Machiavelli's Ethical Theory as Expressed in the Prince and the Discourses

Topics: Niccolò Machiavelli, Discourses on Livy, Republic Pages: 4 (1223 words) Published: April 19, 2011
Western Political Theory
Professor Roger Paden
Authored by Jorge A. Osuna

Concerning Machiavelli’s Philosophy

Niccolò Machiavelli was a very complex thinker who displayed his thought through several works. There is strong biographical evidence that suggests that the author worked on The Prince and The Discourses at the same time, writing the former’s first draft in 1513 and starting to write the latter during the same year. It is obvious then that in order to understand the essence of The Prince we cannot restrict ourselves only to its lines, but we must look beyond into Machiavelli’s other writings, such as The Discourses, to achieve a general understanding of his philosophy, and to better appreciate the full picture he wished to put together.

It is evident that Machiavelli drastically separated himself from rationalism, he did not bother to resort to abstruse hypotheses to discover the truth, and instead took a rather empiricist approach when interpreting the world. He relied on his senses and dealt with the messy reality that these put in front of him: “I have decided that I must concern myself with the truth of the matter as facts show it rather than with any fanciful notion. Yet many have fancied for themselves republics and principalities that have not been seen or known to exist in reality. For there is such a difference between how men live and how they ought to live that he who abandons what is done for what ought to be done learns his destruction rather than his preservation […] ” (The Prince, Chapter 15) Far from being a Utopian, Machiavelli analyzed history from a human perspective, separating himself from the Christian view of history seen as providential. He tried to discover how to bring the most good to society in spite of what he considered humanity’s inherent tendency to evil. This view, seen from a historical perspective, goes in defense of freedom, since those who follow the path of pure reason, and often claim to have found the...
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