Is Hulliung right?
Hulliung discusses how people understand Machiavelli and what he thinks of some of Machiavelli’s concepts. In the chapter of “interpreting Machiavelli”, Hulliung argues in the issues of means and ends, idealism Vs realism, political violence and weather Machiavelli is a pagan. His ideas somewhat seem to be convincing. However, the question is, is Hulliung fair in judging Machiavelli? Or is he immoral?
Hulliung thinks that there are no differences between ends and means. In other words if the means are violent, in his view, the ends will be violent as well. What Hulliung says is that nothing can justify a means except the end that it is intended to serve. Hulliung points out that if an action is morally bad in itself, it cannot really serve a good end, even though it may on the surface appear to do so. In other words, men in power have often tried to condone their use of violence or fraud by making it appear that their injustice to individuals is for the social good and is, therefore, justified. But since the good society involves justice for all, a government, which employs unjust means fails the end.
The issue of ends and means has a bit to do with Machiavelli being a realist, as he thought that for Machiavelli realism and idealism were both the same. A realist ruler when it comes to ends and means usually asks himself: Will it work? Will this means, if employed, accomplish the purpose I have in mind? If not, it is certainly not the right way to use. Usually after raising the question if he were right morally, in taking whatever steps, it might serve as means to his end. When the answer is yes, one would not hesitate to use his means. If not, then he is not morally justified in employing such means. Since a bad end is one that we are not morally justified in seeking, we are not morally justified in taking any steps whatsoever toward its accomplishment. Hence, no means made morally right, by a bad end, can be justified. Nonetheless, we are always morally justified in working for accomplishing good ends. We are then, also morally justified in using any means which will work; for if the end is good, and if the means serves the end and does not defeat it in any way,
then there can be nothing wrong with the means. The end then justifies it, and we are justified in using it. For example, in education sometimes the means justifies the end, even if the end is not what you would have chosen. If you teach like you believe one should teach and you end up not satisfying those who think they agree with you or those who don’t, you’ve still accomplished something that might be called education.
In criticizing Machiavelli Hulliung did not only mention means and ends, and realism versus idealism, but he had also criticized Machiavelli’s use of violence. He stated that Machiavelli uses violence as a means of attaining glory. However, this method could at sometimes be successful. It is indeed sometimes the only solution or the only treatment that could be flourishing. In the context of economic globalization, many methods of rule described in The Prince are used today in many countries around the world, especially those that do not have a democratic heritage and clearly do not share one’s idealistic views of what is right and what is wrong. That entire one needs to prove this is to look at the political climate that exists. For example, like in many of the third world nation violence is often used, and it often serves the good of the country. Many companies who do business in many developing nations probably utilize Machiavellian principles themselves (unless they are legally forbidden by the nation of their incorporation or by some treaty) if they want to have any chance of success in those countries.
In addition to all what hulliung said about Machiavelli, he accused him of being a pagan. Machiavelli’s ambiguous treatment of religion has fueled a contentious and prolonged s debate among people. Whereas some insist that Machiavelli is a Christian because of some of his ideal points, Hulliung maintains he is a pagan. His examination of Machiavelli’s violent ideas about the treatment of the citizens made him thinks he was not a religious man. However, morality has very little to do with any religion. Certainly one must have morals to be considered religious, but some people are agnostic and have much higher values than most of the more common
“believers”. The strife between the religions of the world has usually been perpetrated by the masses in the “name” of said religion, when in reality it has been our own ignorance and hatred of those that are different that leads us to act with little integrity. Maybe if we look at our beliefs and search to understand why things are the way they are we would be able to come to some common ground on the states of things. My point being that if we follow the rules to get to heaven we have not understood what life is about. We have done all for ourselves and have cheated others out of just due respect. Now if there is no heaven the situation is still going to be the same. No understanding leads toeing self-centered and unhappy. Morality is giving with want for no return. It is selfless and cannot be found in the doctrine of any religion but only in the hearts of those willing to understand.
Hulliung had shed the light on many of Machivelli’s expressions that could be understood wrongly. It is only when we do not look too closely into the matter that we can be fooled by the statement ‘the end justifies the means’. We fail to ask whether the end in view is really good, or we fail to examine carefully how the means will affect the end. This happens most frequently in the game of power politics or in war, where the only criterion is success and anything that contributes to success that one thinks of it as it is justified. Success may be the standard by which we measure the expediency of the means, but expediency is one thing and moral justification is another. Hulliung has also accused Machiavelli of being a pagan. However the issue of religion is not something we should really care about. It is reasonable to use religion in the pursuit of power; but it is certain that there are many politicians or leaders of organized crimes to this day go to church. The point is not to be religious, but to be seen to be religious. The people want piety in their leaders, even if in their private lives they have no respect for religion.
hulliung, mark Interpreting machuiavelli, princeton press, princeton, 1963