Introduction What is a state? In different times in different places different people understood the meaning of this word in a different way. Definition for this term was being gathered for ages modifying and evaluating as the times went by (already since the times of Ancient Greece (beginning ~1000 BC)).
It can be explained by differences in level of knowledge people had, political situation, and “moods” which privileged in public. What is the purpose of a state? This question lies in the bases of a “state” conception and answer to it can be evaluated out of the history of this term. So, as it was said before, the state and the purpose of a state were understood differently by different people in different times.
In this essay I am going to review understanding and explanations of the “purpose of a state” in general, and compare thoughts of Ancient Greece philosophers (Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle) to ones of the Italian political philosopher of XV-XVI centuries – Niccolo di Bernardo dei Machiavelli, simultaneously comparing understanding of a “state” and “a purpose of a state” of two different time periods and two different nations in order to make a conclusion of what is a common principle all states are or should base on. Appearance of a “state” From the very beginning every person is born free, with his basic needs and abilities.
In ancient times, when there still was no such conception as state or government each person was a separate, independent unit. Each one controlled his own actions and produced everything he needed with his own hands. Each man was his own police, judge and jury which was very taxing on his time and energy. (Locke, 2005) So, how did humans come from being separate sovereign entities to form a government?
Why would one give up his autonomy and a right to make final decisions to someone else? First of all, there comes one of the basic needs, which stands on the second place in the pyramid of Maslow – safety need. It always was so, that the strong were using the weak in their own interests (this is normal rule for a human-being as a part of nature that “the strongest survive”).
To protect their own rights and property, people formed groups governed by an organisation which was given a right to make rules for safe co-existence and to control their fulfilment. This is the reason why nowadays governments derive their legitimacy from the “duty to protect its citizen’s property interests in both his possessions and his life“.
(Locke, 2005) Secondly, it also gave people a chance to organise their everyday life and by distribution and division of labour do more productive work, elevate quality of work and assure higher economical welfare for everyone. In other words by giving a power to control to “someone else” people could afford to pay less attention to care about the safeness of their property and spend more time on “earning their living”, getting new property, taking care of themselves and their families, etc.
So, again, the protection of life, limb, and property from internal and external threats, by that allowing men to do better work and be more prosperous, is the fundamental purpose of any legitimate government. (Locke, 2005) “State” in Ancient Greece Ancient Greece was divided into so called city-states or policies – more-or-less independent units with their own population and legitimate governmental system, which mostly were formed as a result of growing market-trade activities (Hooker, 1996) and situated on a limited amount of territory.
These city-states are believed to be the greatest political achievement of ancient Greeks and lay in foundation of modern legitimate state. One can explain the city-state as “a kind of community, which is, a collection of parts having some functions and interests in common (Pol. II. 1. 1261a18, III. 1. 1275b20). It is made up of parts, which Aristotle describes in various ways in different contexts: as households or economic classes (e. g. , the rich and the poor), or demes (i. e. , local political units).
But, ultimately, the city-state is composed of individual citizens , who, along with natural resources, are the “material” or “equipment” out of which the city-state is fashioned. ” (Miller, 2002) Before the 621 BC in many policies tyranny of powerful and wealthy leaders (usually small groups of wealthy families – oligarchy) was upmost; sometimes remarkably totalitarian oligarchies had many of the powers granted to a king. Only after reforms made in 621 BC citizens started to play valuable role in governance of a state, participating in discussions of city policy.
Then the new system – democracy (“rule by the demos (people)”) appeared. There was built up an Assembly which with the establishment of democracy gave male-citizens of the state (all free, land owning, native-born men living on the territory of a state (women, slaves and foreigners were not considered to be citizens)) equal rights in making the policy of a state. (Wikipedia sub Ancient Greece) So, basically minority again got political power over majority. Greek philosophy begins in these city-states and soon spreads around the Greek world.
Main purpose of a state according to ancient Greek philosophers Socrates (469 – 399 BC) According to Socrates, Ancient Greeks understood the freedom as a rule of „good laws“, common orders that provided safety all day long in all aspects of life. (Romashov, 1999) The purpose of a state was to provide its citizens enough „freedom“ or safety by making the laws which would state order in the chaotic everyday life and look after their maintenance. But in order to be „good“ the laws must be based on moral concepts. Morality must be guiding life of a state.
So, the basic task for the leaders of a state is to try to learn what actually are the moral principles everybody should base on in their lifes and apply them in the states’ mode and legislation. (Brakas) Plato (428/427 – 348/347 BC) Prato based his state-philosophy on a thesis that the state is founded not on the interest of one individ and not for the sake of any specific social class, but for the state as a whole. According to Plato, legislation must unify people, so they would become one – the state. Everything which is done by the citizens of a city-state must be turned to realizing aims of this state.
The laws according to which a state exists must be aimed to reaching welfare for all citizens of a state together, which means for the state in general. A state, according to Plato, absorbs and suppresses all elements of social life. Community and a state are seen by the philosopher as absolutely identical notions: state as a big person, person as a small state. (Romashov, 1999) But, Plato also stated a question: what is a „common good“? how can one know what is good for a state? He agreed with Socrates that „good policy“ must be ethical and based on moral principles.
He „passionately wanted to construct an ideal state and to place it on a solid moral and metaphysical basis. This basis, he held, was the world of Forms, a world of unchanging, perfect objects existing in some non-natural and non-temporal dimension, a world that is the source of, and more real than, the physical world in which we live. To know, he believed, is to know these Forms, not the perceptible objects around us, and the noblest life that anyone can live is the life of a philosopher, a life devoted to grasping them. Not surprisingly, his ideal state turned out to be one ruled by such philosophers.
“ (Brakas) For the ideal state of Plato an education would play the most important role. An ideal world of is the world of thinkers, who realise and see what is happening around, being able to make a choice and stand against immorality and injustice. He said that tyranny, influence of bad people in policy can be avoided by educating people. Prom here comes one of the most important ideas of Greek philosophy: habit to make certain decisions comes from education. We have to create certain habits in people: provide education to involve everybody into the governance of a state. Aristotle (384 – 322 BC).
According to Aristotle, policy is a kind of art based on knowledge and common sense. Despite all people are pursuing their own interests (in the education as well) it is important to realize that every person’s own welfare is directly dependent on welfare of a whole state. (Aristotle, 334-322) Therefore, politicians or governors can be defined as political artists/craftsmen, who applying practical wisdom and prudence, producing, operating, and maintaining a legal system according to universal principles, strain after reaching their own welfare by trying to set common welfare for the whole community.
„Aristotle states that the city-state comes into being for the sake of life but exists for the sake of the good life“. (Miller, 2002) But what is “common good”? Can somebody scientifically discuss what is good for a particular polis and all the people living in it? This question, firstly stated by Plato, also stands in the root of Aristotle’s state-philosophy. “We should strive for better life in a polis! ” – But how? Each of us should understand that in politics and as well in ethics, every situation is particular and political, ethical facts of life cannot be measured like we can mathematically discrete entities.
„Good life“ cannot be completely identified with material wealth. We should also separate „good life“ and „survival“. For reaching „good life“ we should perfectly combine all composing factors of life, for example economical basis for a „good life“, referring to Aristotle, is in the technical and artisan skills. As also said Xenophon only „good skills bring you result“ on the way to a „good life“; wealth, economic growth are not parts of a „good life“, but trade and creation lead to high economic welfare.
„For Aristotle, trade is just an expression for never-ending wants of human beings, consumption and getting wealthy have no natural goals and thus no limits“ (Drechsler, 2008: lk. 16): „There is no limit for people’s wants – they always want more. “ (Plato) So, basically „good life“ and common welfare is utopian, unreachable state – something a community can never reach, but should always seek to and the purpose of a state in this case is to toward the every-day-life of the society to follow the way to this utopia.
According to Aristotle the most important task for a politician, as for a lawgiver (nomothetes), is to frame the appropriate constitution (politeia – “a certain ordering of the inhabitants of the city-state” (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy syb Aristotle and citizenship: facts, paradigms, definitions)) for the city-state. This involves enduring laws, customs, and institutions (including a system of moral education) for the citizens. „The constitution is not a written document, but an immanent organizing principle, analogous to the soul of an organism.
Hence, the constitution is also “the way of life” of the citizens“. (Miller, 2002) After the constitution and the legal system of a state is formed politician has to maintain it and evaluate according to social progress. In other words, main purpose of the government of a state is to organise life of the community, forming specific way of co-existence which would accompany development and aspiration to common welfare of a city-state. Conclusion
From everything stated above we can make an output that common view on the purpose of a state of Ancient Greek philosophers is built on 4 basic ideas: •Main purpose of a state is to provide safety to the citizens, protecting their property rights; •Legislation and constitution of a state must be based on moral and ethical principles; •Provision of education for the citizens is one of the most important tasks of a state; •Citizens should participate in the government of a city-state; •Each state should strive to achieve common welfare.
Ancient philosophers saw main purpose of a state in protecting and unifying people, so they would safely strive to common goals obeying certain rules and orders which they would make themselves basing on moral principles. Italy in XV-XVI centuries Niccolo di Bernardo dei Machiavelli In order to realise better the point of view on the “state” and its’ purpose of Italian philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli it is important to look at the conditions of the time when he lived and which undoubtedly influenced his views on different questions.
Period of Renaissance in Italy Machiavelli was born in Italy in 1469. This was time, when Italy was rapidly developing in all aspects of community life: appeared new directions in Arts and politics. Term Reneissance (in translation from French meaning “rebirth”) was made in XIX cent to describe period of XIV XVI cent in Italian history, which signifies the beginning of the modern world (Machiavelli was born right in the middle of this significant period).
Italy in the fifteenth century foreshadowed development of the rest of Europe in the sixteenth century; developments in art and government, in literature and in modes of thinking were close to those of XIX cent. But the most important changes that took place in that period were psychological: men started to see themselves in a new way. J. C. Burckhardt identifies a rise in the importance of the individual, and a rise in secularism: the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation change the way that Italians construe their spiritual identity.
Again, these are identified as “modern” ways of thinking. Niccolo di Bernardo dei Machiavelli (1469 – 1527) Niccolo di Bernardo dei Machiavelli was a central figure of political scene in Italy of XV-XVI centuries; best known for his treatises on realist political theory (The Prince) on one hand and republicanism (Discourses on the Ten Books of Titus Livy) (on that influenced the fact, that he lived in Florence – centre of Italian Reniessance, which had been under a republican government since 1484) on the other. (Wikipedia sub Niccolo di Bernardo dei Machiavelli)
In 1513 Machiavelli was (wrongly) suspected of conspiring against the Medici and was imprisoned and tortured for several weeks – initially he was placed in a form of internal exile, which definitely influenced his views. His retirement thereafter to his farm outside of Florence afforded the occasion and the impetus for him to turn to literary pursuits. (Nederman, 2005) He is mostly known as founder of modern political science, who wiped away commonly known logic and understanding, replacing it with a new theory of his own paving a way for the modern state and politics.
Main theories he was deriving his following ideas from are that 1) politics is all about power (getting to and staying in) and 2) power is separate issue from morality, ethics, religion, and philosophy. Machiavelli spoke of a state as autonomous system of values, independent from other sources, in the name of state, he claimed, is possible to break the rules of morality, religion, etc, and even violent actions can and must be justified. “The Prince” In his important work – The Prince, Machiavelli, among the rest, discourses about the power.
He states in his work that state is based on power of rulers, and fear of citizens: “only by means of the proper application of power can individuals be brought to obey and will the ruler be able to maintain the state in safety and security” (Nederman, 2005). Machiavelli was concerned that people can be in general identified as “ungrateful, disloyal, insincere and deceitful, timid of danger and avid of profit…. Love is a bond of obligation which these miserable creatures break whenever it suits them to do so; but fear holds them fast by a dread of punishment that never passes.
” (Machiavelli, 1965 in Nederman, 2005) In other words in order to form a loyal, sincere community people which are meant to compose the society must be held in fear (fear of punishment or consequences (whether the loss of life or of privileges) for not obeying the rules, laws or orders). For that reason there must be rulers or governors who, by keeping people in fear, would make them obey certain rules: authority is impossible for Machiavelli as a right apart from the power to enforce it.
“It is power which in the final instance is necessary for the enforcement of conflicting views of what one has to do; person can only choose not to obey if he/she possesses the power to resist the demands of the state or if he/she is willing to accept the consequences of the state’s superiority of coercive force. ” (Nederman, 2005) Only in these conditions it will be possible to form State – well-ordered society within a geographical territory. Important fact is that Machiavelli believed in and supported dictature – one-man rule.
Machiavelli was sure that wellness of a state depended on the hands in which the power was concentrated: “good laws and good arms constitute the dual foundations of a well-ordered political system” (Nederman, 2005) and the laws and the authority of a state will not be respected, unless the powerful ruler renders disobedience unacceptable. So, in order to rule, and make existence of a state possible, governors must first of all be powerful and know how this power is to be used, demonstrating it to the citizens of a state, if necessary even through violence and punishments.
For Machiavelli, there is no moral basis on which to judge the difference between legitimate and illegitimate uses of power: whoever has power has the right to command. For that reason power characteristically defines political activity. A ruler must also be virtue. However, Machiavelli did not understand word virtue (from Italian virtu) as moral goodness. He suggested that virtue ruler is capable of varying her/his conduct from good to evil and back again “as fortune and circumstances dictate”. In other words, being virtu means to know which strategies and techniques are appropriate to what particular situation.
Connecting this to the theory of power: the ruler of virtu is bound to be competent in the application of power; to possess virtu is indeed to have mastered all the rules connected with the effective application of power. (Nederman, 2005) Virtue means doing whatever what is or seems to be the best for the state in a particular situation. In order to be virtue a ruler must also know himself and the measure of his own strength: if one knows that he has not a genius for fighting must learn how to govern by the arts of peace.
Conceptual link between virtu and the effective exercise of power lies with another central Machiavellian concept, Fortuna (usually translated as “fortune”). However, Machiavelli also had his own explanation for this word, seeing it as malevolent and uncompromising fount of human misery, affliction, and disaster; an enemy of political order, the ultimate threat to the safety and security of the state. (Nederman, 2005) Machiavelli was concerned that Fortuna demands an aggressive, even violent response of those who want to control her.
“She more often lets herself be overcome by men using such methods than by those who proceed coldly, therefore always, like a woman, she is the friend of young men, because they are less cautious, more spirited, and with more boldness master her. ” (Machiavelli, 1965 in Nederman, 2005) This is what virtu provides: the ability to respond to fortune at any time and in any way that is necessary. “Discourses on the Ten Books of Titus Livy” Discourses on the Ten Books of Titus Livy is reflecting most republican sympathies of Machiavelli.
He clearly distinguished minimal and full conception of “political” or “civil” order: “A minimal constitutional order is one in which subjects live securely (vivere sicuro), ruled by a strong government which holds in check the aspirations of both nobility and people, but is in turn balanced by other legal and institutional mechanisms. In a fully constitutional regime, however, the goal of the political order is the freedom of the community (vivere libero), created by the active participation of, and contention between, the nobility and the people.
Only in a republic, for which Machiavelli expresses a distinct preference, may this goal be attained. ” (Nederman, 2005) People often confuse liberty with security, saying that they want to be free in order to feel safe. However, government cannot afford masses to act without limitations, as in that case it will not be able to provide them with security. Only if people fulfill orders and laws, obeying and respecting the power of the ruler, the government can assure everyone’s security. Also “this is the limit of monarchic rule: even the best kingdom can do no better than to guarantee to its people tranquil and orderly government.
” (Nederman, 2005) As it was said before, Machiavelli supported dictature regime. Reflecting it to republican state he brought up a theory that “a key feature of classical republicanism: the competence of the people to respond to and support the words of the gifted orator when he speaks truly about the public welfare. ” (Nederman, 2005) So, basic goal of a state is to provide freedom to the community by the active participation of the nobility and the people: people should support ruling forces, which, in its turn, should act in the name of common welfare for the state.
Conclusion Somebody, taking in account that Machiavelli was advising governors to avoid the common values of justice, mercy, temperance, wisdom, and love of their people in preference to the use of cruelty, violence, fear, and deception, called him “teacher of evil” (New World Encyclopedia sub Machiavelli); others considered his views as very realistic and practical, agreeing that most of the decisions that political leaders have to make cannot be based on moral values.
Somebody claims that Machiavelli simply adopts the stance of a scientist in distinguishing between the “facts” of political life and the “values” of moral judgment. If we consider Machiavelli as an establisher of modern state let us agree on him being a scientist. He, living in the progressive time, modified radically classical seeing of a state, which came from Ancient Greek philosophy. He crossed principles, which were basic for classical understanding of a state functioning.
In theory of Machiavelli, however, purposes of a state do not radically differ from ones derived from Ancient Greek philosophy: •Main purpose of a state is to provide security to the people living in it; •Citizens should participate in the life of a state supporting its government; •To make and control fulfilment of common rules, limitations, which would organise life of community on a way to “common welfare”; •State must be flexible to situations and be ready to reflect any attacks of Fortuna However, all this purposes were absolute for Machiavelli and he didn’t think that morality or ethics should stand on the way to fulfilling them.
Conclusion Summarizing, basic purposes of a state: security for the citizens and leading actions towards reaching common welfare; did not change much since the appearance of an idea of a state. However, understanding of a term state and means of reaching of basic purposes changed constantly. Most of the greatest thinkers’ works were based on classical philosophy of Ancient Greece. It has been argued or reproved for many times.
Machiavelli obviously was influenced by the ancient Greek philosophers as well, but, he argued against it in many cases. Basic difference in the views of these two sights are that Greek philosophers believed in rulers, who ruled via moral virtue; Machiavelli believed in Virtu, whatever was best for the State was Virtu’: “a head of a state ought to do good if he can, but must be prepared to commit evil if he must. ” ((Machiavelli, 1965 in Nederman, 2005) State nowadays
Nowadays’ state took much of the Machiavellian state: there is a monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force, violence (civil service, courts, police, etc); government and society are separated – gifted orators speak „truly“ about common welfare, and people support them giving power to rule; a set of institution controls rules, laws, and orders according to which state exists. However, now the government is controlling all parts of life of the citizens of a state. It has gotten away from liberal ideas and chooses to focus on the welfare of its citizens instead of just their security.
People turn to having less control over their individual lives than the government does. Danger of that situation is that with every power the government takes it becomes harder to prevent further incursions into privet lives. (Locke, 2005) So, today state again faces an „ancient challenge“: how to achieve the good life without tyranny and injustice? Machiavelli stated that this is impossible, Greeks tried to avoid violence basing their political principles on morality. Perhaps with the means and knowledge we have today we will be able to find a new systems for a state to operate. References Aristotle (334-322 BC) Ethics of Nicomachus (?????
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