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The Prince. Understanding Niccolo Machiavelli. The city of Florence. Machiavelli a lifelong citizen of Florence Italy divided into city states, not united nation Unlike feudal Europe, northern Italy dominated by cities which became major trading and economic centers

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the prince

The Prince

Understanding Niccolo Machiavelli

the city of florence
The city of Florence
  • Machiavelli a lifelong citizen of Florence
  • Italy divided into city states, not united nation
    • Unlike feudal Europe, northern Italy dominated by cities which became major trading and economic centers
  • Individual identities aided by mountainous geography which prevented communication, etc.
    • While Catholic church important, distance allowed the city states to be relatively independent
  • Battle between states for power, constant changing of gov’ts, leaders
machiavelli 1469 1527
Machiavelli (1469-1527)
  • Machiavelli raised in Florence
    • Born at a time when there was continual struggle for power between city states, church
  • Father was a well-known attorney
    • Is thought Machiavelli family descended from Tuscan royalty
  • Educated in Florence, which was one of the leading educational centers in Europe
  • At age 29, elected to office in Florence
    • Part of a diplomatic council in charge of negotiation and military affairs
machiavelli s career
Machiavelli’s career
  • As part of work, sent to the courts of Spain, France, Germany, the Papacy in Rome, and a variety of the Italian city states
  • Between 1503-1506, in charge of Florence’s militia
    • Preferred to used invested citizen soldiers rather than mercenaries, a point he makes in The Prince
  • In August, 1512 the Medici take control of Florence
    • Old ruling family, out the republic set up in Florence
  • Machiavelli arrested and tortured, but is eventually allowed to go free and into exile
    • While in exile is when he writes The Prince
the prince1
The Prince
  • Machiavelli’s most famous work
  • Addresses the concept of the “new prince,” rather than the hereditary prince, who must stabilize his power as well as building political structure
  • Seen as the break between political idealism (Plato, Aristotle) and political realism
    • Machiavelli did not see value in rulers orienting themselves by an imaginary ideal world
understanding the text
Understanding the text
  • Beginnings of empiricism and realism
  • Challenged the Christian value of Providence
    • Individual determines his own fate
    • Natural to be ambitious and seek glory, encourages risk taking, new systems
  • Leaders should not be religious but encourage his people to be religious
    • Helps maintain order and control
  • Good ends justify bad means
    • Basis of capitalism
royalty or republic
Royalty or Republic?
  • The Prince gives advice on achieving and maintaining political power
  • Text alludes to monarch, but other works indicate Machiavelli saw value in a republic
  • In 18th century, The Prince was viewed by critics as a satirical piece of writing
  • Current modern critics see The Prince as having some clear elements of irony
lasting legacy
Lasting legacy
  • Machiavellian: a term used to describe those who manipulate others for their own political advantage
  • Text had significant influence on a wide range of leaders, philosophers
    • John Adams extensively quotes Machiavelli in A Defense of the Constitution of the United States of America
    • Bacon, Hume, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Descartes
your assignment
Your assignment
  • Read two chapters:
    • Chapter 17: Concerning Cruelty and Clemency, and Whether it is Better to be Loved than Feared
    • Chapter 19: That One Should Avoid Being Despised and Hated
  • Read both chapters carefully and annotate text in anticipation for Socratic discussion on Wednesday
  • Participation in Socratic will be part of grade