in running a smooth government. In conclusion Machiavelli and Lao-Tzu’s ideas are very different but are both useful guidelines to create a successful prince.

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