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Medieval idealism (John of Salisbury*) v. Renaissance realism (Machiavelli).

JOHN OF SALISBURY

Who, therefore, resists the ruling power, resists the ordinance of God, in whose hand is the authority of conferring that power, and when He so desires, of withdrawing it again, or diminishing it. For it is not the ruler's own act when his will is turned to cruelty against his subjects, but it is rather the dispensation of God for His good pleasure to punish or chasten them.
MACHIAVELLI

We can say that cruelty is used well (if it is permissible to talk in this way of what is evil) when it is employed once for all, and one's safety depends on it, and then it is not persisted in but as far as possible turned to the good of one's subjects...

Violence must be inflicted once for all; people will then forget what it tastes like and so be less resentful. Benefits must be conferred gradually; and in that way they will taste better.

(The quotations on this page from Machiavelli are from The Prince. Trans. George Bull. Harmondsworth, England: Penguin, 1986. See pp. 66,96-100.)

Footnotes

  1. John of Salisbury

    John of Salisbury was an English clergyman and humanist of the 12th century (ca.1115-1180) who studied at Paris with Peter Abelard and was a supporter of Thomas Becket. He wrote commentaries on Aristotle, and in his Polycraticus (1159) discussed the ideals of princely rule.

  2. Machiavelli on love vs. fear

    One can make this generalization about men: they are ungrateful, fickle, liars, and deceivers, they shun danger and are greedy for profit; while you treat them well, they are yours. They would shed their blood for you, risk their property, their lives. . . but when you are in danger they turn against you.

    The bond of love is one which men, wretched creatures that they are, break when it is to their advantage to do so; but fear is strengthened by a dread of punishment which is always effective. . . it is far better to be feared than loved if you cannot be both.

  3. Two princes

    JOHN OF SALISBURY

    The prince stands on a pinnacle which is exalted and made splendid with all the great and high privileges which he deems necessary for himself. And rightly so, because nothing is more advantageous to the people than that the needs of the prince should be fully satisfied; since it is impossible that his will should be found opposed to justice.
    MACHIAVELLI

    A prudent ruler cannot, and must not, honour his word when it places him at a disadvantage and when the reasons for which he made his promise no longer exist. If all men were good, this precept would be good; but because men are wretched creatures who would not keep their word to you, you need not keep your word to them. And no prince ever lacked good excuses to colour his bad faith.