FILOSOFI | Niccolò Machiavellis Fursten är en av få böcker som ständigt verkar finnas tillgänglig hos välsorterade bokhandlare.
Även hans mindre kända verk finns på svenska om man bara söker hos nätbokhandlarna.
Och på senaste tiden kan man märka en viss renässans även när det gäller biografier och verk som behandlar hans politiska idéer. Trenden nu verkar vara att inte måla honom i nattsvarta färger.
I Sverige kom t.ex. 2004 Maurizio Virolis utmärkta Niccolòs leende – Historien om Machiavelli som var ett intressant porträtt som inte bara tecknade florentinaren i negativa termer.
Lite mer udda var Niccolo & Nikolaj – Ofärdsårens Finland i Machiavellis perspektiv (1999) där Mårten Ringbom granskade tsarens politik i storfurstendömet Finland med hjälp av den bild vi traditionellt har av Machiavellis idéer.
Och i år har det nästan samtidigt dykt upp två nya böcker – Corrado Vivantis Niccolò Machiavelli: An Intellectual Biography och Philip Bobbits The Garments of Court and Palace: Machiavelli and the World That He Made.
Därför kommer det lägligt att Graeme Garrard skriver i Philosophy Now om Machiavellis politiska filosofi. Garrard konstaterar t.ex. att florentinaren är en av få författare vars namn även är ett adjektiv.
One of Machiavelli’s most important innovations in The Prince is his redefinition of ‘virtue’, which he equates with the qualities necessary for political success – including ruthlessness, guile, deceit, and a willingness to occasionally commit acts that would be deemed evil by conventional standards.
The classical ideal of virtue Machiavelli rejected was expressed by Cicero (106-43 BCE), whose De officiis (On Duties) was read and copied more frequently during the Renaissance than any other single work of classical Latin prose. Cicero argued that rulers are successful only when they are morally good – by which he meant adhering to the four cardinal virtues of wisdom, justice, restraint and courage, as well as being honest. For Cicero, the belief that self-interest or expediency conflicts with ethical goodness is not only mistaken but deeply corrosive of public life and morals. In Renaissance Europe this idealistic view of politics was reinforced by the Christian belief in divine retribution in the afterlife for the injustices committed in this life, and the cardinal virtues were supplemented by the three theological virtues of faith, hope and charity.
Machiavelli believed that the ethical outlooks of both Cicero and Christianity were rigid and unrealistic, and actually cause more harm than they prevent. […]Machiavelli asserts in The Prince that a ruler “cannot conform to all those rules that men who are thought good are expected to respect, for he is often obliged, in order to hold on to power, to break his word, to be uncharitable, inhumane, and irreligious. So he must be mentally prepared to act as circumstances and changes in fortune require. As I have said, he should do what is right if he can; but he must be prepared to do what is wrong if necessary.” By doing ‘wrong’, he means in the conventional sense of the word – but, in reality, it is right, even obligatory, sometimes to commit acts that, while morally repellent themselves, are nonetheless good in their consequences because they prevent greater evil.
Machiavelli was one of the first writers in the West openly to state that dirty hands are an unavoidable part of politics, and to accept the troubling ethical implications of this hard truth without flinching. Politicians who deny it are not only unrealistic, but are likely to lead citizens down a path to greater evil and misery than is necessary. That is why we ought to think twice before condemning them when they sanction acts that may be wrong in a perfect world. A perfect world is not, and never will be, the world of politics.
Tidskriftsomslag: Philosophy Now, juli/augusti 2013.