The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli Essay

The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli Essay

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Machiavelli’s The Prince has been widely interpreted as representative of political behavior that is violent and deceitful. As such, the term Machiavellian has to come to be associated with deviousness, ruthlessness, and power politics. The issue of whether or not Machiavelli can be considered a Machiavellian himself is difficult to resolve because of the complexity of the arguments he puts forth in both The Prince and Discourses. While the claims made in the former are more focused on the individual, namely the “prince,” those posited in the latter describe phenomena on a broader spectrum, having to do with human nature and society at large. Despite the different emphases in these works, Machiavelli’s explications of his theories of politics, nature, and humans in each of them are both consistent and intelligible. The difficulty in answering this question of whether or not Machiavelli can be considered Machiavellian then does not stem from a simple incoherence in his writing. Instead the real reason this question is difficult to answer is because Machiavelli himself reframes what it means to be moral. His claims indeed represent a shift away from classical notions of morality, largely emanating from Aristotelian and Christian foundations, thus invalidating–or at least reframing–the question at hand. Aristotle provides us with a moral philosophy that is no longer centered on the private sphere, but one that instead gravitates toward the public and political spheres. It is partly for this reason that Machiavelli is often misunderstood as unconditionally supporting violent and deceitful acts. The reality is that Machiavelli should instead be seen as somewhat of a messenger of his time. Through his works, he depicts the re...


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... Similarly, the future is not dictated by these external forces; the direction of individual human life and collective societal well-being is dictated exclusively by humans. New crises, events, scares, or social movements are then all considered new developments on a political and historical timeline. His notion of political history then lends itself to his theory of what constitutes a good ruler, specifically with regards to what one such ruler would do when reacting to such unplanned developments: a good ruler must learn from the past in order to deal with present circumstances. Machiavelli considers this capacity of a ruler to anticipate and have foresight as part of a larger prerequisite to become a good ruler–virtue; “a ruler who cannot foresee evil consequences before they have time to develop is not truly wise; but few have such wisdom” (The Prince 45).

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