Humanism is a thought process or a system of beliefs in the significance of actual, real life human beings rather than divine, religious, or non-existing persons. During the Renaissance period, people began moving away from the teachings of the medieval period and began focusing more on the philosophies and teachings that were prevalent during Ancient Greek and Roman times. In Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince, he begins a story that demonstrates a particular style of governing that is a stark contrast from other humanists of that era.
In his book, he believes that The Prince should be the one and only governing authority over his people, being the sole person responsible for assessing and concluding how the state should be run, and made sure that all policies and legislations created were written for his benefit. These benefits included a further assertion and domination of his power by gaining, maintaining, and expanding his political ambitions and power (Machiavelli, 5). In the story, his understanding of what he believed was human nature a direct contradiction to that of which all humanists understood and taught.Order now
Many followers and believers in the humanist philosophy of Machiavelli’s time felt that each person had the potential to contribute to the growth and overall well-being of the country. Humanists believed that “An individual only ‘grows to maturity- both intellectually and morally- through participation’ in the life of the state” (Machiavelli, 6). In general, Machiavelli was not trusting of people, the citizens of a state in particular. He said, “in a time of adversity, when the state is in need of its citizens there are few to be found” (Machiavelli, 9).
Taking it to another level, he further expresses his distrust of the citizens and begins to question their loyalty to the head of state. When meeting with the Prince, he proposes that “… because men wretched creatures who would not keep their word to you, you need to keep your word to them” (Machiavelli, 18). Despite having said such strong words of his people, he did not condone that the Prince should in any way treat his citizens in a negative manner. This statement was further evidence of him keeping the best interests of the Prince at the forefront of his mind,
In a monarchy style of government, a head of state can either be loved or feared; one cannot be both. As a result of this, Machiavelli proposes to the Prince that it would be better for him to be a person that instills fear in his people rather than to be loved. By doing so, he was ensured that he would be able to maintain law and order throughout the land. Again, another example of keeping the best interests of the Prince in mind. By creating a state of fear, people were less likely willing or able to commit acts that would go against the head of state, creating chaos and disorder.
In Machiavelli’s The Prince, the ruler is a humanist figure because he exists in the physical world. In contrast to that, there are governing bodies that rely solely on divine authority, a spiritual person of interest that does not exist in the physical world. A common form of this type of governing is called Theocracy; a form of governing where a God (or a deity) is recognized as the King or immediate ruler of the governing body (or more commonly known as a church). This God is the person who dictates the laws; generally in the form of a book (i. e. The Holy Bible).
These laws are carried out by Bishops, Priests, Ministers, or any other bodies within the church. Their aim is to please their God by carrying out his vision for his people and spreading his message. In modern day culture, there is no existing governing body that oversees a nation where God is the Supreme Leader. Not even the Vatican allows for God to be the ruling governing body. Although, most conservative governments make decisions and implement legislation with God’s law in mind. This is a common practice in places like The Vatican and in more progressive nations such as Great Britain and The United States.
In conclusion, there is one major contrast between a humanist style of governing versus a government based on one single divine authority. A humanist government is a government ruled by a real-life person who institutes law and order through the creation of legislation that creates a society of law and order. A divine authority, or religious-based style of governing, is overseen by a being that is not visible to its people but exists in a series of books and teaching carried out by those who are representatives of the governing body, or church.