Ethics in Machiavelli's The Prince Essay

Ethics in Machiavelli's The Prince Essay

Length: 1513 words (4.3 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Powerful Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview

Ethics in Machiavelli's The Prince

Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527) was an Italian statesman and political philosopher. He was employed on diplomatic missions as defence secretary of the Florentine republic, and was tortured when the Medici returned to power in 1512. When he retired from public life he wrote his most famous work, The Prince (1532), which describes the means by which a leader may gain and maintain power.

The Prince has had a long and chequered history and the number of controversies that it has generated is indeed surprising. Almost every ideology has tried to appropriate it for itself - as a result everyone from Clement VII to Mussolini has laid claim to it. Yet there were times when it was terribly unpopular. Its author was seen to be in league with the devil and the connection between 'Old Nick' and Niccolo Machiavelli was not seen as merely nominal. The Elizabethans conjured up the image of the 'murdering Machiavel' [1] and both the Protestants and the later Catholics held his book responsible for evil things. Any appraisal of the book therefore involved some ethical queasiness. Modern scholarship may have removed the stigma of devilry from Machiavelli, but it still seems uneasy as to his ethical position.

Croce [2] and some of his admirers like Sheldon Wolin [3] and Federic Chabod [4] have pointed out the existence of an ethics-politics dichotomy in Machiavelli. Isaiah Berlin [5] postulates a system of morality outside the Christian ethical schema. Ernst Cassirer [6] calls him a cold technical mind implying that his attitude to politics would not necessarily involve ethics. And Macaulay [7] sees him as a man of his time going by the actual ethical positions of Quattrocento Italy.

In the face of s...

... middle of paper ...

...erlin, Isaiah. The Question of Machiavelli. New York Review, November 4, 1971.

6. Cassirer, Ernst. Implications of the New Theory of the State (from The Myth Of The State)

7. Macaulay, Thomas Babington. Machiavelli

8. Berlin, Isaiah. Ibid.

9. Machiavelli. Il Principe Ch XVIII 'Yet as I have said before, not to diverge from the good if he can avoid it, but to know how to set about it if compelled.' Trans. Marriott. The Project Gutenberg Internet Edition.

10. Erasmus. The Education of a Prince, quoted in J. R. Hale, Renaissance Europe 1480-1520 p. 309

11. Hale p. 308

12. Macaulay. Ibid.

13. Whitfield, J. H. Big Words, Exact Meanings.

14. Aristotle. Nichomachean Ethics. [trans. Sir David Ross]

15. Machiavelli. Discourses on Livy Ch XXVII, Project Gutenberg Internet Edition

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Morals and Ethics in The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli Essay example

- In The Prince, Machiavelli discusses morality and ethics concerning secular powers, specifically principalities and secular government. On the other hand, Erasmus discusses the role of morality and personal ethics with regards to religious institutions, specifically the church. While both address different institutions, both express similar viewpoints on many issues. Both agree that personal ethics and morals run thin in the institutions. However, while Machiavelli attempts to completely decouple the actions of good rulers from personal ethics, Erasmus argues that the church has lost track of its original principles down the line....   [tags: human natures, cruelty, christianity]

Powerful Essays
1279 words (3.7 pages)

Machiavelli 's The Prince By Niccolo Machiavelli Essay

- In Niccolo Machiavelli 's book The Prince, is an series of advice given by Machiavelli himself to a prince. During the chapters of 14 to 19, Machiavelli unravels the ideas and qualities it takes to be a prince. In the following sections, he also explains the virtues and vices that might be required for a prince. This paper will analyze certain sections from the reading and how the traditional interpretation of Machiavelli which advises immoral choices and from a different standpoint showing other possible ways that Machiavelli 's advice would be a moral or ethical choice....   [tags: Morality, Ethics, The Prince]

Powerful Essays
730 words (2.1 pages)

Essay about Machiavelli 's View Of The Prince

- Machiavelli believes a prince should know how to be a fox. A fox has been known to be deceptive, sly, cunning, sneaky, crafty, and many other adjectives. These are attributes that Machiavelli believes that a good prince would hold within himself to be able to rule, and in addition to, keeping his reigning power. Machiavelli explains within the text of, The Prince, that rulers have to seem as if they have the best intentions for the people, but secretly the highest priority is to keep himself in power and to protect his dominion....   [tags: Morality, Ethics, Prince, Principality]

Powerful Essays
1266 words (3.6 pages)

Essay about Comparing Seneca 's On Mercy And Machiavelli 's The Prince

- Advice to Young Leaders Response Paper #4: Machiavelli and Seneca Seneca’s On Mercy and Machiavelli 's The Prince come written in similar form. Both are advice books from prominent thinkers to individuals who recently came to power at the time. However, despite the parallels in their origin, the books these two philosophers present have vastly different teachings. Machiavelli and Seneca present two deeply divided views of the proper course of leadership, as they disagree on the nature of a great ruler and on the proper methods of ruling....   [tags: Morality, Ethics, Virtue, The Prince]

Powerful Essays
783 words (2.2 pages)

Essay on Analysis Of Machiavelli 's The Prince

- One of the most difficult things about being human is learning to live in a way that simultaneously benefits ourselves and others. Often, personal conflicts of interest cause us to make decisions that advance our own wellbeing to the detriment of those around us. Since childhood, parents and teachers have encouraged us to live selflessly. This is apparent in the commonly used phrase, “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” But is it necessary to always put others’ best interests before our own....   [tags: Virtue, Political philosophy, Ethics, Morality]

Powerful Essays
1918 words (5.5 pages)

Essay about Obtaining and Maintaining Political Power in Machiavelli's The Prince

- In 1513, Niccoló Machiavelli wrote a political treatise supplying various method of ways a prince can obtain and maintain his political power. This work of literary art caused tons of controversy and was later forbidden by Pope Clement VIII due to it going against the normal traditional ethics at the time According to Machiavelli, a prince should only be concerned about power and ways leading to the success of their political actions. Modern scholars feel as though the book was not written as a actual guide of how to rule, but more of a satirical work of art on how not to rule over a country....   [tags: ethics, satire, army]

Powerful Essays
686 words (2 pages)

Essay On Socrates And Machiavelli's Prince

- Brittany Beam GVPT241 Essay 1 October 13, 2017 Professor Ives Socrates vs. Machiavelli’s Prince Thesis Socrates would view Machiavelli’s concept of a Prince as unethical, as he would not approve of a Prince to exercise absolute power over the people. The concept of an ideal ruler and political system is highly subjective. In every society of our world since ancient times, there have been disagreements over how that society should be effectively governed. It is especially crucial in times of hardship to have the most proficient political system....   [tags: Political philosophy, Ethics, Political corruption]

Powerful Essays
1209 words (3.5 pages)

Virtù in Machiavelli’s Prince Essay

- For most contemporary readers, Niccolò Machiavelli is a name synonymous with deceit, cunning, and manipulation, a reputation which stems almost entirely from his authorship of one of the central works of modern political philosophy: The Prince. Given this image, it is incredibly ironic that the Italian word virtù and its derivatives appear no less than seventy-two times throughout the work. While the translator goes to great lengths to adapt this versatile word to the context of the situation, it is nevertheless clear that virtù is closely related to its English cognate virtue....   [tags: Ethics, Strength, Skill]

Powerful Essays
1517 words (4.3 pages)

Essay on The Prince, by Machiavelli

- “It is much safer to be feared than loved.” This quotation was just a specimen of the harsh and very practical political annotation of the legendary historian, Niccolò Machiavelli – philosopher, patriot, diplomat, advisor and statesman. He was born as the son of a poor lawyer in 1498, but he never let boundaries restrict him. He still received an excellent humanist education from the University of Florence and was soon after appointed as the Second Chancellor of the Republic of Florence.2 His political importance to Florence would soon give him the opportunity to write what is disputed as one of the most significant works in history, The Prince....   [tags: The Prince]

Powerful Essays
1442 words (4.1 pages)

Machiavelli’s The Prince and the Modern Executive Essay

- The Prince and the Modern Executive     Few question The Prince’s place in the canon of western literature. That it marks a turning point in our collective history, the origin of the study of politics as a science (Pollock 43), is alone enough to warrant its classification as a "Great Book. Its author, Niccolo Machiavelli, a contemporary of Copernicus, is generally accepted as an early contributor to the scientific revolution, because he looked at power and the nature of sovereignty through the eyes of a scientist, focused completely on the goal without regard for religion and morals and ethics....   [tags: Machiavelli The Prince Essays]

Powerful Essays
1959 words (5.6 pages)