Machiavelli (1469-1527): Realpolitik

Francis Bacon (1561-1626): Scientific Method
Out of the 
Conception of 
the World: 
backed by
appeals to
  • The world is the stage on which the drama of human salvation is enacted.
    • To understand the things in this world is to see how they figure in this drama.
    • Their purpose in God's plan. 
    • The earth central view of the heavens nicely fit this conception.{1}
  • Late Medieval: Rebirth of interest in Classical (Greek & Roman) philosophy, science, art, & literature
    • Late scholastic synthesis of Thomas Aquinas combined Christianity with Aristotle 
    • Aristotle's natural teleology {2}
      • every natural thing has a purpose or telos, e.g.
        • plants: to grow & reproduce
        • animals: to sense
        • humans: to think
        • the elements each seeks its natural place
        • the stars & planets (all things ethereal) each have their natural (circular) motion
      • the good of each thing is fulfillment of that purpose: natural source of value{3}
  1. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." (Matthew 6:10)
  2. [F]or all things that have a function the good and the "well" are supposed to reside in that function, so too it would seem for man, if he has a function.  Have the carpenter, then, and the tanner certain functions or activities, and has man none?  Is he born without a function?  Or as eye and hand, foot, an in general each of the parts evidently has a function, may one lay it down that man similarly has a function apart from all these?  What then can this be?  Life seems to be common even to plants, but we are seeking what is peculiar to man.  Let us exclude, therefore, the life of nutrition and growth.  Next there would seem to be the life of perception, but it seems common even to the horse, the ox, and every animal.  There remains, then an active life of the element that has a rational principle . . . (Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics, Bk.I:Ch.7)
  3. The evil of drunkenness and of excessive drink consists in a falling away from the order of reason. (Thomas Aquinas: in Jones, vol. 2, p.267n16)
"politics based
on practical and
material factors
rather than on
ethical and
  • Supernatural-Teleological-Feudal Conception of Political Authority
    • as Kings confer authority on the Lords of their domains
    • So God confers authority on earthly kings 
    • in theory
  • Realpolitik: How does it really work?
  • Machiavelli Conception of Human Nature (contrast Aristotle)
    • people are observably
      • stupid & irrational
      • incapable of self-government {1}
      • ruled by their passions & the greatest of these is ambition: the lust for power. {2}
    • Human nature actually deteriorated -- in terms of its capacity of self-government -- since Greek & Roman times, probably due to the influence of Christianity.{3}
    • People consequently crave and need strong leadership & this craving -- and people's weakness -- is ripe to be exploited.{4}
  • Machiavelli Conception of Sovereignty (i.e., political authority)
    • An sovereign absolute ruler (aka "the prince") required to impose order on the stupid & irrational people.{5}
    • Three instruments by which the prince exercises & maintains his authority are 
      • force ("the stick"): ought to be sparingly but when it is used should be applied ruthlessly and all at once
      • bribery (conferring benefits): benefits ought to be dribbled out on a more or less continuous basis.{6} 
      • deceit (propaganda) or "astuteness"{7}
        • religion is the most indispensable propaganda device {8}
        • and the wiser the rulers "the better they understand the natural course of things" in regard to the need to use  religion to control people's minds. {9}
  1. Those who have been present at any deliberative assemblies of men will have observed how erroneous their opinions often are; and in fact unless they are directed by superior men, they are apt to be contrary to all reason. (p.27)
  2. [Ambition is] so powerful in the hearts of men that it never leaves them, no matter to what height they may rise.  The reason of this is that nature has created men so that they desire everything, but are unable to attain it; desire being thus always greater than the faculty of acquiring, discontent with what they have and dissatisfaction with themselves result from it.(p.27)
  3. Our religion, moreover, places the supreme happiness in humility, lowliness, and a contempt for worldly objects, whilst [pagan religion], on the contrary, places the supreme good in grandeur of soul, strength of body, and all such other qualities as render men formidable; and if our religion claims of us fortitude of soul it it more to enable us to suffer than to achieve great deeds. (p.28)
  4. These [Christian] principles seem to me to have made men feeble, and caused them to become an easy prey to evil-minded men. (p.28)
  5. The only way to establish any kind of order . . . is to establish some superior power which, with a royal hand, and with full and absolute powers, may put a curb upon the excessive ambition and corruption of the powerful. (p.28)
  6. For injuries should be done all together, so that being less tasted they will give less offence.  Benefits should be granted little by little, so that they may be better enjoyed.(p.29)
  7. Still, the experience of our times shows these princes to have done great things who have had little regard for good faith, and have been able by astuteness to confuse men's brains . . .  (p.30)
  8. In truth, there never was any remarkable lawgiver amongst any people who did not resort to divine authority, as otherwise his laws would not have been accepted by the people . . . (p.31)
  9. And therefore everything that tends to favour religion (even though it were believed to be false) should be received and availed of to strengthen it . . . (p.31)
for an
  • The utility of science: the aim should not be knowledge for its own sake -- for the sake of contemplation -- but for the sake but "knowledge whose dignity is maintained by works of utility and power" (p. 75).{1}
    • the proof of knowledge is the power it confers over nature
    • progress is our most important product: better living through technology
  • Proposed "Great Insaturation": called for "a total reconstruction of the sciences, arts, and all human knowledge" (p.75)
    • Two Assumptions: behind his call for total reconstruction
      • that virtually everything that then passed for knowledge was erroneous
      • that the human mind is an adequate instrument for obtaining knowledge
    • Reconciling the two assumptions: the mind has gotten itself into bad habits that must be unlearned. {2}
  • Medieval Science (MS): Criticisms & Proposed Alternatives
    • MS began with the highest level assumptions -- e.g., about matter, form, and function -- and proceeded to deduce consequences {3}
      • Inductive alternative: seek generalizations "duly and orderly formed from the particulars" (p.77).
    • Idols: tendencies of thought which stand in the way of understanding
      • Idols of the Tribe: innate & can-be misleading tendencies
        • simplicity: prefer the simplest account {4}
          • observations being equal this is a virtue (Occam's razor)
          • it's a vice -- oversimplification -- when we hold on to the simple story in the face of contrary observations. 
        • conservatism: maintaining customary or previously formed beliefs through rationalization.{5}
        • wishful thinking {6}
      • Idols of the Cave: personal biases {7}
        • due to specialization.
        • due to pet peeves and preferences
      • Idols of the Marketplace "formed by the intercourse and association of men with each other"(p. 78) don't carve nature at the joints
        • names for nonentities, e.g., "Prime Mover, "Element of Fire," "Fortune"
        • confused and ill defined names, e.g. "humid"
      • Idols of the Theater due to allegiance to systems of thought -- in the present context, the systems of Medieval and Aristotelian thought
        • stressing final causes (aims or purposes)
        • neglecting efficient causes (antecedents)
  • Need for an Inductive Method so "our notions be derived from things by a more sure and guarded way" (p. 81)
    • to free the mind of all preconceived notions {9}
    • and to make use of experiments "skillfully and artificially devised for determining the purpose of determining the point in question" (p.81){10}
  • Bacon's proposed method {13}
    • Draw up a "Table of Essence and Presence": a list of all known cases in which the phenomenon in question (e.g., heat) occurs
    • Make a "Table of Deviation or of Absence of Proximity": a list of cases closely resembling cases where the phenomenon is present, but in which it is absent.
    • Make up a "Table of Degrees" or "Table of Comparison" of "instances in which the nature under examination is found in different degree, more or less"
    • Apply the "Process of Exclusion" to these tables to find some factor
      • always present when the phenomenon is present
      • always absent when the phenomenon is absent
      • present in greater or lesser degree when the phenomenon is present to a greater or lesser degree.
    • To facilitate this exclusion process undertake "the Indulgence of the Understanding or the Commencement of Interpretation" (p. 84) {12}
      • a preliminary hypothesis or guess at what the factor in question
      • may be suggested by "Shining or Striking Instances" (p.84)
    • Verification: check the hypothesis against all the cases in the tables
  1. But if a man should succeed, not in striking out some particular invention, however useful, but in kindling a light in nature . . . that man (I thought) would be the benefactor indeed of the human race -- the propagator of man's empire over the universe, the champion of liberty, the conqueror and subduer of necessities. (pp.74-75).
  2. [T]he human intellect makes its own difficulties [but can be] restored to its perfect and original condition [which is] like a fair sheet of paper with no writing on it [or] like a mirror with a true and even surface fit to reflect the genuine way of things. (pp.75-76)
  3.  Therefore if the notions themselves (which is the root of the matter) are confused and over-hastily abstracted from the facts, there can be no firmness in the superstructure.  (p. 77)
  4. The human understanding is of its own nature prone to suppose the existence of more order and regularity in the world than it finds.  . . .  Hence the fiction that all celestial bodies move in perfect circles.  (p.79)
  5. The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion . . . draws all things else to support and agree with it. (p.79)
  6. What a man had rather were true he more readily believes. (p.79)
  7. [T]he spirit of a man (according as it is meted out to different individuals) is in fact a thing variable and full of perturbation. (p.79)
  8. For men believe that their reason governs words; but it is also true that words react on the understanding; and thus it is that has rendered philosophy and the sciences sophistical and inactive.  Now words, being commonly framed and applied according to the capacity of the vulgar, follow those lines of division which are most obvious to the vulgar understanding.  And whenever an understanding of greater acuteness or a more diligent observation would alter those lines to suit the true divisions of nature, words stand in the way and resist the change.  (pp.79-80)
  9. It shows itself likewise in the . . . in the introduction of abstract forms and final causes and first causes, with the omission in most cases of causes intermediate, and the like.  Upon this point the greatest caution should be used. (p.81)
  10. We must lead men to the particulars themselves, and their series and order; while men on their side must force themselves for awhile to lay their notions by and begin to familiarize themselves with the facts. (p.81)
  11. I contrive that the office of sense shall only be to judge of the experiment, and that the experiment itself shall judge of the thing. {p.81}
  12. From a survey of the instances, all and each, the nature of which Heat is a particular case appears to be Motion.  This is displayed most conspicuously in flame, which is always in motion, and in boiling or simmering liquids, which also are in perpetual motion. (p.84)
  13. [I have]] established forever a true and lawful marriage between the empirical and rational faculty, the unkind and ill-starred divorce and separation of which has thrown into confusion all the affairs of the human family." (p. 91)
  • Received Theories
    • Ptolemaic astronomy: stationary central earth: apparent motions of the sun, stars and planets interpreted as motions of these bodies themselves.
    • Aristotelian mechanics: distinct elements naturally move in specific ways unless impeded. 
      • terrestrial: earth, air, fire, water
      • celestial: ether
  • Revolutionary Developments in Astronomy
    • Copernicus's heliocentric hypothesis: Earth rotates on its axis and revolves around the sun: the apparent motions of the sun, stars and planets viewed as products of the earth's motion plus these other bodies motions (if any). {1}
    • Kepler's laws of planetary motion: allowing a more exact reckoning of the motions of the planets 
      • planetary orbits are ellipses with the sun in one focus
      • in equal periods of time equal areas are swept out by a line from the planet to the sun
      • the square of the periodic time =s the cube of the mean distance
    • Galileo's telescopic observations
      • moons of Jupiter
      • great red spot on Jupiter & sunspots
  1. We find, therefore, under this orderly [heliocentric] arrangement, a wonderful symmetry in the universe, and a definite relation of harmony in the motion and magnitude of the orbs.
  • Revolutionary Developments in Mechanics: Galileo's Laws
    • Bodies fall with uniformly accelerating motion not a constant velocity (contrary to Aristotle)
    • The rate of fall is independent of the weight of the bodies (contrary to Aristotle).
  • Newtonian synthesis: Galileo's laws of terrestrial & Kepler's laws of planetary motion can all be deduced from a single set of laws
    • Three laws of motion
      • inertia: bodies at motion remain in motion and bodies at rest remain at rest unless acted upon by an outside force (contrary to Aristotle)
      • Force = mass times acceleration
      • For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.
    • Principle of Universal Gravitation: All bodies mutually attract with a force = the product of their masses over their distance squared times g (the universal gravitational constant.) {A1}

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