Machiavelli: The Misunderstood Humanist Essay

Machiavelli: The Misunderstood Humanist Essay

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Machiavelli was a Florentine diplomat, statesman, and political philosopher in the early sixteenth century. He authored The Prince, a set of rules for new princes to follow in order to maintain control of their domains, emphasizing the use of power without regard to morality. Machiavelli published The Prince in 1513 and dedicated it to the Medicis with the goal of convincing them to unite Italy and end the Italian Wars, which took place from 1494 to 1559. Machiavelli’s philosophies have been criticized as contradictory to traditional humanist views, but this conclusion fails to consider the ideas set forth in The Prince in the context of other political philosophies and humanism at the time. Machiavelli’s political ethics meet the four characteristics of humanism: Classicism, realism, individualism, and active virtue. These factors combine to depict civic humanism in line with the humanist philosophies of Coluccio Salutati and Leonardo Bruno, two of Machiavelli’s predecessors.
Classicism is a defining characteristic of humanism displayed by Machiavelli. Humanist Classicism is characterized by the reference of classical sources and history (mainly Greek and Roman) not with nostalgia, but as a basis for argument. Machiavelli derives several of the arguments in The Prince from classical history and philosophy. For example, he first defines a type of state known as mixed principalities. These have two characteristics: first, they are ruled dynastically by a prince; second, they conquer new territories that differ in language, laws, and customs from themselves. Machiavelli explains that these states tend to come into difficulties while expanding because of the natural difficulty of ruling over peoples of different language, laws, and...

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Mansfield, Harvey C. Machiavelli's Virtue. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1998. Print.
Nederman, Carry. "Niccolò Machiavelli." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Stanford, 13 Sept. 2005. Web. 25 Oct. 2013. .
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Strauss, Leo, and Joseph Corpsey. History of Political Philosophy. 3rd ed. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1987. Print.
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