Machiavelli. Andrea Rubery. Life and Legacy. Machiavelli has an infamous reputation due to his willingness to candid about power politics in his book The Prince . He was a supporter of republican government. He is credited with being the creator of the modern world.
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Machiavelli has an infamous reputation due to his willingness to candid about power politics in his book The Prince.
He was a supporter of republican government.
He is credited with being the creator of the modern world.
He rejected the common good of the classical philosophers and embraced human cruelty as a tool of manipulation.
Machiavelli was born on May 3rd, 1469.
His life was spent in a Florence that moved from a quasi Medici rule to republican rule back to Medici control. France’s incursion on to the Italian peninsula in 1494 further complicated the political climate of Machiavelli’s time.
The violence surrounding the relations of the Medici and the church are likely to have impacted the young Machiavelli.
In 1490, Savonarola, a visionary priest, challenged the Medici and they left power by 1494.
Machiavelli served as second chancellor of the Florentine republic from 1498 – 1512 when Julius II supported the return of the Medici to Florence.
Machiavelli was arrested and tortured for allegedly belonging to a plot against the Medici. He was then exiled to the countryside where he produced The Prince and The Discourses.
Is there an inconsistency in Machiavelli advocating both republican and princely forms of government?
Power is a gift worthy of grand souls.
Machiavelli offers a practical, useful, and candid teaching that differs from those who came before him.
The key to using power is to realize that men are bad.
Therefore, your Magnificence, take this small gift in the spirit with which I sent it. If your Magnificence considers and reads it diligently, you will learn from it my extreme desire that you arrive at the greatness that fortune and your other qualities promise you. And if your Magnificence will at some time turn your eyes from the summit of your height to these low places, you will learn how undeservedly I endure great and continuous malignity of fortune.
… I have gone outside the common usage of those who write, who are accustomed always to address their works to some prince, and, blinded by ambition and avarice, praise him for every part worthy of reproach. Hence, so as not to incur error, I have chosen not those who are princes but those who for their infinite good parts deserve to be; not those who could load me with ranks, honors, and riches but those who, though unable, would wish to do so. For men wishing to judge rightly have to esteem those who are liberal, not those who can govern a kingdom without knowing.
Nonetheless, in ordering republics, maintaining states, governing kingdoms, ordering the military and administering war, judging subjects, and increasing empire, neither prince nor republic may be found that has recourse to the examples of the ancients. This arises, I believe, not so much from the weakness into which the present religion has led the world, or from the evil that an ambitious idleness has done to many Christian provinces and cities, as from not having a true knowledge of histories, through not getting from reading them that sense nor tasting that flavor that they have in themselves. From this arises that the infinite number who read them take pleasure in hearing of the variety of accidents contained in them without thinking of imitating them, judging that imitation is not only difficult but impossible – as if heaven, sun elements, and men had varied in motion, order, and power from what they were in antiquity. Wishing, therefore to, to turn men from this error, I have judged it necessary to write on all those books of Titus Livy….
I know that everyone will confess that it would be a very laudable thing to find in a prince all of the above-mentioned qualities that are held good. But because he cannot have them, nor wholly observe them, since human conditions do not permit it, it is necessary for him to be so prudent as to know how to avoid infamy of those vices against those that do not, if that is possible; but if one cannot, one can let them go on with less hesitation. And furthermore one should not care about incurring the reputation of those vices without which it is difficult to save one’s state; for if one considers everything well, one will find something appears to be virtue, which if pursued would be one’s ruin, and something else appears to be vice, which if pursued results in one’s security and well-being.
Sebastian de Grazia sees Machiavelli as a decent citizen and republican despite his immoral teachings.
Leo Strauss argues Machiavelli is a teacher of evil and glorifies collective selfishness as a means of justifying evil actions.
Comments to Francesco Guicciardini raise further doubts about what Machiavelli’s teaching truly is.
Machiavelli’s teaching about Fortune also further complicates the nature of his teachings.
Machiavelli’s texts must be read closely.
In both his main political works Machiavelli states he is doing something new.
Chapter 15 of The Prince reveals the novelty of his teaching focuses on his very low expectations about human behavior.
“… for it is so far from how one lives to how one should live that he who lets go of what is done for what should be done learns his ruin rather than his preservation.”
It is important to recognize the depraved nature of humans.
One must be resolved not to be good.
Human beings cannot be made better and efforts to do so will result in political ruin.
Goodness is not intrinsic but is relative to success – situational ethics.
Machiavelli introduces a dual-layer moral code – one for the rulers and one for the ruled.
This standard of morality is valued not because of its inherent goodness, but because of its political usefulness.
The founder faces the established order and the natural hesitancy of people to embrace new modes and orders even if such modes and orders promise benefits.
The rewards to the founder are great – security in life and honor in death – just as the risks are great – continual anxieties in life and infamy in death.
Savonarola is a case study of the difficulties of introducing new modes and orders and introduces the theme of the inevitable failure of unarmed prophets.
Jesus, like Machiavelli, was an unarmed prophet. Was Machiavelli being disingenuous about this teaching?
Cesare Borgia was admired by Machiavelli for his ruthlessness and duplicity.
Borgia acquired his state with the help of his father, Pope Alexander VI.
Cruelty is essential to laying firm foundations for a regime.
Borgia used an official to establish these foundations and then executed him for cruelty to avoid the blame for his ministers excesses.
The political use of spectacle involving the murder of this minister at once satisfied and stupefied the people.
How have extremist groups today used Machiavelli’s example of grand spectacle as a means of furthering their political agendas?
Cesare gained tremendous political mileage out of one man’s murder. How have groups like Al Qaeda and the Chechen rebels either succeeded or failed in their implementation of Machiavelli’s use of fear through spectacle? What makes such acts succeed or fail? Are there limits to Machiavelli’s teaching about spectacle?
What have been the political effects or fallout from media to violent spectacle in places like Iraq? How has this subsequently affected U.S. foreign policy regarding terrorism worldwide? In the Middle East?
Machiavelli cautions against the use of mercenary armies and advises the prince to rely upon native soldiers.
The use of auxiliary troops from a powerful neighbor is even more dangerous than the use of mercenaries.
The failure to follow this advice is pointed to as the source of the disarray of Italy during Machiavelli’s time.
The art of political appearance is essential to mastering fortune.
A prince must be a half beast and half man to succeed.
A prince must be both a lion to scare wolves and a fox to avoid snares.
“He who deceives will always find someone who will let himself be deceived.”
A prince should appear all mercy, all faith, all honesty, all humanity, all religion but should act as to win and preserve his state.
Most only see appearances and those who see through appearances will be afraid to say anything against the champion of the many.
Machiavelli clearly understood the difficult nature of attaining glory through one’s political actions; he writes that a leader must demonstrate unmatched agility of mind and body in understanding human nature, an ability to assess situations accurately, and a willingness to act in the necessary manner to attain and maintain power – and do so all in a way that allows such activities to gain earthly glory. To this end, a leader and especially a new founder can employ advisers to assist in this effort. How then must Machiavelli be viewed in relationship to the role of adviser? Is he not assuming such a role with Lorenzo de’ Medici? To what end does he advise? To what end does Lorenzo listen? What conclusions can be drawn about Machiavelli’s worth as an adviser? Is there another audience for whom Machiavelli advises?
Sebastian de Grazia and Dante Germino viewed Machiavelli as a pious man who viewed the development of the 16th century Roman church as corrosive and damaging to the stability in Italy.
The church is morally bankrupt and politically inept.
The Mandragola,Machiavelli’s comedy, amuses the audience by pointing at the corruptibility of priests and nuns supporting a generally anti-clerical tone in Machiavelli’s thought.
De Grazia believes Machiavelli wishes to reinterpret Christianity into a faith that would justify worldly glory.
Vickie Sullivan believes this interpretation is not viable and instead Machiavelli was rejecting Christian doctrine.
The Exhortation to Penitence, a sermon given by Machiavelli to the Company of Charity is interpreted as either reinforcing Machiavelli’s piety or showing his rejection of following the way of Christ.
Religion is politically useful and princes must appear pious even if they ignore the teachings of the faith in practice.
How has religion been used in the 20th and the 21st centuries to advance political causes?
How have recent actions by Al Qaeda mirrored the actions of Ferdinand?
From a political perspective, how would Machiavelli view their acts?
How does the Western and/or Middle Eastern perspective influence our evaluation of events and their use of religion as a motivating cause?
Anthony Parel argues Machiavelli understood the world as a complex cosmos where patterned and predictable events are the result of God’s ordering, whereas unpredictable daily events are shaped by fortuna.
Fortuna is viewed as a woman who must be subdued by forceful and audacious acts.
Fortune is formidable but should not be run away from.
Fortune is the arbitrator of half our actions but preparations can avoid the upheavals caused by Fortune. Can or cannot man control Fortune?