Hamlet criticizes others in the play for acting falsely to get ahead, but in adopting the disguise of madness he, too, is presenting a false face to the world. Though Hamlet becomes more compromised the longer he delays, killing the king would have been a morally questionable act. The play Hamlet questions the adequacy of a system of ethics based on honour and revenge.
Put not your trust in Princes. However, both of these views are based on a misconception. Jesus can be a tragic victim of wrong without Caiaphas having been a bad person or done the wrong thing, let alone an anti-Semitic caricature.
Caiaphas was in fact doing his duty, as we must construe the duty of a statesman, as opposed to the duty of a private person. Whatever the institutional self-interest of Caiaphas may have been, what we see in his reasoning is a proper appreciation of his position of political responsibility.
There is a difference because of the characteristic moral dilemma that occurs with political power. The lives of many, the "whole nation," depend on Caiaphas; and if he must truly chose between the innocent lives of many and the innocent life of one, then, however unpleasant, disturbing, or regretable, the trust that the many have placed in him must predominate and he must do what is necessary that "that the whole nation should not perish.
This meant that the Revolt would be a fight to the death, with no compromise sought from the Romans. We must credit Caiaphas with avoiding, for a time, such evils [ note ]. It must be understood, however, that a prince Thus he must be disposed to change according as the winds of fortune and the alternations of circumstance dictate.
As I have aleady said, he must stick to the good so long as he can, but being compelled by necessity, he must be ready to take the way of evil [e, come di sopra dissi, non partirsi dal bene, potendo, ma sapere entrare, nel male, necessitato] Walker translation, Penguin Books, p.
This superficially looks like another statement by Machiavelli in the Discourses: However, he was no disciple of Machiavelli just because of those goals. The quote just given is immediately followed by: Only the Bolsheviks were saved, so that they could continue slaughtering the workers and peasants in whose name they had seized power.
He admired republics, especially the Roman Republic ; he admired and revered Marcus Aurelius.
He did not admire tyranny; he did not admire, but despised, Caesar. He would have had no difficulty recognizing Lenin and Trotsky, or Hitler and Stalin, for the monsters that they were -- all of whom made "war on virtue, on letters, and on any art that brings advantage and honour to the human race.
A genuine moral dilemma arises when a wrong must be committed, not just for any purpose, but unavoidably for a genuinely good purpose. If the purpose of a prince or leader is simply his own personal or dynastic ambition, regardless of the cost to his country or its citizens, this is not a worthy purpose, and we have an evil, not a dilemma.
Machiavelli does say that "it is often necessary to act against mercy, against faith, against humanity, against frankness, against religion in order to preserve the state," which does seem to say that the state, and not personal or dynastic ambition, is the proper end of statecraft.
Perhaps so, but this also depends on what the state is supposed to be. If the state is an end in itself, then a dilemma does not arise if some individuals must be sacrificed to it. But if the state is not an end or a good in itself, but an instrumental good to some truly moral end, then a genuine dilemma can arise, as the service of the moral end of the state may conflict with the means that become necessary for its pursuit.
The essence of the dilemma for Caiaphas was simply the existence of one in comparison to the existence of many, the "whole nation. If the good of the many, or the common good, could be realized without harm ever occurring to the innocent interests of individuals, that would be wonderful; but life does not always operate that way, which is the problem.
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