Benner, Erica. Machiavelli’s Ethics. Princeton, 2009. 527p bibl index afp; ISBN 9780691141763, $75.00; ISBN 9780691141770 pbk, $35.00.
Reviewed in CHOICE, April 2010
This major new study of Machiavelli’s moral and political philosophy by Benner (Yale) argues that most readings of Machiavelli suffer from a failure to appreciate his debt to Greek sources, particularly the Socratic tradition of moral and political philosophy. Benner argues that when read in the light of his Greek sources, Machiavelli appears as much less (...) the immoralist or sophist he often is taken for and instead as a serious moral philosopher very much concerned with the republican ideals of justice and the rule of law. The author does not ignore Machiavelli’s more infamous dicta, but argues that a careful reading shows that they are expressions of views he ultimately rejects. Particularly noteworthy here is her careful attention to Machiavelli’s Florentine Histories. Benner’s reading of Machiavelli is far too complex and subtle for such a brief summary. Her research is meticulous and her arguments finely honed. This important contribution to both Machiavelli studies and the history of political philosophy will be indispensable for scholars. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Graduate students and faculty/researchers. — B. T. Harding
"Machiavelli's Ethics is a superb scholarly book. EricaBenner does truly impressive work in analyzing Machiavelli's views on the most fundamental ethical issues--including necessity and virtue, justice and injustice, and ends and means. She shows, with very solid evidence, that Machiavelli did in fact worry a lot about justice and that he put it at the core of his republican theory."--Maurizio Viroli, author of Niccolò's Smile: A Biography of Machiavelli
"Machiavelli's Ethics is excellent--learned, subtle, highly original, and a constant pleasure to read. And, since it is really a study of Machiavelli's thought in its entirety, it is also the first book of its kind. Its originality lies in taking seriously the claim by some sixteenth- and seventeenth-century readers--notably Bacon, Spinoza, and Alberico Gentili--that Machiavelli was essentially a moral and political philosopher. EricaBenner does a brilliant job of resurrecting this neglected Machiavelli."--Giulia Sissa, University of California, Los Angeles
About the book, from the publisher: Machiavelli's Ethics challenges the most entrenched understandings of Machiavelli, arguing that he was a moral and political philosopher who consistently favored the rule of law over that of men, that he had a coherent theory of justice, and that he did not defend the "Machiavellian" maxim that the ends justify the means. By carefully reconstructing the principled foundations of his political theory, EricaBenner gives the most complete account yet of Machiavelli's thought. She argues that his difficult and puzzling style of writing owes far more to ancient Greek sources than is usually recognized, as does his chief aim: to teach readers not how to produce deceptive political appearances and rhetoric, but how to see through them. Drawing on a close reading of Greek authors--including Thucydides, Xenophon, Plato, and Plutarch--Benner identifies a powerful and neglected key to understanding Machiavelli.
This important new interpretation is based on the most comprehensive study of Machiavelli's writings to date, including a detailed examination of all of his major works: The Prince, The Discourses, The Art of War, and Florentine Histories. It helps explain why readers such as Bacon and Rousseau could see Machiavelli as a fellow moral philosopher, and how they could view The Prince as an ethical and republican text. By identifying a rigorous structure of principles behind Machiavelli's historical examples, the book should also open up fresh debates about his relationship to later philosophers, including Rousseau, Hobbes, and Kant. . (shrink)
A dialogue between virtue and care ethics is formed as a step towards meeting Pellegrino's challenge to create a more comprehensive moral philosophy. It is also a dialogue between nursing and medicine since each practice draws on the Greek Virtue Tradition and the Judeo-Christian Tradition of care differently. In the Greek Virtue Tradition, the point of scrutiny lies in the inner character of the actor, whereas in the Judeo-Christian Tradition the focus is relational, i.e. how virtues are lived out in (...) specific relationships, particularly unequal relationships where vulnerability of one of the members is an issue. In a care ethic relational qualities such as attunement rather than inner qualities are the point of scrutiny. A dialogue between these two traditions makes it possible to consider the relational virtues and skills of openness and responsiveness that are required for a respectful meeting of the other. (shrink)
Using three paradigm cases of persons living with Parkinson's Disease (PD) the authors make a case for augmenting and enriching a Cartesian medical account of the pathophysiology of PD with an enriched understanding of the lived body experience of PD, the lived implications of PD for a particular person's concerns and coping with the illness. Linking and adding a thick description of the lived experience of PD can enrich caregiving imagination and attunement to the patient's possibilities, concerns and constraints. The (...) work of Merleau-Ponty is used to articulate the middle terms of the lived experience of dwelling in a lifeworld. Examining lived experience of embodied intentionality, skilled bodily capacities as highlighted in Merleau-Ponty's non-mechanistic physiology opens new therapeutic, coping and caregiving possibilities. Matching temporal rhythms can decrease the stress of being assisted with activities of daily living. For example, caregivers and patients alike can be taught strategies for extending their lived bodily capacities by altering rhythms, by shifting hyperactivity to different parts of the body and other strategies that change the perceptual experience associated with walking in different environment. A medical account of the pathophysiology of PD is nessessary and useful, but not sufficient for designing caregiving in ways that enrich and extend the existential skills of dwelling of persons with PD. The dominance of mechanistic physiology makes caregivers assume that it is the 'real discourse' about the disease, causing researchers and caregivers alike to overlook the equally real lived experience of the patient which requires different descriptive discourses and different sources of understanding. Lack of dialogue between the two discourses is tragic for patients because caregivers need both in order to provide attuned, effective caregiving. (shrink)
Being formed through learning a practice is best understood within a constitutive theory of meaning as articulated by Charles Taylor. Disengaged views of the person cannot account for the formative changes in a person’s identity and capacities upon learning a professional practice. Representational or correspondence theories of meaning cannot account for formation. Formation occurs over time because students actively seek and take up new concerns and learn new knowledge and skills. Engaged situated reasoning about underdetermined practice situations requires well-formed skillful (...) clinicians caring for particular patients in particular situations. (shrink)
A science is an intellectual activity defined by its mechanisms that prevent its scientists from always reaching the conclusions that they set out to reach. Such mechanisms are needed because, if scientists are given full control over what hypotheses they select, what data they discard, and what results they publish, they can communicate any conclusion that they desire. Synthesis, by setting a grand challenge, forces scientists across uncharted territory where they encounter and solve unscripted problems. When theory is inadequate, the (...) synthesis fails, and fails in a way that cannot be ignored. Therefore, synthesis drives discovery and paradigm change in ways that simple hypothesis testing cannot. Here, we describe the discoveries that emerged when synthetic biologists were challenged to create an alternative genetic system that has different molecular structures than DNA and RNA. In pursuit of this particular “grand challenge,” synthesis forced the recognition that the community did not know as much about the double helix as it had constructively assumed. In general, a field of science having access to synthesis as a research strategy can create knowledge even if its practitioners do not fit the ideal of a dispassionate, advocacy-free scientist. (shrink)
'Strategic research’ has become a goal of government policy throughout the industrial world. This paper follows the emergence of new approaches to the funding of 'strategic research’ in Sweden, by examining three research foundations created in the late 1990s, and considers their ambitions, limitations, and achievements.
Universities worldwide are facing enormous strains as a result of increased external expectations where global visibility should be mixed with local and regional utility. In debates on the future of higher education, becoming an entrepreneurial university has been highlighted as a novel – although perhaps a more hybrid – way to deal with this challenge. However, while the label entrepreneurial points to an image of the university as a dynamic free agent shaped in the interplay between dynamic environments and internal (...) flexibility, the current article takes a more critical view on the factors conditioning universities with the ambitions of becoming more entrepreneurial – particularly those of more recent age and less academic standing. For these institutions it is suggested that the university ideal of being entrepreneurial may lead to a situation of strategic inertia characterized by an institutionalized ‘lock-in’ with few alternative development paths. (shrink)
Clinical Ethics and the Dynamics of Group Decision-Making: Applying the Psychological Data to Decisions Made by Ethics Committees Content Type Journal Article Pages 207-228 DOI 10.1007/s10730-009-9096-7 Authors Erica K. Rangel, Saint Louis University Department of Health Care Ethics 6333 North Rosebury Ave #3W St. Louis MO 63105 USA Journal HEC Forum Online ISSN 1572-8498 Print ISSN 0956-2737 Journal Volume Volume 21 Journal Issue Volume 21, Number 2.
We begin, in section 2, with a brief sketch of a cluster of assumptions about human desires, beliefs, actions, and motivation that are widely shared by historical and contemporary authors on both sides in the debate. With this as background, we’ll be able to offer a more sharply focused account of the debate. In section 3, our focus will be on links between evolutionary theory and the egoism/altruism debate. There is a substantial literature employing evolutionary theory on each side of (...) the issue. However, it is our contention that neither camp has offered a convincing case. We are much more sanguine about recent research on altruism in social psychology, which will be our topic in section 4. Though we don’t think this work has resolved the debate, we will argue that it has made illuminating progress – progress that philosophers interested in the question cannot afford to ignore. (shrink)
The approach to generative grammar originating with Chomsky (1957) has been enormously successful within linguistics. Seeing such success, one wonders whether a similar approach might help us understand other human domains besides language. One such domain is morality. Could there be universal generative moral grammar? More specifically, might it be useful to moral theory to develop an explicit generative account of parts of particular moralities in the way it has proved useful to linguistics to produce generative grammars for parts of (...) particular languages? Should moral theorists attempt to develop a theory of moral universals that is analogous to the theory of universal grammar in linguistics? Can moral theorists develop a “principles and parameters” account of possible moralities inspired by the principles and parameters approach to language in current linguistics? Could there be a “minimalist” program for moral theory inspired by the minimalist program in linguistics? In this chapter we offer a preliminary account of some analogies, focusing on clarifying issues, making distinctions, and considering how—in a general way—such analogies might yield a fruitful research program for moral theory. There are two main parts to our discussion, one focusing on an analogy between generative grammar and moral theory, the other focusing on analogies between universal grammar and theories of moral universals. In the first part, we say a little about the background and say how we are going to understand morality and moral theory. We describe certain aspects of generative grammar and how claims about generative grammars are tested, allowing for a distinction between “competence” and “performance”. We then try to say what a corresponding “generative moral grammar” would be and how it would be tested. We next discuss a number of objections to the analogy between moral theory and generative grammar and indicate possible responses. In the second part, we discuss certain universal constraints on grammars and consider whether there might be similar constraints on moralities. Then we discuss how linguists describe core aspects of languages in terms of principles and parameters and consider what aspects of moralities might be described in similar terms. After that we make some brief remarks about minimalism. (shrink)
We first describe recent empirical research on racial cognition, particularly work on implicit racial biases that suggests they are widespread, that they can coexist with explicitly avowed anti-racist and tolerant attitudes, and that they influence behavior in a variety of subtle but troubling ways. We then consider a cluster of questions that the existence and character of implicit racial biases raise for moral theory. First, is it morally condemnable to harbor an implicit racial bias? Second, ought each of us to (...) suspect ourselves of racial bias, and therefore correct for it in ordinary activity, such as grading student papers? (shrink)
The concept of valuing plays an important role in the way we think about people’s attitudes toward the things they care about most. We invoke this concept in sentences like: I value your friendship. We need to find a leader who truly values political equality. To live a good life, one must always return to the things one values most. Yet there also seem to be cases in which a person has a strong desire for a particular object but in (...) which we would not say that he or she ‘values’ this object. Thus, consider the typical heroin addict. It would sound wrong to say of such a person. (shrink)
Analogies are often theoretically useful. Important principles of electricity are suggested by an analogy between water current flowing through a pipe and electrical current “flowing” through a wire. A basic theory of sound is suggested by an analogy between waves caused by a stone being dropped into a still lake and “sound waves” caused by a disturbance in air.
The cheater-detection (CD) hypothesis suggests that people who otherwise perform poorly on the Wason selection task perform well when the task is couched in cheater-detection contexts. We report three studies with new selection problems that are similar to the originals but that question the CD hypothesis. The first two studies document a pattern heretofore attributed to CD mechanisms, namely good performance with “regular” rules and inferior performance with “switched” rules, all in problems that lack a cheater-detection context. The final study (...) finds an interaction: not only is good performance elicited on non-CD problems, but poor performance is found in the context of CD problems. Performance on the selection task cannot be predicted based on the presence or absence of cheater-detection contexts, which brings into question the need to invoke a specialised cheater-detection module. (shrink)
Recently Joshua Knobe and Erica Roedder found that folk attributions of valuing tend to vary according to the perceived moral goodness of the object of value. This is an interesting finding, but it remains unclear what, precisely, it means. Knobe and Roedder argue that it indicates that the concept MORAL GOODNESS is a feature of the concept VALUING. In this article, I present a study of folk attributions of desires and moral beliefs that undermines this conclusion. I then propose (...) the beginnings of an alternative interpretation of the data that appeals to intrinsic biases in our third-person mindreading mechanisms. (shrink)
The likelihood of nurse reflection is examined from the theoretical perspectives of Habermas' Theory of Communicative Action and Moral Action and Sumner's Moral Construct of Caring in Nursing as Communicative Action, through a critical social theory lens. The argument is made that until the nurse reaches the developmental level of post-conventional moral maturity and/or Benner's Stage 5: expert, he or she is not capable of being inwardly directed reflective on self. The three developmental levels of moral maturity and (...) class='Hi'>Benner's stages are presented with discussion on whether or not there can be self-reflection because of an innate vulnerability that leads to self-protective behaviours. It is only when the confidence from mastery of practice has been achieved can the nurse be comfortable with reflection that enables him or her to become enlightened, emancipated, and empowered. The influences and constraints of the knowledge power between nurse and patient are acknowledged. The power hierarchy of the institution is recognized as constraining. (shrink)
According to Chomsky, creativity is a critical property of human language, particularly the aspect of ?the creative use of language? concerning the appropriateness to a situation. How language can be creative but appropriate to a situation is an unsolvable mystery from the Chomskyan point of view. We propose that language appropriateness can be explained by considering the role of the human capacity for Mental Time Travel at its foundation, together with social and ecological intelligences within a triadic language-grounding system. Our (...) proposal is based on the change of perspective from the analysis of individual sentences to the flux of speech in which the temporal dimension of language is much more relevant. (shrink)
Evidence-based medicine has beendefined as the conscientious and judicious useof current best evidence in making clinicaldecisions. This paper will attempt to explicatethe terms ``conscientious'''' and ``judicious''''within the evidence-based medicine definition.It will be argued that ``conscientious'''' and``judicious'''' represent virtue terms derived fromvirtue ethics and virtue epistemology. Theidentification of explicit virtue components inthe definition and therefore conception ofevidence-based medicine presents an importantstarting point in the connection between virtuetheories and medicine itself. In addition, aunification of virtue theories andevidence-based medicine will illustrate theneed for (...) future research in order to combinethe fields of virtue-based approaches andclinical practice. (shrink)
This paper defends an epistemic conservatism - propositional knowing-that suffices for capturing all the fine details of the knowledge of experienced nurses that depends on the complex ways in which they are embedded in shared fields of activity. I argue against the proliferation of different ways of knowing associated with the work of Dreyfus and Benner. I show how propositional knowledge can capture the detail of the phenomenology that motivates the Dreyfus/Benner proliferation.
This paper explores the relationship between temporal continuity in nursing and temporal features of sickness. It is based on phenomenological and hermeneutical philosophy, empirical studies of sickness time, and the nursing theories of Nightingale, of Benner and of Benner and Wrubel. In the first part, temporal continuity is defined as distinct from interpersonal continuity. Tensions between temporal continuity and discontinuity are discussed in the contexts of care management, of conceptualisations of disease and of time itself. Temporal limitations to (...) the methodological concept of situation are discussed. The main part of this paper explores nurses' possibilities to relate to their patients' time, and how temporal features of sickness may warrant temporal continuity of nursing. Three temporal characteristics of sickness are discussed: the immediacy of patients' suffering, the basic continuity of life through sickness and health care, and the indeterminism and precariousness of sickness. The timing of nursing acts is discussed. The paper explores how sickness is both part of the continuity of life, and threatens this continuity. It concludes that this tension is implicitly recognised in the temporal continuity of nursing, which allows for discontinuous and continuous aspects of sickness time. Nurses accordingly perceive the sick person's time at several levels of temporality, and distinguish highly complex temporal processes in their patients' trajectory. Temporal continuity provides the time, flexibility, and closeness for nurses to perceive and act into time dimensions of individual sickness. The paper shows that temporal continuity of nursing is grounded in temporal characteristics of severe sickness. It suggests that temporal continuity is an important theoretical concept in nursing. (shrink)
This article is a response to McLeod and Baylis (2007) who speculate on the dangers of requesting fresh ‘spare’ embryos from IVF patients for human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research, particularly when those embryos are good enough to be transferred back to the woman. They argue that these embryos should be frozen instead. We explore what is meant by ‘spare’ embryos. We then provide empirical evidence, from a study of embryo donation and of embryo donors' views, to substantiate some of (...) their speculations about the problems associated with requesting fresh embryos. However, we also question whether such problems are resolved by embryo freezing, since further empirical evidence suggests that this raises other social and ethical problems for patients. There is little evidence that the request for embryos for research, in itself, causes patients distress. We suggest, however, that no requests for fresh embryos should be made in the first cycle of IVF treatment. Deferring the request to a later cycle ensures that potential donors are better informed (by experience and reflection) about the possible destinations of their embryos and about the definition of ‘spare embryos’. Both this article, and that by McLeod and Baylis, emphasize the need to consider the views and experiences of embryo donors when evaluating the ethics of embryo donation for hESC research. (shrink)
The association between media literacy and media ethics is discussed in this essay, and data gathered from a media literacy study with 93 public school 6th-grade students are presented. The study details the introduction and evaluation of a media literacy program that was intended to encourage learning and critical thinking about media violence, using a selection of "high-risk" portrayal factors as a foundation. Statistical comparisons between preprogram and postprogram responses and between those participating and those in a control group show (...) some increases in the comprehension of key concepts used in the study of media violence and critical thinking about the topic. Open-ended responses also demonstrate enhanced sophistication in analyzing media violence after participating in the program. (shrink)