[文摘] 500 years after The Prince , it is the post-liberal age

Source Link: http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/anti-saint-nicholas-day_769738.html?page=1

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Strauss showed that Machiavelli is the father of the modern world—from civil rights to applied natural science (in the sense that Descartes and Bacon took inspirations from Machiavelli).

Harvey Mansfield, Strauss’s greatest student on Machiavellian studies showed that the Prince, in and in spite of the apparent call for a revival of ancient Roman republican politics, is reflective of an epistemological revolution that entitles philosophy to lead human affairs (vis-a-vis the classical prudence): « a prince must have recourse to the effectual truth of how men do live, as distinct from how they ought to live, so that he may learn how not to be good, lest he come to ruin among so many who are not good. »

For all the ancient [political] writers are idealists who « imagined republics and principalities that have never been seen or known to exist in truth » (but ideals are meaningless unless understood against « facts », and vice versa.), it is until Machiavelli we started have science dealing with hard fact and philosophy with ideals.

« All the sciences demand practice [as opposed to mere theoretical speculation and observation] if one wishes to possess them perfectly, » he wrote.

Here is a story illustrative of how the platonic downplay of the material has deterred the science from developing:

Plutarch tells us that Archimedes of Syracuse, the famous mathematician, slightly vexed his king, who « had eagerly desired and at last persuaded him to turn his art somewhat from abstract notions to material things, and by applying his philosophy somehow to the needs which make themselves felt, to render it more evident to the common mind. » But Archimedes had only been following the injunction of Plato, who « inveighed against [mechanical applications] as corrupters and destroyers of the pure excellence of geometry, which thus turned her back upon the incorporeal things of abstract thought and descended to the things of sense.

On the contrary, Machiavelli teaches [with the story of Publius Decius] that we need hard science to know the particulars and extrapolate to the general, to understand one’s immediate environment and act on the basis of that understanding.

Plato, a realist*, would insist that each part is a wholesome unit and must be thought through on its own terms. Machiavelli retorts that if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all

The scientists are intended to be a liberating army, freeing science and philosophy from the prelates of the Church who occupied the mind of man, not only allowing man to choose his own destiny but providing him with the tools to make it work.

But as the secular intelligentsia has replaced the priests but governs our thoughts, it’s ironic then that the mind of man may be less free in the age of liberalism. What’s needed are genuine philosophers to lead us out of this Machiavellian liberal swirl.

*
Traditional realism is the doctrine that Platonic universals or forms exist independently of language or human thought. That is, there is a correct way to divide the world up into its many objects and this way conforms to the underlying real structure.

somehow the forms of things (e.g. « square », « black », « good ») exist apart from the objects that conform to those forms. In more recent version of realism argues that the things we perceive exist apart from our mental representation of them — so, for example, the tree that fell in the forest with no one around would, according to this view, make a sound, even though no one could hear it. But notice, this recent sense of ‘realism’ falls short of addressing questions about the structure of the world and how it falls into its inherent categories, but that is the question addressed by traditional realism.
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