Journal of Philosophical Investigations

Document Type : Research Paper


1 MA. of philosophy, University of Zanjan

2 Associate Professor of Philosophy, University of Zanjan


This paper examines the reducibility of politics to classical ethics by examining the presumed assumptions of the relationship between ethics and politics. After criticizing classical epistemology, it criticizes its presuppositions. Then concludes that, although modern thought has made epistemology different, it has failed to eliminate puritanistic presuppositions of morality which is the inheritance of the metaphysical era. This is because modern epistemology is far removed from puritanism and absolute principles by a historical understanding of concepts such as morality and politics. While classical ethics is in search of pure and is looking for a list of presupposed good and bad. In the meantime, Machiavelli is one of the first to recognize the necessity of revising the system of values ​​and adapting morality with modern epistemology. He claims that the new Ethics is not only irreducible to some principles but as a historical structure, it reproduces itself in different situations. Acquiring these new ethics is possible in the face of accepting evil and adapting it to the nature of the era. In this way, politics also has the opportunity to focus on its main goal of minimizing violence. The present research introduces the idea of ​​"ethics in politics" as the modern ethics of modern politics.



This essay examines the question of the reducibility of politics to classical ethics after briefly examining the putative types of the relation of ethics and politics. They have all explored this relationship from a classical epistemological point of view and have a puritanistic view of ethics, and none seem to be able to explain how the two concepts relate. It will be concluded that although modern thought has transformed epistemology, it has failed to free ethics from the metaphysical assumptions left by the metaphysical era. In classical epistemology, the reality of ethics is reduced to several pre-existing principles and methods. Classical ethics in the pursuit of the pure is still looking for a list of pre-determined good and bad. But modern epistemology has departed from puritanism and absolute principles by critiquing the static epistemology of the ancients and by historically understanding the concepts, including ethics and politics. Modern epistemology, considering the nature of human beings, and the imperatives that impose themselves on human life, consider the relevance of ethics to constantly changing human affairs. And it explicitly states that human activities, whether in the field of ethics or politics, must inevitably follow the needs and changes of the situation, not some pre-existing principles.

Ethics in politics

At first glance, because of the many details and nuances of things and phenomena, the notion of the "pure" was necessary for talking about them. But the error only occurred when we considered this purported purity as something that "actually exists." This tendency to perceive the pure as real, by introducing what is not in the world and assuming it is the violence of "puritanism". While today it has become clear that access to a bare reality cannot be spoken, and theory cannot set itself the criterion of reality (fixed and immutable) by assuming the possibility of such access. Thus, such a metaphysics that depicts the relationship between theory and reality as a one-way street is no longer accepted.

Machiavelli was among the first to recognize the necessity of rethinking the system of values ​​and bringing ethics into line with modern epistemology. He proposes a gray look that is even more explanatory and substitutes it for the classic black and white absolutism. Machiavelli introduced "moral flexibility" instead of predetermined virtues as the precise reference of "virtuoso". Rather than placing virtues in absolute and idealistic positions, he redefined them into positional and separatist virtues to make it possible to talk about different choices in a spectrum of good-better and bad-worse in ethics.

From this new perspective, criteria are not detectable but constructive. Because it is through difference that meaning becomes possible, and as soon as we deny or prove something - by separating good from the bad - we are simultaneously building good and bad. Thus, the good-bad, the false-right, etc., are understood concerning human issues in one spectrum, and not as completely separate binaries. Machiavelli argues that new ethics, not only cannot be reduced to a few pre-existing principles but as a historical construct, it reproduces itself in various situations. Achieving this new ethics is possible in light of accepting evil and adapting to the nature of time.

As ethics became dependent on situations, it became clear that politics would no longer be reduced to ethics. Also, since "politic is action", it is not enough to justify political goals to satisfy an ethical view of politics. So it is best to constantly review, test, and validate the goals and prospects within a process. Because it is through process-based systems, rules, and decisions that ethics in politics finds its true weight and influence.


As a result, it can be argued that there is essentially nothing in the name of a perfect and impeccable moral system with fixed and unchanging principles that can be applied at every opportunity and in various human activities. For this reason, Machiavelli defines political good as the "economy of violence" and concludes that violence must be used and controlled simultaneously. This is because violence is seen as a good substitute for the inability of the mind to give up its desires. Politics, meanwhile, has an opportunity to address its primary goal of minimizing violence. The theme of politics also shifts from achieving an ethical goal of securing peace and reconciliation within the state and security of state borders.

Based on this new understanding that political issues need political solutions, it is possible to speak of "The special ethics of politics" or "ethics of politics".


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