Modern Man - Lehrstuhl Prof. Dr. iur. Dr. rer. pol. Dr. hc Christian

Prof. Dr. iur. Dr. rer.pol. Dr. h.c. Christian Kirchner, LL.M. (Harvard)
Humboldt University of Berlin
School of Law / School of Business and Economics
Wittenberg Center for Global Ethics
500 years of Machiavelli –
the Birth of ‚Modern Man‘
Summer School of the European Law School
„Efficiency and Justice“
Rome, 1 – 7 September 2013
[Kirchner: Machiavelli 9-1-2013]
1. Introduction (1)
 500 years Machiavelli = 500 years of realism in politicial
 500 years emancipation of political theory from theology
and moral philosophy
 Birthday of methodological innovation / Machiavelli the
Galileo of social sciences
 Breakthrough of the homo oeconomicus-assumption
 In the context of ‚efficiency and justice‘: re-adjusting the
compass from justice to efficiency
[Kirchner: Machiavelli 9-1-2013]
1. Introduction (2)
Controversial positions
 ‚violent disparity of judgements‘
 Extreme positions:
 Frederick the Great of Prussia called Machiavelli „the enemy
of mankind“.
 Marx calls ‚The Discourses‘ a genuine master piece.
 For Bacon, Machiavelli is the supreme realist.
 The question here: Machiavelli‘s position as the ‚birth
of modern man‘?
[Kirchner: Machiavelli 9-1-2013]
1. Introduction (3)
1.3 Personal Reservation
 Living in Berlin
 Born in Potsdam
 Working for a Thinktank in Business Ethics
(Wittenberg Center for Global Ethics)
 Interest in the ‚Anti-Machiavell‘ of Frederick
the Great of Prussia
 But the Antimachivell was written by the crown prince whereas
the later king acted more in Machiavellian fashion
[Kirchner: Machiavelli 9-1-2013]
1. Introduction (3a)
[Kirchner: Machiavelli 9-1-2013]
1. Introduction (3b)
[Kirchner: Machiavelli 9-1-2013]
1. Introduction (4)
Different approaches
Machiavelli: the inventor of the ‚modern man‘
Machiavelli: a plagiator, copying positions of
classical writers in the tradition of poltical realism
In the absence of a model of ‚modern man‘,
Machiavelli could not invent such a model
Machiavelli: a fore-runner of the rational choiceapproach, where homo oeconomicus stands for
‚modern man‘
Machiavelli: inventor of a heuristic model of
‚modern man‘
[Kirchner: Machiavelli 9-1-2013]
1. Introduction (5)
Concept of the lecture
Looking at Niccoló Machiavelli through the
lenses of the modern – modified – homo
[Kirchner: Machiavelli 9-1-2013]
2. Methodological Notes (1)
 In social sciences, behavioural assumptions are
heuristic instruments
 Two components of the homo oeconomicusassumption
 self-interested behaviour (refering to goals)
 rational decision making (refering to methods of
how to reach the goals)
 Assumption of self-interested behaviour modified
by fairness- and empathy-assumptions
 Rationality assumption modified in behavioural
economics → ‚bounded rationality‘
 Modern homo oeconomicus: qualified rational
choice model [Kirchner: Machiavelli 9-1-2013]
2. Methodological Notes (2)
 Distinction between ‚decisions within rules‘ and
‚decisions on rules‘
 ‚Decisions within rules‘ under competitive
conditions: necessity of acting self-interested and
rational (non-cooperative games)
 Dilemma structure: those who do not act selfinterested and rational may be exploited by other
 ‚Decisions on rules‘: collective action problems
(high decision making costs) → reduction of
decision making costs by entering cooperative
games → role of fairness and empathy
 Distinction between ‚non-cooperative
games‘ and ‚cooperative games‘
[Kirchner: Machiavelli 9-1-2013]
3. Three Hypotheses (1)
(1) ‘Il Principe’ is focusing on ‘decisions within
rules’ whereas ‘Il Discorsi’ is focusing on
‘decisions on rules’.
(2) ‘Il Principe’ is neglecting transaction costs
and options for cooperative games.
(3) ‘Il Discorsi’ is focusing on solutions and is
underestimating meta-rules for decisionmaking.
[Kirchner: Machiavelli 9-1-2013]
4. Reception of Machiavelli (1)
Print of ‘Il Principe’ 1532 in the Vatican
(Clemens VII)
‘Il Principe’ put on the Index of Prohibited
Books in 1559 (Paul IV)
Bacon: Machiavelli as a forerunner of
Frederick the Great of Prussia Machiavelli
„the enemy of mankind“
Cassirer: Machiavelli an objective analyst of
politics, morally neutral
[Kirchner: Machiavelli 9-1-2013]
4. Reception of Machiavelli (2)
Pocock: Machiavelli's republicanism is of a
civic humanist variety whose roots are to be
found in classical antiquity
Croce: Machiavelli a "realist" or "pragmatist“,
who accurately states that moral values in
reality do not greatly affect the decisions that
political leaders make
Viroli: Machiavelli is applying and refining
classical political wisdom in the tradition of
Roman scientia civilis
[Kirchner: Machiavelli 9-1-2013]
5. The puzzle of the
▪ Different perspectives and concepts in different
works of Machiavelli
▪ Machiavelli in the tradition of classical political
thought (with new accents)
▪ Machiavelli as fervent patriot (last chapter of ‘Il
▪ Machiavelli’s republican ideals (in ‘Il Discorsi)
▪ Rafael Major (2007),172: Machiavelli‘s writing is
rich enough to support virtually and thesis
▪ The thesis of Machiavelli being the creator of
‘modern man’ evidently cannot be supported in
the light of that puzzle
[Kirchner: Machiavelli 9-1-2013]
6. Il Principe (1)
▪ Concept: Explaining instruments for acquiring
and retaining absolute (dictatorial) power under
given political and military conditions in Italy in
the 16th century
▪ Behavioural assumption: self-interested
behaviour of all actors (including citizens)
(Chapter XIV, first sentence)
▪ Normative analysis (advice for princes! – and for
citizens?), which can be read as a positive
analysis explaining how various instruments
work, abstaining from bringing into play moral
values (Chapter XV, second passage: “Hence, is
it necessary for a prince whishing to hold his own
how to do wrong, and to make use of it or nut
according to necessity.”)
[Kirchner: Machiavelli 9-1-2013]
6. Il Principe (2)
▪ Dilemma structures prevent success of strategies
based on moral values (Chapter XI, end of first
passage: “..; for a man who wishes to act entirely
up to his professions of virtue soon meets with
what destroys him among such much that is evil.”
▪ Historical examples as a proof for the success of
wicked and immoral strategies (Chapter VIII:
Agathocle, King of Syracuse (Sicily)
[Kirchner: Machiavelli 9-1-2013]
6. Il Principe (3)
▪ Concept of ‘virtú’ (not to be translated with ‘virtue’
and its connotation of moral goodness): range of
personal qualities necessary to acquire and
retain power (Nedermann, 2009, 4)
▪ Concept of ‘fortuna’ (not to be translated with
‘fortune’ bat rather with ‘fate’, ‘lot’ or ‘doom’);
unforeseeable, changing circumstances which
have an impact on success or failure (to acquire
and retain power)
[Kirchner: Machiavelli 9-1-2013]
7. Il Discorsi
▪ Concept: explaining, how to organise states and
▪ Historical examples for illuminating hypotheses
on successful of not successful organisation of
states and governments
▪ Normative tendency: favouring the republic
organisation of the state
▪ Positions in line with many classical political
[Kirchner: Machiavelli 9-1-2013]
8. Different concepts in
‚Il Principe‘ and ‚Il Discorsi‘ (1)
▪ ‘Il Principe’:
▫ advice to actors which have to make
decisions within a given framework (e.g.
wars between Italian city states; wars with
France and Spain, civil wars)
▫ ‘fortuna’ is standing for such circumstances
which cannot be changed by the Prince
‘fortuna’ is standing for the lack of
predictability of changing circumstances
[Kirchner: Machiavelli 9-1-2013]
8. Different concepts in
‚Il Principe‘ and ‚Il Discorsi‘(2)
▪ ‘Il Principe’ (cont’d)
▫ ‘virtue’ is standing for rational planning and
decision making (means and ends-paradigm)
▫ Translated into modern rational choiceterminology: In ‘Il Principe’, Machiavelli is
engaged in a positive analysis of strategies
of self-interested and rational actors which
have to act under systematic incomplete
[Kirchner: Machiavelli 9-1-2013]
8. Different concepts in
‚Il Principe‘ and ‚Il Discorsi‘(3)
‘Il Discorsi’:
▫ advice for citizens (or a dictator) how to
organise states and governments (positive
and normative analysis)
▫ normative fundament: classical republican
values of liberty and rule of law
▫ Dilemma: dictators are allegedly in a better
position to organise republican states
(Machiavelli as predecessor of Thomas
[Kirchner: Machiavelli 9-1-2013]
9. Solving the puzzle (1)
▪ In ‘Il Principe’, Machiavelli is a forerunner of a –
simple – rational choice approach, utilising the
homo oeconomicus-assumption.
▪ The Prince has to act as if he were homo
oecomicus to be successful.
▪ In ‘Il Discorsi’, citizens have to agree of how to
organise state and government.
▪ They have choices and can make normative
▪ Morals come into play, not as objective values,
but as agreed values (hypothetical consent)
[Kirchner: Machiavelli 9-1-2013]
9. Solving the puzzle (2)
▪ The Machiavelli-Puzzle is comparable to the
Adam Smith-Problem (different behavioural
assumptions in “The Wealth of Nations” and
“Theory of Moral Sentiments”: people have to act
as if they were hominess oecnomici in markets
but not in institution-building)
[Kirchner: Machiavelli 9-1-2013]
10. Conclusions (1)
▪ Machiavelli is in line with ‘modern manassumption’ by distinguishing between ‘advice for
making decisions within rules’ and ‘proposal to
make decisions on rules’
▪ Deficit in ‘Il principe’: overemphasizing a
simplified model of self-interested behaviour,
neglecting transaction costs and potentials for
the introduction of cooperative games
▪ Deficit in ‘Il Discorsi’: underemphasizing the
collective action problems and meta-rules for
decision making
[Kirchner: Machiavelli 9-1-2013]
10. Conclusions (2)
▪ Machiavelli has introduced essential elements of
the rational choice-approach (with certain
▪ ‘Modern Man’ can no longer be equalized with
the ‘rational choice-approach’
▪ Machiavelli is not the father of ‘modern man’, but
may be an uncle.
[Kirchner: Machiavelli 9-1-2013]
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