West European History Studies

Pico della Mirandola believed that the most wonderful thing about human
beings is that they are unlimited and unbound, in which case they can
choose for themselves the bounds and limits of their nature. With
dignity and free choice, human beings can fashion the course of their
lives into any form that they deem fit. They were given the capacity to
degrade themselves to the lower forms of life, as well as the judgment
and intellect that would allow them to be reborn in higher forms of
being or the divine. Human beings are born with this condition in which
case it comes from God. The gift should be used to make proper choices
especially with regard to disdaining earthly things, despising things of
heaven, as well as judging little of the things in the world, thereby
flying beyond the world and closer to God (Class notes, 2013). Pico
della Mirandola drew inspiration of his teachings from those of earlier
philosophers especially Plato. Both of them believed that wisdom is most
closely connected to truth, in which case individuals seeking it must be
the reverse of covetous (Class notes, 2013).
Niccolo Machiavelli’s ideas of human nature differ immensely from
those of Pico Della Mirandola. Niccolo believes that human beings are
inherently evil and will never keep their promises, in which case one
should not strive to keep his. This differs from Pico’s teachings that
revolve around the fact that human beings are born with the capacity to
determine the course of their lives and can only achieve true greatness
through being trustworthy and disdaining earthly things (Class notes,
2013). Plato and Machiavelli’s teachings are similar in their call for
the rulers to seek self interests only (Cole et al, 2012). Indeed, Plato
states that there is a possibility of uniting virtue and knowledge, in
which case only philosophers should have the capacity to rules the
State. It is worth noting that Plato himself was a philosopher in which
case his insinuation that only philosophers should be ruling the state
was an indirect reference to himself or people of his kind. Placing
philosophers at the highest caste is a characteristic of every Utopian
society where individuals that conceive an idea place themselves at the
highest echelons of the society (Cole et al, 2012). This is similar to
Machiavelli’s teachings that insinuate that princes should only do
things that serve their interests, in which case any promises made would
become invalid the moment they cease to serve their interests.
On the same note, their ideas of how leaders should deal with the
opposition are similar. Plato states that philosophers, as rulers,
should not allow poets to destabilize their republics (Cole et al,
2012). His argument was based on the notion that poets and artists
introduce new ideas in the society thereby causing discontent and
destabilizing the society. Machiavelli, on the other hand, states that a
leader should only be concerned about maintaining or conquering a state
irrespective of the means used as the end will always justify the means.
However, they differ in their ideas on the virtues that a human being
should possess. Plato insinuates that the observance of truth, mercy and
kindness is imperative. However, Machiavelli expressly states that
princes cannot afford to observe any of the qualities that make men
good, rather it is often necessary that he acts contrary to religion,
humanness, mercy and faith.
Cole, J., Symes, C., Coffin, J & Stacey, R. (2012). Western
Civilizations: Their History and Their Culture. New York. W. W. Norton &
Class notes. (2013). Primary Source Readings In Western Civilization.

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