In most cases, the phrase “The ends justify the means” is associated with the justification of unethical, immoral, and illegal actions if the outcome is profitable for the people involved. Niccolò Machiavelli who had introduced these words frequently mentioned them in the same context in his works, stating that doers condemned for actions may be justified by results (Machiavelli, 1983).
However, from a personal perspective, in The Prince, he addressed an additional meaning by making a psychological argument – according to Machiavelli, people do not know what others think and feel and pay attention only to that appearance, which they will value and praise (Machiavelli, 2003). That is why, those people who have power should consider appearance preferred by society and act to create an appropriate one in the eyes of others even if they have to act against their nature, needs, values, and wishes.
At the same time, as a person, the Prince should be very cautious in his actions in a social space and consider public comments and actual political environments. He should know how to act and play to create an appearance with the purpose to gain people’s love despite the inevitable existence of rumors and prejudice (Machiavelli, 2003). Until he aims to defend and perpetuate his state, his behavior will be justified.
Concerning violence, Machiavelli defined it as a necessity when it is justified by positive outcomes. First of all, being a realist concerning human nature, he stated that for the Prince, people’s fear is more efficient in comparison with love (Machiavelli, 2003). As a result, violence should be used by a leader, especially against potential enemies and on a battlefield, to keep and order through fear.
At the same time, Machiavelli mentioned that any violence should be justified by results and has limited scope, otherwise, it will be destructive both for the Prince and the country. In addition, he determined the appropriate acts of violence as swift and short-lived, and effective (Machiavelli, 2003). Thus, if genocide is determined by the leader’s personality, long-lasting, and does not lead to positive outcomes for the state – according to Machiavelli, it is a negative action.
At the same time, justice was defined by Machiavelli as a tool for the achievement of the leader’s goal. Its expediency is justified when it is used for people’s pacification, the creation of hierarchy for a strict order, and general benefit for the state – otherwise, violence may be more effective (Machiavelli, 2003). The Prince should express power and defend it by all means, however, limiting his inner desires, the Prince should pay attention to outside forces as he depends on a group that supports his power and the constitution. In general, Machiavelli justified any cruel actions and political violence if it aims to maintain the country’s stability and retain the leader’s power.
Machiavelli, N. (1983). The discourses. (L. J. Walker, Trans.). Penguin Classics.
Machiavelli, N. (2003). The prince. (R. Goodwin, Trans.). Dante University Press.