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. Erica Benner 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. Erica Benner 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, Erica Benner 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)
This paper reviews and synthesizes emerging multi-disciplinary evidence toward understanding the development of social and political organization in the Last Glacial. Evidence for the prevalence and scope of political egalitarianism is reviewed and the biological, social, and environmental influences on this mode of human organization are further explored. Viewing social and political organization in the Last Glacial in a much wider, multi-disciplinary context provides the footing for coherent theory building and hypothesis testing by which to further explore human political systems. (...) We aim to overcome the claim that our ancestors’ form of social organization is untestable, as well as counter a degree of exaggeration regarding possibilities for sedentism, population densities, and hierarchical structures prior to the Holocene with crucial advances from disparate disciplines. (shrink)
After almost 30 years of publications, Journal of Business Ethics (JBE) has achieved the position of main marketplace for business ethics discussion and knowledge generation. Given the large amount of knowledge produced, an assessment of the state of the art could benefit both the constructive development of the discipline and the further growth of the journal itself. As the evolution of a discipline is set to be reflected in the evolution of its leading journal, we attempt to characterize changes in (...) the intellectual structure of business ethics through a bibliometric analysis of articles published in JBE . Specifically, we conduct a knowledge-stock analysis to assess the evolution, major trends, and current state of the journal. Additionally, we use citation and co-citation analysis to provide an accurate description of the content and the advancement of research in business ethics. Through the results of our analysis, we are able to: (1) pinpoint the characteristics of the growing stock of knowledge published by JBE over the years; (2) identify the most influential works on business ethics research; and (3) detect the formation and evolution of schools of thought in business ethics. (shrink)
The necessity to model the mental ingredients of norm compliance is a controversial issue within the study of norms. So far, the simulation-based study of norm emergence has shown a prevailing tendency to model norm conformity as a thoughtless behavior, emerging from social learning and imitation rather than from specific, norm-related mental representations. In this paper, the opposite stanceânamely, a view of norms as hybrid, two-faceted phenomena, including a behavioral/social and an internal/mental sideâis taken. Such a view is aimed at (...) accounting for the difference between norms, on one hand, and either behavioral regularities (conventions) on the other. This paper, in particular, is addressed to find out the internal ingredients required for the former distinction, i.e., to model norms as distinct from mere conventions, and defined as behaviors spreading to the extent that and because the corresponding commands and beliefs do spread as well. After a brief presentation of a normative agent architecture, the results of agent-based simulations testing the impact of norm recognition and the role of normative beliefs in the emergence and innovation of social norms are presented and discussed. More specifically, the present work will endeavour to show that a sudden external constraint (e.g. a barrier preventing agents from moving among social settings) facilitates norm innovation: under such a condition, agents provided with a module for telling what a norm is can generate new (social) norms by forming new normative beliefs, irrespective of the most frequent actions. (shrink)
We introduce a sequent calculus B for a new logic, named basic logic. The aim of basic logic is to find a structure in the space of logics. Classical, intuitionistic, quantum and non-modal linear logics, are all obtained as extensions in a uniform way and in a single framework. We isolate three properties, which characterize B positively: reflection, symmetry and visibility. A logical constant obeys to the principle of reflection if it is characterized semantically by an equation binding it with (...) a metalinguistic link between assertions, and if its syntactic inference rules are obtained by solving that equation. All connectives of basic logic satisfy reflection. To the control of weakening and contraction of linear logic, basic logic adds a strict control of contexts, by requiring that all active formulae in all rules are isolated, that is visible. From visibility, cut-elimination follows. The full, geometric symmetry of basic logic induces known symmetries of its extensions, and adds a symmetry among them, producing the structure of a cube. (shrink)
We investigate many paradigms of identifications for classes of languages (namely: consistent learning, EX learning, learning with finitely many errors, behaviorally correct learning, and behaviorally correct learning with finitely many errors) in a measure-theoretic context, and we relate such paradigms to their analogues in learning on informants. Roughly speaking, the results say that most paradigms in measure-theoretic learning wrt some classes of distributions (called canonical) are equivalent to the corresponding paradigms for identification on informants.
The aim of this paper is to clarify what kind of normativity characterizes a convention. First, we argue that conventions have normative consequences because they always involve a form of trust and reliance. We contend that it is by reference to a moral principle impinging on these aspects (i.e. the principle of Reliability) that interpersonal obligations and rights originate from conventional regularities. Second, we argue that the system of mutual expectations presupposed by conventions is a source of agreements. Agreements stemming (...) from conventions are “tacit” in the sense that they are implicated by what agents do (or forbear from doing) and without that any communication between them is necessary. To justify this conclusion, we assume that: (1) there is a salient interpretation, in some contexts, of everyone’s silence as confirmatory of the others’ expectations (an epistemic assumption), and (2) the participating agents share a value of not being motivated by hostile attitudes (a motivational assumption). By clarifying the relation between conventions and agreements, the peculiar normativity of conventions is analyzed. (shrink)