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The Renaissance

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  1. The Renaissance • 15th and 16th centuries. • Rediscovery of Classical Values • Discovery of man • Man becomes the center of the universe (displacing God) • Geograpical Discoveries (the New World) • Epicenter: Italian city-states (Republic of Florence) • Commercial islands of modernity flourishing in Feudal settings. • “The dead hand of uniformity had never lain as heavily on Italy as on other European countries in the Middle Ages, and the feudal system never permeated it as it did, for example, France, England, and Germany.” (283-4) • Printing • The Renaissance: •

  2. Niccolo Machiavelli The (re)discovery of Politics in the Renaissance

  3. The Medicis and… Niccolo Machiavelli 1434-1464 Cosimo de Medici rules Republic of Florence as "first citizen". 1449 Lorenzo de Medici is born. 1453 The Turks enter Constantinople and conquer the Byzantine Empire. Many intellectuals, scholars, and books fleed the Turks and move to Italy. 1469 Niccolo Machiavelli is born. 1469-1492 “The Magnificent” Lorenzo de Medici rules Florence. -The Medicis sponsor several major artists and intellectuals, from Leonardo da Vinci to Galileo Galilei. 1478The Inquisition is emplaced in Spain, and from that extends throughout Europe. 1494 The Medici are expelled from Florence while Machiavelli gets an appointment in the government.

  4. The Medicis and… Niccolo Machiavelli 1498 Machiavelli becomes Florence’s second chancellor and secretary. 1500 Sent to France in a diplomatic mission (there, he meets with Louis XII and the Cardinal of Rouen). 1502 Machiavelli is sent to Romagna in a diplomatic mission before Cesare Borgia (who would be killed). 1503 Returns to Florence. 1504 Machiavelli’s second mission to France. 1506 December, submits a plan to reorganize the military, which is accepted. 1510 Third and last mission to France 1512 The Medici return to Florence with a Spanish army and are welcomed by the people. Machiavelli is dismissed from office and retires to his land in San Casciano. 1513 Machiavelli is accused of conspiring against the government, arrested and tortured. Released in occasion of Giovanni de Medici's election to the papacy. Writes The Prince. 1515 Writes La Mandragola. 1519 Consulted by the Medici on a new constitution for Florence which he offers in his Discourses. 1520 Appearance of The Art of War and The Life of Castruccio Castracane. Commissioned to write the History of Florence. 1526 Clement VII hires Machiavelli to inspect the fortifications at Florence and sends him to attend the historian Francesco Guicciardini. 1527 Death of Machiavelli.

  5. For the unification of a divided Italy • By Machiavelli’s time, Italy was divided in 5 states. • He realizes of the importance of the “national” question

  6. The discovery of the political? • Studying history, Machiavelli sees everywhere “the same desires and passions”; since they remain unexamined or misunderstood “the same problems always exist in every era.” • From that starting point, The Prince pursues to develop an accurate description of how political things really are, rejecting “fancy sentences” and imagined republics and principalities. • Interest in “the means of acquiring, retaining, and expanding power…” (E & E 290) • Private and public morals do not obey to the same principles • Discussion on Means instead of on Ends of politics • (the assumed end is to keep the State together) Discussion of means ≈ Aristotle (if only Machiavelli recognizes a different end)

  7. The Prince must… • Learn how “not to be good.” • Look virtuous but not necessarily act in such a way, “for in order to maintain the state he is often obliged to act against his promise, against charity, against humanity, and against religion.” • Be prepared for war. • Use religion to maintain his people disciplined and united • Be able to do evil things, if necessary, to maintain his state together (“…something which appears to be a virtue, if pursued, will end in his destruction; while some other thing which seems to be a vice, if pursued, will result in his safety and his well-being.” (292) • Acquire glory and wealth to face Fortune • Learn to be prudent • Be feared (“it is much safer to be feared than to be loved when one of the two must be lacking.”) • Be both like a fox –who knows how to recognize traps- and a lion –who knows how to make wolves afraid.

  8. Religion (morality) and politics

  9. Ancient, Medieval, Modern? • On the threshold between the Ancient and the Modern world, Machiavelli is the first thinker that breaks with the past and inaugurates the study of politics as something different from morality or religion • “Because of the envious nature of men, it has always been no less dangerous to discover new methods and institutions than to explore unknown oceans and lands, since men are quicker to criticize than to praise the deeds of others. Nevertheless, driven by that natural desire I have always felt to work on whatever might prove beneficial to everyone, I have determined to enter a path which has not yet been taken by anyone; although it may bring me worry and difficulty, yet I may find my reward among those who study kindly the goal of these labors of mine. (…)…so if I do not earn praise, I should not receive blame.” (The Discourses…169-170) • But Machiavelli is still immersed in a pre-modern world, where chance, fate, and fortune determine people’s lives (echoes the Ancient world of the Greek tragedy).

  10. Fortuna • Both collective and individual life result from a combination of Fortune and our own actions: • “Fortune is the arbiter of one half of our actions, but that she still leaves the control of the other half, or almost that, to us.” • Goddess Fortuna is a woman, seductive, capricious, unstable. She favors young and audacious men and tricks those who are not ready to confront her. Thus, because of Fortune being a woman, “it is better to be impetuous than cautious” with her. • The Prince must not rely on Fortune, but instead improve his chances by accumulating glory and wealth.

  11. Virtu • “There is no virtu without fortuna and no fortuna without virtu.” • In Machiavelli, Virtue is almost synonymous with prudence.

  12. Forms of Government Machiavelli takes up Aristotle’s and Polybius notions (mentions Lycurgus) on the existence of “six types of government: three of these are very bad; three others are good in themselves but are so easily corruptible that they, too, can become pernicious.(…) For the principality easily becomes tyrannical; aristocrats can very easily produce an oligarchy; democracy is converted into anarchy with no difficulty…

  13. …So that if a founder of a republic organizes one of these three governments in a city, he organizes it there for a brief period of time only, since no precaution can prevent it from slipping into its contrary on account of the similarity, in such a case, of the virtue and the vice. These variations of government are born among men by chance…”(The Discourses 177)

  14. Rome • Fortune’s decisive role in history is apparent in The Discourses, • Fortune made Rome a “perfect state” from its birth by giving the city a superior form of constitution—a mixed constitution resulting from the combination of monarchic, aristocratic, and democratic principles.

  15. The Roman Republic “In spite of the fact that she never had a Lycurgus to organize her at the beginning so that she might exist free for a long time, nevertheless, because of the friction between the plebeians and the senate, so many circumstances attended her birth that chance brought about what a lawgiver had not accomplished. If Rome did not receive Fortune’s first gift, she received the second: for her early institutions, although defective, nevertheless did not deviate from the right path that could lead them to pefection.” (The Discourses 180) “And Fortune was so favorable to Rome that even though she passed from a government by kings and aristocrats to one by the people… the kingly authority was never entirely abolished to give authority to the aristocrats, nor was the authority of the aristocrats diminished completely to give it to the people; but since these elements remained mixed, Rome was a perfect state…” (The Discourses 181)

  16. (New) Institutions • “…institutions are never established without danger; for most men never agree to a new law that concerns a new order in the city unless a necessity demonstrates to them that it is required; and since this necessity cannot arise without danger, the republic may easily be destroyed before it is brought to a perfection of organization.” (Machiavelli The Discourses p. 176)

  17. Cynical or Prudent? • Frequently presented as a cynical thinker (such as by E & E?) • He can also be understood as committed to prudence, the Aristotelian political virtue. • As Aristotle, • Machiavelli thinks that good laws make people good. • Understands that it is only through engaging politics that men realize their humanity.

  18. Cynical, realist, prudent, immoral? • What called your attention about Machiavelli? • How is he different from the authors you have read so far in this class? • Assess Machiavelli’s contribution to the understanding of the political