A New Argument for Morality: A Critique
The Prince, one of the first works of modern philosophy, was written in the genre of political doctrine: the Mirror of Princes. This style was reflected in the works of many writers of antiquity, such as Seneca and Isocrates, extending as far back as to the apices of traditional Western culture and civilization in Rome and Greece. As The Prince derives its thought from classical roots of political thought, its originality is questionable.
The third chapter of The Prince was the foundation of Rafael Major’s argument in A New Argument for Morality as it is “a kind of intellectual cornerstone for all modern political thought.” It must be analyzed in an attempt to evaluate the moral teaching of the entire book. It remains one of the only places in the book to describe the actions of the prince to be limited and guided by natural necessities and desires. Through the observance of this chapter, Machiavelli must be compared to the writers of antiquity to heighten awareness of his lack of originality. We are forced to re-examine both the “realism” exuded in The Prince and the “idealism” Machiavelli so opposed in the ancients as he himself claimed that they also taught many of the same lessons found in his book. Through such examinations, we must ultimately judge the character of Machiavelli’s pursuit to expose the “harshest truths of political life.” However, one must begin by revisiting the actual thoughts of antiquity, its neglected realism, and supposed “idealism.” Major accomplishes this by composing a parody of The Prince by concatenating many sources of ancient texts regarding political philosophy into a work closely resembling the teachings in The Prince. For instance, in Plutarch’s history of Crassus it is written: “We should not worry too much about being feared because many have been feared and popular-but being feared is more powerful even when not popular,” which bears a resemblance to Machiavelli’s claim that...
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