Niccolo Machiavelli is one of the most notable political theorist-philosopher of all times. He lived from 1469 to 1527. His theories not only concerned government, but also analyzed subjects such as general human nature and behavior. Machiavelli’s book, “The Prince”, distinguishes itself from other writings on the subject of free will. Through “The Prince”, Machiavelli argues that people have the ability to fight against misfortune. He believes people have self-determination and affirms his belief in free will.
His theories can be applied to the story “The Red Lotus of Chastity” which is a Sanskrit story literature written by Somadeva. The story is about how Devasmita saves her husband Guhasena and protects her house from being invaded by some merchants that had seduced her and humiliated her husband. In “The Red Lotus of Chastity”, Machiavelli and Devasmita both prefer to make a rash decision. However, Devasmita also makes over-cautious decision, while Machiavelli does not suggest to people to be over-cautious in decision making. Machiavelli prefers on rash decision more than over-cautious.
He says that fortune is chance, luck, probability, and external factors outside one’s control. He argues that fortune controls half of human actions and leaves the other half to free will. He also emphasizes the importance of adapting behavior to suit the times, and making timely and appropriate adjustments to circumstances. So in order to overcome fortune, he said, “It is better to rash than to be over-cautious”. His idea is to take risk which is a bold step. You have to be aggressive to conquer fortune; an unknown and unpredictable phenomenon that causes an event to result one way rather than another, so we must.
Like Machiavelli, Devasmita also prefers on rash decision. Devasmita’s father does not favor her marriage. She makes a bold decision to leave her parents and sails off the island to marry Guhasena without her parents’ permission. She is taking a big risk on this decision because she doesn’t have any dowry and witnesses on their marriage. In Indian culture, dowry is given to help in marriage expenses and becomes a form of insurance in the case that her in-laws mistreat her and witnesses are the proof of their marriage.
This is a very risky choice that she makes since there were not any witnesses and her husband can say their marriage has never existed. However, this does not happen and they are living happily. Thus this shows that Machiavelli’s theory on rash decision has it values. Machiavelli does not prefer being over-cautious on actions. He relates fortune to a woman, “Because fortune is a woman and if you wish to keep her down, you must beat her and pound her. ” For Machiavelli, people should treat fortune roughly in order to overcome it.
He argues that if we think too much we would not have time to act. Without acting, it is like letting fortune to control everything which means you have given up your freewill. For instance, when a storm is coming you should make a decision fast rather than take all your time thinking. This is because, by the time the storm arrives, you may have saved your property and your life. To Machiavelli, the consequence of being over-cautious is like letting fortune control your life. Unlike Machiavelli’s theory, Devasmita proves that through being cautious on an action can end up being successful.
When the nun tried to convince Devasmita to commit adultery, Devasmita realized, “This nun has some crooked scheme afoot! ”. After knowing the nun is trying to trick her, she does not take action immediately to kick the nun out of her house. She thinks cautiously that doing so would solve her problem right away, but she thinks ahead; she knows this would not solve the problem completely. She has to know who is behind it to solve this problem. In this case, Devasmita coerces the nun to believe in everything she says. She is even ready to cheat on her husband so as to know who is behind the problematic situation.
Machiavelli’s theory on caution does not seem to apply on this part of the story but Devasmita is cautious on her actions and still trends to success. Since fortune has the ability to change and mankind is fixed in its ways, as long as the person’s action is in harmony with fortune, you will be successful, but when they disagree on each other, you will be unsuccessful. However, most people do not know how to adapt themselves to the change because of having always succeeded by acting in one way; they cannot be persuaded that it is a good idea to leave it.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 19 September 2016
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