Doctor Antonio Petrina
When our note was published in Key Editore: “Forgetting Machiavelli”(1), in memory of the report by the illustrious Prof. Weiler at the Rimini Meeting in 2022, we wondered whether with the figure of King David, the biblical figure of political leader and ante litteram figure of the Prince of the illustrious Florentine secretary. described in the Bible in the book of Samuel, we could “forget” Machiavelli as everything was already written in the biblical book. Also: can we still forget Machiavelli about the biblical figure of King Solomon, son of King David and Bethsaida? The answer to this second question is the subject of this note (for the first, we refer to the paper of 2022). We were inspired by this ideal passage, between David and Solomon, as well as contemporaries Machiavelli and More, when reading the opening address that Pope Benedict gave in Berlin, before the Reichstag on 22 September 2011 (2).
(1) see www.focusdiritto.it/2022/10/12/dimenticare-machiavelli/ The professor. J.Weiler was awarded the Ratzinger Prize 2022, shortly before the death of the pope emeritus on 12.31.2022. Pope Francis, communicated the award attributed to Prof. Weiler with the reason that he dealt with topics of fundamental importance such as “the relationship between faith and juridical reason in the contemporary world; the crisis of juridical positivism” (Awarding of the “Ratzinger prize” – Speech of the Holy Father Francis, Sala Clementina, 1st December 2022; www.vatican.va Dicastery for Communication-Libreria Editrice Vaticana)
(2) Benedict XVI, You are never alone with God, Vatican publishing house, ed. Rizzoli, 2023. The speech to the Reichstag of 09/22/2011 is reported in the text on page 123 and following.
Is the ideal political virtue of the wise Prince, whose qualities Machiavelli lists (see chaps. 15-18 of “The Prince”), is it the same described by the proclaimed saint of politicians Thomas More, a contemporary of the Florentine secretary?
Does Lorenzetti’s allegory of “good governance”, painted two hundred years earlier, contradict that paradigm of modern power or should we forget Machiavelli and More, since everything has already been described in the first book of Kings? The present contribution tries to give an answer to these questions and the readers, even if they do not share the thesis, will evaluate our effort to clarify whether or not it is right to “forget” Machiavelli, according to the Weilerian hypothesis of the biblical reading of the book of Samuel .
- King Solomon and the quality of good governance.
On the occasion of his accession to the throne, Solomon addressed to God the request for wisdom for good government: “Grant your servant an understanding heart, that he may know how to judge your people and know how to distinguish right from wrong” (1 Kings, 3, 9).
With this account the Bible, Pope Benedict XVI affirms, “wants to show us what, ultimately, must be important for a politician” (3), that is, the will to apply law and justice. In fact, what are states if justice and law (we would say: even international law) are not respected? A band of thieves, St. Augustine ruled and history bears witness to “A very well organized band of brigands” in German territory, as Pope Benedict recalled for his homeland, when the State had become the instrument for the destruction of law and that band organization pushed the whole world towards the precipice!
(3) Benedict XVI, op.cit., pag.124. The pope continues: “… the State had become the instrument for the destruction of the law – it had become a very well organized band of brigands, which could threaten the whole world and push him to the edge of the precipice”. (Ibidem, pag.125)
King Solomon asked God for the quality of discerning good from unjust and “the Solomonic request remains the decisive question before which politicians and politicians find themselves even today” (4), so much so that even today Solomonic justice remains a universal paradigm of modern politics, for those who believe in justice, such as the decision taken by More on the dispute over the disputed dog between the second wife of the English humanist and a poor woman (5) .
That Thomas More, a “diachronic” friend of Francesco Cossiga, was an “exceptional controversialist” is recognized by the late president in the conference at the theological faculty of Lugano in 1997, in the presence of Bishop Corecco, entitled “Power and conscience”, reported in Casu’s text on page 105 and following.
Of course, the question of how to understand and discern the right is related to the “docile conscience” required by King Solomon, i.e. nothing other than “reason open to the language of being” (6).
It is therefore a problem of how to recognize what is right, says Pope Benedict, of reason and nature, both as sources of true law: of reason and of “conscience”, as St. Paul had already underlined (Rom 2, 14 ff.), the law of the pagans (who do not follow the Torah of Israel) being written in their hearts, in their conscience. Here the primacy of conscience is introduced, as the source of the law, of which More was a “great champion” and for him this primacy before a law was a duty and he “… did not appeal to it in the concrete cases of his life without having investigated the search for truth”. (7
This primacy of conscience is not to be confused with subjectivism, since both More, like Cardinal Newman, Ratzinger affirmed “… have forced themselves to obey conscience: to obey that truth which must be
5) Cites the Antonio Casu episode, highlighting More’s almost Solomonic justice in the text he edited: “Power and conscience – Thomas More in the thought of Francesco Cossiga”, ed. Rubettino, 2011, pages 64-65.
6) Benedict XVI, op.cit. page 129. The pope specifies that the true source of law is for everyone “reason and nature in their correlation” (Ibdem, page 128.
7) Thus Cossiga, The primacy of conscience, Conference in Lugano cited in note 5), pag.110.
(8) Thus Ratzinger quoted by Cossiga in the Conference at the International Academy of Philosophy, in the text by Casu quoted in note 5) on page 131.
The dramatic historical moment we are living in (Pope Benedict stated) is therefore not to reduce reason enclosed in an exclusively positivistic vision where “the classical sources of knowledge of ethics and law are put out of play”(9), but to consider the greatness of reason “open” to the language of being, not closed, a reason as a window wide open on reality and not reasons such as “reinforced concrete buildings without windows” (Benedetto
XVI) in which climate and light are self-produced without any relation to reality.
- The Qualities of the Prince by Machiavelli (1513)
Machiavelli writes the Prince in 1513 during his exile at the Albergaccio, after the revocation of his position as secretary in 1512. The work is dedicated to Lorenzo II dei Medici and in this “booklet” (so defined by him) as in the letter to his Florentine friend Francesco Vettori, describes the “principalities”, those kingdoms as examples from which, as Cicero said: “historia magistra vitae”, the present can be fruitfully evaluated, and historical facts can be asked for “reason” and “knowing how to see things at a distance”: “discussing what a principality is, what species they are,
how they are acquired, how they are kept, why they are lost” (letter to Francesco Vettori dated 10 December 2013). This “booklet” also lists the five most important “qualities” that the prince must possess (which are considered good), for which the princes are considered worthy of praise or, conversely, of blame. The Machiavellian method of the Prince is essentially that of following the examples of “concrete truths”, “leaving aside the fantasies that have been said about Princes” (9) and among the good qualities that of “loyalty” (chapter 18) . In short, Machiavelli applies the method of referring to: “… to the exemplum, drawn from ancient and modern history” (10), of knowledge drawn from experience (“fifteen years that I have been studying the art of the state”) and then in the identification of the protagonists: “… talk to them, and ask them about the reason and their actions …. I transfer everything to them ” (so letter to Vettori).
(9) Benedict XVI, op.cit. page 130. Antonio Casu also recognizes that this dramatic moment affects everyone in the Preface to “Utopia” by Thomas More, ed. Rubettino, 2019, p. XXII, quoting Pope Benedict’s address to the German Federal Parliament on 09/22/2011.
(10) Machiavelli, Il Principe, in the modern Italian translation of Melograni, ed., Mondadori, 2012, cap.15, pag.119.
(11) thus Gennaro Maria Barbuto, Machiavelli, Salerno editor, 2013, page 129. One could say that knowledge without experience, which is the place where learns reality, there is no actual effective knowledge, i.e. knowledge of the “real world” (Melograni, op.cit. chap. 15, pag.119). Here therefore lies the “key” of knowledge.
The other qualities of the Prince, described in the pamphlet, are like the right and its reverse: munificence and thrift (chapter 16), cruelty or clemency (chapter 17), finally loyalty (chapter 18) . In examining these qualities of the Prince, which do not necessarily all have to be possessed, at least the Prince “must make believe he has them”, since “the common people always pay attention to appearances and the result”. Thus the Florentine secretary seems to wittily describe the new Prince, who preaches well and raids badly, like Carducci’s Father Zappata!
What loyalty to one’s word is successful for the wise prince?
The Florentine secretary, faithful to his method based on experience, mentions those princes (e.g. the ecclesiastical principality Pope Alexander VI), who, little taking into account their word given and while deceiving “… have also been able to accomplish great feats” (12).
There are therefore two ways to fight with honesty and not with deception according to Machiavelli and thus two ways, one with the law and the other with force. Which of the two methods must prevail in the wise prince? Here Machiavelli introduces the famous allegory of the centaur Chiron. Achilles and other ancient princes were raised by the centaur to be half man, half beast. So from this comparison it follows that the Prince “is therefore forced to know how to be a beast and must imitate the fox and the lion”, thus making use of one (feline nature) or the other nature (of man): “knowing how to disguise well this foxy nature and be great pretenders and dissemblers”. (13)
(12) Machiavelli, op.cit., chapter 18, pag.135.
(13) Machiavelli, op.cit., pages 135 and 137.
- The Politician of Utopia (1516)
Three years after Machiavelli’s Principe, Thomas More writes “Utopia” and in this pamphlet he ironically describes a non-place (Neverland): an ideal and happy place for good governance, a paradigm of modern power . What is Neverland based on? According to a recent critic of More (Firpo), the English humanist offers posterity a message in a bottle: “… leaving us the task of improving ourselves, of achieving wisdom through reason. Wisdom is therefore the necessary prerequisite for achieving the possible common good” (14). Thus we return to the figure of King Solomon and his request to God for wisdom for good governance, as examined in paragraph 1) of this contribution. In fact, what is left of More’s message to the politician if he is not granted the same request for Solomonic wisdom? What Machiavellian virtues of the Wise Prince are therefore necessary today, through reason open to being, to reality, to serve justice and peace?
Is prudence the virtue of which the English humanist attributes to his character (Itlodeo), a virtue perhaps antithetical to the “diabolical soul” of the Florentine secretary? Certainly More is no stranger to his time so that “… he chases the kites of his imagination, taking no interest in the dramas of his society” (15), but as in the Machiavellian pamphlet, we see in Utopia a call to the wisdom of the politician through the reason, to the power that is identified with knowledge (not academic philosophy) and therefore, in this sense, not unlike Machiavellian “wisdom”, to the “judge of knowing the good or evil that one does and says” (16 ).
(14) thus reported the judgment of Luigi Firpo by Antonio Casu in the text cited in note 9) on page VI of his Preface, to the fourth edition of Utopia.
(15) thus Barbuto, op.cit., page 290 and in the text the More/Machiavelli comparison, with the conclusions on page 206 that we do not agree with, which differ from his conclusions on page 206.
(16) Machiavelli, cap.XXII, pag.180. Virtue and quality both of the prince and of his minister adviser.
- The allegory of good governance in Lorenzetti
In the peace room of the public palace in Siena stands the “Allegory of good governance” which the painter Ambrogio Lorenzetti painted in two years from 1338 to 1339, commissioned by the rulers of Siena. The work, with a clear didactic effect, is the first of its kind with a political-religious background.
Two hundred years before the “Prince”, the Sienese painter shows us the virtues of the politician in the fresco: first and foremost that of prudence, from putting the common good at the center, without any difference between the “common good” and good governance. (17) This great work, unsurpassed over the centuries, could undoubtedly be placed side by side with the happy island of Utopia that More described in 1516, but what interests us now is what we reported in the Introduction: that is, if the ideal of politics, of which we are children, has those virtues that More and Machiavelli before him narrated, i.e. the virtues of good governance frescoed by Lorenzetti (the fresco, comments Prof. Carlotti, as a “video” of the laws in force in Siena, for who he could not read and therefore of the common good), on behalf of the nine administrators of Siena, are the same as medieval man and modern power.
The fresco unfolds from the figure of Justice, a holy virtue (“love justice you who govern the earth”), who governs distributive and commutative justice with the scales. Beneath her is Concordia which grants on one end the rope of the citizens, freely linked to the harmony of justice, while on the other end it agrees with the common, which is the common good of the citizens in agreement. What are the virtues of the common good Lorenzetti identifies them above Concordia in the three theological virtues: faith, hope and charity (the good of the city, i.e. the political virtue par excellence: love for the common good). Around the common good there are the four cardinal virtues and the six operative virtues: prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude to which two other virtues must be added: magnanimity, that is, having a great mind beyond one’s own (remember at this point the first of the Machiavellian qualities, i.e. the munificence of the prince who spends generously, “if you use it intelligently” (chapter 16), balanced by parsimony and finally, in the Sienese fresco, peace, a virtue that tramples on weapons and from which, without wars follows a “civil effect”.
(17) For the reading of Lorenzetti’s Fresco we refer to the 2010 press release on the book of the exhibition that Prof. Mariella Carlotti illustrated at the meeting in Rimini, in the presence of Judge Grossi and Minister Calderoli: www.https://www .meetingrimini.org/comunicati-stampa/161-il-buon governo-by-ambrogio-lorenzetti/, but above all we refer to the interesting video posted on Youtube which reports the lecture that Prof. Carlotti gave at the presentation of Lorenzetti’s fresco at the Milanese conference in November 2014 entitled: “Good governance and common good”: https://youtu.be/xYNqLdcZKBY .
The effects of the common good light up a beautiful city (would this be the happy island of Morian memory?). We believe that the Sienese city of the common good could be considered the island of More, where wisdom and the common good dominate.
Certainly the frescoed city of the Renaissance is empty, while the Sienese one is full of people, but public laws “made by a good prince or by a people who are not oppressed by tyranny” (More, Utopia), will certainly have the same effect: “living virtuously” (18), of “good governance both in the city and in the countryside”. If the effects of the common good are in force in Siena, on the island of More, the virtues of justice and the common good are also the virtues of utopians and in a special way of judges – fathers: “These two evils, love and avarice, when they have power in the judges they pervert all justice and weaken every nerve of the republic”. (19)
Since the common good is in force, the utopians “have an absolute abomination of war as an animal thing”. (20) Other analogies between the Allegory and the Utopia can be found in work where the effect of the common good is in force: there the countryside is full of industrious workers and in the work in the city women also help the masons, here among the utopians “agriculture is a common art for males and females”, even if they, “because they are less robust, devote themselves to wool and flax”. (21)
From the effects of bad governance arise the effects contrary to good governance, to those virtues also dear to the Florentine secretary. Thus from Lorenzetti’s fresco, where Justice is bound, tyranny (effect of bad government) surmounts: tyranny of the tyrant king with the appearance of the devil from the good itself. The reverse of him recalls Machiavelli where he invites the new prince to “behave with prudence and humanity” (chapter 17); a wise prince “must only not be hated”. In fact “the Prince becomes hateful above all if he robs and appropriates the stuff and the women of the subjects” (chapter 19), must not take the demonic prince as a model, with the attributes of violence, not be “cross-eyed”. The Machiavellian Prince must take the cunning fox and the lion as models, not the reverse side of the common good, which would be avarice, vainglory or pride, the three beasts that blind those who follow their own good and guard against vices, like cruelty (chapter 17), but it must be a beast, in the sense that “… it must imitate the fox and the lion… to recognize traps, and a lion to frighten the wolves.” (21).
The effects of the tyrant then have repercussions on the kingdom, as well as the political incapacities of the prince, in fact fortune governs no more than half the actions of the prince (chapter 25) and his bad example generates violence and abuses of all gender, where fear dominates not the security of the common good. Nowadays, the coronation of Charles III has taken place, which brings us back signs and symbols, including medieval ones, of which Lorenzetti’s fresco, of medieval origin, seems precisely the manifesto of modern power (23).
(23) The London coronation of King Charles III, a descendant of Queen Elizabeth, took place on 6 May 2023, 70 years after the previous coronation (1953), in the presence of the Archbishop of Canterbury. In fact, the English sovereign is also head of the Anglican church, due to the tradition created in 1534, after the schism from the Catholic church, which was created by King Henry VIII due to the Pope’s failure to recognize the king’s marriage to Anne Boleyn (not having been annulled the previous marriage with Catherine of Aragon). The king then arrogated to himself the title of “supreme head of the Church of England on earth”, having Sir Thomas More, his most trusted chancellor, imprisoned and then killed in the Tower of London, who had refused to swear the writ of submission (Act of Supremacy) of the Anglican church to the royal temporal power. The coronation ceremony is of an ancient ritual and with symbols also of medieval origin, including the precious crown of King Saint Edward (1000 BC) and among the symbols, of which an allegorical meaning stands out, which we intend to deepen here for the interest of the addressed theme (on royal qualities), of some objects.
Among these are the “swords” offered to the king. Each of them represents a royal virtue: that of spiritual justice, temporal justice and finally the sword of mercy, with a blunt blade at the tip. These are the three virtues, symbolized in the swords, that the king must possess and that in the fresco by Lorenzetti there was the medieval certification of the royal qualities. Other objects, which represent the royal stature, are incorporated into the “bracelets” that King Charles III received from the archbishop and these are symbols of
“Sincerity and wisdom”, while the gold ring, on the fourth finger of the sovereign, represents the marriage between the king and his people: the indissoluble marriage that binds the king to the common good of his people. The two sceptres are then a symbol of good governance: both of the temporal one, or the sovereign’s scepter also called “rod of equity and mercy”, together with the sovereign’s scepter with cross, symbol of spiritual power (being head of the church, as mentioned). The symbols of the power of King Charles III certify how much the modern power of the king is linked to what we had already commented in the fresco by Lorenzetti regarding the link of the king to the common good of his people, to the exercise of virtue of prudence and royal wisdom, to the exercise of mercy which, in the English style, adds to that of equity, for the common law country.
As we have demonstrated in the previous pages, it is not necessary to “forget Machiavelli” to know if everything was already written in the biblical book about power and how to exercise it, since the virtues of Solomon and his request to be able to distinguish what is right, distinguish good from evil to govern, are the virtues (prudence and justice) of every politician of all times, even those described in the Prince of the Florentine secretary. In the coronation of Charles III these virtues, by temporal coincidence with the present notes, have become highly topical in this regard.
These abilities of the politician are not a revealed right, since philosophy (not academic philosophy) helps to achieve a harmony of reason with reality, not to close oneself in but to open up to reality with experience, as the Machiavellian method teaches that history is teacher of life and that the prince tends to apply the virtues intelligently in the government of the republic. This primacy of reason and conscience is then all in the thought of Thomas More. The fresco by Lorenzetti (1337), which illustrates good governance (rectius: the common good), are concepts already assimilated by the Florentine secretary and the English humanist, both “experts” of modern power. It would in fact be verified among historians that the secretary Machiavelli in Florence, during the Pisan campaign of 1499 -1500, thanks to the award of the Duke of Ferrara, had not become aware of the fresco by Lorenzetti, commissioned by the nine in the council chamber.
In front of this fresco we paused to discover the topicality of the virtues of the medieval politician and the modern politician, with the effects of good governance as well as its opposite, bad governance. If the Solomonic wisdom is to distinguish good from evil, prudence and justice, which are the virtues of the politician of all times, wisdom of good governance and the common good, these virtues are embodied in the allegorical figures in the fresco of Lorenzetti, Justice and Concordia. These virtues are included in the saint of politicians and in the Florentine secretary, between The Prince and Utopia, in the message that the latter launches at us contemporaries.
The message is above all addressed to good administrators, who have wisdom and the common good at heart, for a city at peace, with the well-being of all citizens. The fresco by the Pisan Lorenzetti has left to posterity, among those who did not know then and today do not know how to “read” the history of good governance.