Monthly Archives: May 2011

Camus, Machiavelli and Morality

Camus brings up morality on p. 130, when Tarrou states his code of ethics: comprehension. On the following page Camus speaks in Machiavellian terms: vice and virtue. However, Camus dissents on Machiavelli’s view of human nature stating: “The evil in the world always comes from ignorance…on the whole, men are more good than bad… but they are more or less ignorant… the most incorrigible vice being that of an ignorance that fancies it knows everything and therefore claims for itself the right to kill.” (131). Thus, it cannot be justified for one to participate in or allow innocent people to die if one has the capacity to understand the problem. One must attempt to fix the problem. Rieux (163) states, “It’s a matter of common decency (not heroism).”

Therein lies the problem: if the masses are ignorant and there are two sides to every fight, then how is one to educate the masses on morality if they are ignorant and could just as easily be persuaded to fight in the name of evil with good intent? Camus’ view on human nature is largely the same as Socrates’: generally, people are ignorant and/or apathetic, however, Camus believes apathy is no excuse for not ‘fighting the good fight.’

It is often hard to tell who is on the right side of history and when all is said and done history books are written by the winners. Socrates, Rawls, and most other moral philosophers argue: morals are not subjective. Although, morality in politics is hard to come by, operationally most nations practice political realism. There is no room for morality when on a quest for power and generally, on a more local level, men operate in the same fashion. Politicians cling to power and make amoral decisions which wind up killing innocent people every day so as to further their careers. Camus believes if one is not willing to stand up and do the right thing, life is not worth living. If people are dying, look to the source of the problem and fight until your last breath: no one has the right to kill (unless killing an aggressor).

Camus’ view poses problems for the ignorant masses willing to fight in the name of narrow nationalism: going overseas to fight a battle unjustly is manifest aggression. War is a cyclical process with both sides thinking the other is an aggressor: one had better be damn sure they are on the right side of history otherwise they risk committing the most incorrigible vice: an “ignorance that fancies it knows everything therefore claims for itself the right to kill.”

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Posted by on May 6, 2011 in Uncategorized


Henry V: Act V

I am not sure as to whether or not Dr. Maloney highlighted this point in class last Tuesday, as I was not there, but the line that stuck out to me the most was: “I cannot be confined within the weak list of a country’s fashion: we are the makers of manners…” (5.2, 123). Contextually, this passage is referring to customs regarding physical expressions of love, however, one could apply this to Henry’s style of ruling altogether. That is, exercising political realism.

Henry, as a ruler, is not bound by social customs or precedence in his ruling. This makes him phenomenal at exercising power, however, one could argue the power is arbitrary in the end, that is, not legitimate. Although political legitimacy is a liberal theory, not maintaining legitimacy has adverse implications when applied to any type of political power. Because Henry decides to rule arbitrarily, that is, rule without taking into account the implications of his actions, his subjects could easily point out his hypocrisies and, if taken to the extreme, depose him.

As seen in the Arab Spring, that is, the various uprising across the Middle East, leaders can only operate without legitimacy for so long as the subjects allow. Obviously 500 years ago was a very different time and this sort of ruling was more common than today, although, leaders could still potentially be held accountable by their subjects.

King Henry makes the rules and, if he decides to act not in accordance with them, his subjects may very well decide to do the same. Henry, however, has the power to evade accountability, whereas his subjects are not. As seen with Henry’s former friends throughout the story, they act in a manner in which the king himself did at one point, however, they are punished for it.

Political realism can be a great tool in acquiring power and land, however, after power and land are achieved, it may be wise for a king or ruler to adopt a better theory in maintaining legitimacy of the people.

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Posted by on May 2, 2011 in Uncategorized



“And Alexander wept, for there were no more worlds to conquer.” -Plutarch

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Posted by on May 2, 2011 in Uncategorized