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Machiavelli vs Aristotle

Machiavelli is an important figure on this site. Considering the recent developments on the site, I wonder if Aristotle would be just as fitting as a front figure.

 

Aristotle's ethics are characterized by "empowered warmth". One's own happiness is the central theme, but the road to happiness is through win-win relationships, optimally characterized by "philia". Friendships start out by being "utilitarian". Friendships between "inequal" people can exist, and this is explained with concepts similar to social exchange theory:

 

There is a variety of friendship that exists between unequals: like the friendship of a father and son, for instance. Rulers can even be said to have a certain sort of friendly regard for their subjects. In these cases, friendship is a sort of respect that should be divvied out, like justice, in proportion to the status of the parties. That is, a child should respect the father more than the father respects the son; subjects should love their king more than the king loves any subject; and so forth

https://sniggle.net/TPL/index5.php?entry=07Dec09

The same link gives a good overview over Aristotle's philosophy of friendship.

As I've mentioned in another post, a key difference between Machiavelli and Aristotle [and other greeks and greco-romans] is that Aristotle has an ideal of being "noble". This is not to be confused with being altruist in the Christian sense. It is to aspire to rise above the need for petty games, and not being willing to sink beyond a certain standard. Similar to the concept of "the gentleman warrior" mentioned on this page. See also this article: https://www.mikementzer.com/character.html

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Lucio Buffalmano

Alternatively, perhaps more fitting, could be to keep the two bulks of the power university:

  1. enlightened collaboration
  2. power moves

But one could frame bulk 1. as Aristotelian, and bulk 2. as Machiavellian [as is already done] - making the Power university a combination of Aristotle and Machiavelli.

 

This reframing of "bulk 1" would have the benefit of being accurate, while also giving some wider ethical frames to operate within, which could give more meaning and direction to one's self-development [see Aristotle's concept of the good life - eudaimonia]. The site would also gain in credibility from using Aristotle as a "hub", and the site could need a worthy "propagator" of the changed focus from power alone to enlightened collaboration.

 

I've seen that you quote Machiavelli as aiming for a combination of love and fear, so a counter argument could be that he is sufficient in himself. My counter argument to that again would be that Aristotle provides additional value that one can't find in Machiavelli - namely the emphasis on enlightened collaboration as well as his own ethics. Additionally his ethics matches nicely with social exchange theory. So within bulk 1 one could keep the "technical", specific, non-ethical or psychological applications like social exchange theory [SET]. The problem with SET as a standalone is that it doesn't provide values, it only provides methodology.

 

Aristotle's ethics also covers deeper friendships where the exchange comes more in the background - once again something you talk about here on this very site.

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Lucio Buffalmano

This is very, very interesting peter.

I'll answer just a few things here, albeit this could go on for hours.

Aristotle's ethics are characterized by "empowered warmth"

Sounds already quite similar to TPM, then -"mix power with warmth".

ENLIGHTENED COLLABORATION & POWER MOVES: CAN YOU REALLY SEPARATE THEM?

Alternatively, perhaps more fitting, could be to keep the two bulks of the power university:

  1. enlightened collaboration
  2. power moves

But one could frame bulk 1. as Aristotelian, and bulk 2. as Machiavellian [as is already done] - making the Power university a combination of Aristotle and Machiavelli.

In my opinion, the two must go together.

For a number of reasons:

  • It's shades of grey more often than it's black and white

To begin with, because they are both present in almost anyone, at the same time.

This isn't to say that "everyone is bad", quite the opposite.
And it isn't even to say that "everyone is the same", which is also not true.

There isn't such a clear-cut thing as "collaboration with values" and "Machiavellian power move" on the other.

Life would be simpler if there was, but there isn't.

  • It's fair sometimes to be a Machiavellian -or even a value-taker-

Furthermore, it's sometimes fair to be a value-taker and a manipulator.

That not only fits into the life of someone who wants to be a "force for good", but it's sometimes necessary.
As a matter of fact, I'd say you cannot reach the top of anything without being a power-aware operator -in other words, you won't go far without being a Machiavellian-.

This is even more important for generally good people, who aren't naturally equipped with power-awareness and Machiavellian thinking.

  • Strategic collaboration with POSes

And there are times when you can also collaborate with a POS (abbreviation for "Piece of Sh*t here) for a while, and to do that, you must be aware of the risks, the power dynamics, and the manipulation you might be subject to.

ARISTOTLE AND PHILOSOPHERS' CREDIBILITY (?)

On Aristotle's credibility, I don't know him, I guess he was a smart guy.

Maybe even a genius.

But at the risk of sounding blasphemous when talking about such a renowned figure, he didn't have the data and tools that we have today.

Also, the methodology here is vastly different from philosophy.

I tend to prioritize experience (first hand + observation + other people's experience), and data (science, surveys, experiments), then use critical thinking (the philosophy part, in a way) to tie the two together.

See:

Even the "Machiavellian part", it's far less based on Machiavelli's writings, than it is on current research and observation.

That's why I'm not sure I'll ever have time to read classics of philosophy: experience and science always take precedence for me (maybe one day I'll change my mind, we'll see)

Not sure how Aristotle stood there, but to me, too much philosophy is actually a risk: the risk of straying too far away from experience and data.

Power dynamics the way this website tackles it, is at the same time well-referenced, and very hands on, and that's how it must be.

MACHIAVELLI FIRST, VALUES LATER

The problem with SET as a standalone is that it doesn't provide values, it only provides methodology.

It's not supposed to provide values, though.

As you noticed, PU and this website are quite deep into values.

The "start here" section lists a few crucial ones, and there will be a few more to be added.

Yet, I am also keen to keep the strategies apart from the values.
Values on one side, and "cold", value-less power dynamics & strategies on the other-.

This is not because values are not important, but because it all must start from value-less, "cold" analysis, in my opinion -especially if we seek effectiveness-.

Cold analysis without values is also crucial for self-defense, since the value takers of this world aren't going to be dealing with you from a place of solid values and morals, so you must know the game without values first nad foremost.

We go back to the "to be good, you must know how to be bad" here.

Value, "Cold" Analysis & Credibility

And it's also a question of credibility and science.

This website seeks to be the place with the highest quality content when it comes to analyses and strategies based on those analyses.

As much as I wish that wasn't the case, that doens't vibe well with a values-first approach.

See the "Machiavellis at the workplace" as an example.

To me teaching self-help enmeshed with value is fake BS.
Give me what works, give me how the real world operates, and let me put the values on top.
Me, as the author, I shouldn't be deciding the value for you (that's a paternalistic approach).

Then, after I provide analyses and strategies, I also invite everyone to be value-givers.
And I'm glad I can even say that, often it's good for them as well, since honest win-win tends to be superior in the long run, and makes for generally happier lives.

Personally, I don't want value-takers in my life, I don't want them here, and I don't even want their business.

But still, it all must start with cold, detached, value-less analysis.


Thank you for this great thread man!

Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Yes, you are raising some important questions here.

First of all, let me say that part of what inspires me to write this is wanting the site to thrive. I reconsidered the content of the post after writing it, so the title is a bit unfortunate imo. It would be better to rename it to Machiavelli and Aristotle, and not necessarily put them against each other.

Aristotle's ethics are characterized by "empowered warmth" Sounds already quite similar to TPM, then -"mix power with warmth".

Exactly - this is why it felt fitting to bring Aristotle into the mix. You reemphasize that honest win-win (the social skills module) is also oftentimes the most effective approach, and this happens to be exactly what Aristotle propagates.

 

ENLIGHTENED COLLABORATION & POWER MOVES: CAN YOU REALLY SEPARATE THEM?

Writing that one could combine Aristotle and Machiavelli, I was referring to this text of yours in the change log, where you separate the social skills module and the power dynamics module:

New Structure:

The most foundational lessons are now in the intro.

I’ve noticed too many enter the course thinking “I must be high-power/dominant” without fully appreciating the importance of alliances and the drawbacks of overpowering people. So now they get those crucial lessons first thing.

The social skills module now comes before social power dynamics.

What I'm suggesting is to consider to but Aristotle in the mix in the social skills module.

 

It's fair sometimes to be a Machiavellian -or even a value-taker-

I'd say you cannot reach the top of anything without being a power-aware operator -in other words, you won't go far without being a Machiavellian-.

To the extent that one holds this view, this would be resolved by teaching it in the social power dynamics module - as is done now. Aristotle and Machiavelli, not Aristotle vs. Machiavelli (as I initially wrote).

 

But at the risk of sounding blasphemous when talking about such a renowned figure, he didn't have the data and tools that we have today

While you may be surprised about his practical insights if you decide to read his Nicomachean ethics, part of my proposal was actually to supplement Aristotle with social exchange theory and the other modern technology. In that way one gets the best of both worlds: both view and methodology.

 

I tend to prioritize experience (first hand + observation + other people's experience), and data (science, surveys, experiments), then use critical thinking (the philosophy part, in a way) to tie the two together.

Sounds like a sound epistmology to me. You might be pleasantly surprised to find how practical and empirical Aristotle's approach actually was. Not to be confused woth modern philosophy which tends to be overly rational and divorced from life.

 

Even the "Machiavellian part", it's far less based on Machiavelli's writings, than it is on current research and observation.

Yes, this is why a both-and-approach could be sound. We get the base views from a classic book, and then we fill in with modern science etc.

 

MACHIAVELLI FIRST, VALUES LATER

You are raising an important concern here. I have to stress that the values that Aristotle emphasize are not life-denying sacrifice and altruism (as is so commonly associated with ethics). His ethics is an ethics if life, health, prosperity, and "flourishing". As you may know, his concept of eudaimonia stands behind the concept of flourishing found in positive psychology. For a modern-day rendering of these life-affirming values, I can recommend to read some of Ayn Rand's objectivist literature. According to herself, her main influence was Aristotle. A good primer on the objectivist ethics can be found in the following book Loving Life: The Morality of Self-Interest and the Facts that Support It
See especially chapter 5 and 6, I quote:

"The purpose of morality is to teach you, not to suffer and die, but to enjoy yourself and live. —Ayn Rand"

 

And it's also a question of credibility and science. ...
As much as I wish that wasn't the case, that doens't vibe well with a values-first approach.

You make an important point. I'd argue that this doesn't have to be the case if the research confirms the value-theory. Aristotle's theory of friendship is actually confirmed by social exchange theory [albeit it might go further]. In other words, social exchange theory doesn't negate Aristotle, and they are compatible. Aristotle might be a complement to SET, though, as it gives you a more overarching direction in life - moving towards "flourishing". Looking at the literature, one sees that Aristotle even lies behind some of the modern theories of exchange in economic analysis. It's quite possible that he influenced SET in a similar manner. https://www.jstor.org/stable/3143742

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Lucio Buffalmano

Thank you for this, Peter.

Maybe a note on the Social Exchange Theory lesson / article mentioning that the final goal is flourishing, and not turning into a "bean counter" could be a good idea.

By the way, you sound far more knowledgeable on this topic than I am, and it might take me a long time before I get into philosophy classics, so... Maybe you'd be interested in writing an article on this topic?

Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Yes, that's definitely one of the key strengths of Aristotle imo. Like-  what are we doing this self-development for - what's the end goal? Is it for example power for its own sake, is it skill for it's own sake, or is the end-goal living "the good life", and flourish, as per Aristotle.

 

As much as I like to spread Aristotle's [and to some extent the Objectivist] message, such an article would require quite a bit of work I believe. I'm not sure how we could make that a win-win exchange as of now. If I feel "inspired" at some point, I'll let you know.

As a sidenote, I'll mention that to the extent that the issue is Aristotle being a classical philosopher, this can be remedied by looking at modern literature of "applied Objectivism", like Keeping It Real: Bringing Ideas Down to Earth

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Lucio Buffalmano