Simple versions of Machiavelli’s conception of human nature may readily be elicited from The Prince. It is easy to find textual support for claims that appear to presuppose or be equivalent to some version of psychological egoism. He says, for example, that “men in general … are ungrateful, voluble, dissemblers, anxious to avoid danger, and covetous of gain; as long as you benefit them, they are entirely yours,” but their “love is held by a chain of obligation which, men being selfish, is broken whenever it serves their purpose.” (Prince, xvii, p. 61) Again, speaking of a prince’s counselors, he says “[they] will all think of their own interests …. for men will always be false … unless they are compelled by necessity to be true.” (Prince, xxiii, p. 89)
Beyond specific citations, there is what may be called the atmosphere of the work. Machiavelli constantly assumes that, regardless of what ought to be done, there is no reason to expect that it will be unless it accords with someone’s interests. Objectives which are not secular or this-worldly are only rarely mentioned, and those who concern themselves primarily with such aims are rather summarily dismissed as theorists only for imaginary republics and principalities. (Prince, xv, p. 56) His appeal is always to the prudence of rulers, and he constantly speaks of what is or is not in their interests. It might almost be said that he has no other arguments to offer, no other considerations to bring to bear.
Equally easily, one can find textual support – often in the same texts – for claims that seem to echo the Christian doctrine of Original Sin. Thus, Machiavelli says that “as [men] are bad, and would not observe their faith with you, so ...
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... not be understood to be doing so. A related point is argued in Burnham, 55-63.
 Kavka spells this out further (64f.) as the conjunction of four propositions:
1. For most people in most situations, the ‘altruistic gain/personal loss’ ratio needed to reliably motivate self-sacrificing action is large.
2. The number of people for whom altruism and other non-self-interested motives normally override self-interested motives is small.
3. The number of situations, for the average person, in which non-self-interested motives override personal interest is small.
4. The scope of altruistic motives that are strong enough to normally override self-interest is, for most people, small, that is, confined to concern for family, close friends, close associates, or particular groups or public projects to which the individual is devoted.
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