In ‘The Prince’, Niccolo Machiavelli approaches, the topic of political morality and human
nature in a very different way than thinkers preceding him. His argument on political morality
and human nature is made very clear in the early part of his book. For him politics is war, no
matter which way you look at it. “You must, therefore, know that there are two means of
fighting: one according to the laws, the other with force; the first way is proper to man, the
second to beasts; but because the first, in many cases is not sufficient , it becomes necessary to
have recourse to the second.” (Machiavelli, p.351-352). He clearly points out towards man’s
poor behavior in politics and accepts it as a fact, saying that law is a type of combat. He does not
look up to god or any other divine authority for the political morality, like Augustine in his book
‘the city of god’ or try and look at things the way they should have been in the ideal state, but
instead probes into the individual. He aims straight at the reality of politics.
Machiavelli In his vision, to guide the actions of men in general, turns to the actions of the
strong prince. Machiavelli’s higher political morality is to pursue the means to gain and hold
power. He is of the view that the ruling prince should be of the sole authority and to gain this
authority the prince has to command a certain fear from his citizens.
Machiavelli believes that good laws follow naturally from a good military. His famous statement
that “the presence of sound military forces indicates the presence of sound laws” describes the
relationship between developing states and war in The Prince. Machiavelli reverses the
conventional understanding of war as a necessary, but not definitive, element of the development
of states, and instead asserts that successful war is the very foundation upon which all states are
built. Much of The Prince is devoted to describing exactly what it means to conduct a good war:
how to effectively fortify a city, how to treat subjects in newly acquired territories, and how to
prevent domestic insurrection that would distract from a successful war. But Machiavelli’s
description of war encompasses more than just the direct use of military force, it comprises
... middle of paper ...
...oodwill is never absolute. While Machiavelli
backs up his political arguments with concrete historical evidence, his statements about society
and human nature sometimes have the character of assumptions rather than observations.
He concludes that with so many wretched men around virtue is hard to create in oneself.
"The fact is that a man who wants to act virtuously in every way necessarily comes to grief
among so many who are not virtuous." Overall, Machiavelli is very pessimistic about the
abilities of the people. He feels that after examining people through history, his conclusions of
wretched men is correct.
The Prince is an extremely practical book because it does not tell the reader what the ideal
prince is, but it explains to the reader what actions and qualities have enabled a prince to best
rule. Machiavelli, however, was a realist. He was concerned with how things were in reality, not
how things could be if the world was perfect. His reasoning was right for his time because his
time was a time of frequent war. Today that advice would not work, for now we are a world most
often ruled by laws not war.
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