Do The Ends Justify The Means? A Comparison Of The Writings Of Niccolo Machiavelli And Lao Tzu

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"Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown."� An apt quote from William Shakespeare's King Henry IV, Part II, on the trials and tribulations of those in power. Numerous writers have had their say on the subject, more often than not with vastly different ideas on how leaders should act. In this paper I compare and contrast the opinions of two different philosophers, Lao-Tzu and Niccolo Machiavelli, as to the principles by which a leader should govern.

Niccolo Machiavelli lived from 1469 to 1527. A resident of Florence Italy, he was a social commentator during a time of powerful city-states. Machiavelli published his most celebrated work, "The Prince,"� in 1513. In this book he provided practical instructions for a leader (during his lifetime this was a prince of a city-state) to secure power by direct and effective means. What he did not address was the morality or ethics of actions, in his works the ends justified the means even if the means were neither moral nor ethical.

Little is known about the man known as Lao-Tzu. It is thought that Lao-Tzu lived in China at approximately the sixth century BC. His most well known work is the Tao-te Ching, a philosophical document designed to serve as a handbook for politicians. "Tao"� isn't easily translated to English. It means, "the way"� whilst at the same time "the method."� It was created to educate leaders on a way of thinking about the world and their place in it. The Tao-te Ching gives strong and moral advice to leaders about their place in the world and how to relate to those they govern. Since he considers the material (power, possessions, wealth) to be unimportant, Lao-Tzu advises against the seeking of such things. Lao-Tzu also advises politicians to adopt judicious inaction, interceding...

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