Essay 2

Submitted By natedelia
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Pages: 5

Nathan Delia
ENG 201 – Professor Brevda
Essay #2 – 2/8/15

A Difference In Philosophy: Machiavelli and Thoreau When examining the work of The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli and Civil Disobedience by Henry Thoreau, both would agree that lawless actions are necessary in certain situations. However, Machiavelli and Thoreau would not always see eye to eye regarding some of their other principles and philosophies. While Thoreau believes “That government is best which governs least,” (Thoreau, 305) meaning that the government which stays less involved and in which the citizens make decisions as well as govern themselves, is a much more effective strategy then having one strong central government. On the other hand Machiavelli would contest that when one is in a position of power, he must consider all of his actions very closely and wisely in order to keep control. More importantly, to whoever finds oneself in control, they must know when it is necessary to lead ruthlessly and aggressively in order to maintain power and refute disobedience. In other words one must always be ready to defend what is rightfully theirs. While Thoreau leans more towards anarchy or the absence of government, purely meaning a person governs himself singularly and individually. Believing this is the best strategy Thoreau supports that he would prefer no government at all. Machiavelli is closer to the opposite side of the spectrum believing that a prince or government in this case must make their presence known. If the prince is not in total control he will not be in a position of power for long at all, Machiavelli takes a more totalitarian standpoint, while Thoreau believes in anarchism. Looking more closely at Thoreau’s philosophy it is evident if he were to support a government, it would be a government that has respect for it’s people and stays more-so behind the scenes then anything else. At the same time Thoreau is similar to Machiavelli in the aspect that he believes laws can and should be broken if they are found to be unreasonable. However, it would appear that Machiavelli and Thoreau are thinking from different perspectives: Thoreau appears to be looking at government from the position of a person who lives under said government, someone who is directly effected by it’s policies. Therefore, Thoreau would side with a government that leaves the right of decision to the people. In contrast Machiavelli is explaining what should be done from the perspective of the ruler, or the government in this case, and would be more supportive of a government that had absolute control with an agenda focused on war at all times, demanding power and respect. In other terms Machiavelli would agree it is better to be feared rather than loved when both cannot be obtained at once and Thoreau would say the opposite. Similar to Thoreau’s thinking is that of Lao-Tzu in Thoughts from the Tao-te Ching. Lao-Tzu depicts a government that Thoreau would agree with, one in which the people are able to make their own choices, and must learn from their mistakes. “If a country is governed with tolerance, the people are comfortable and honest. If a country is governed with repression, the people are depressed and crafty” (Lao-Tzu, 211). The meaning behind this is basically that a government in which lets it’s people choose for themselves will gain their support, but one that controls and dictates to it’s people will earn their distrust. People should not fear their legislators; this fear creates a toxic relationship that in turn replaces respect with resentment eventually leading to chaos and revolt. Lao-Tzu states that one must be free of materialism because that is all a government controls, Thoreau would agree. Both authors would additionally concur that individuals should ultimately be governing themselves. Yet, Thoreau takes it one step further with a notion that we should not have any sort of central legislation at all; he is a supporter of a true anarchist state. Although