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Machiavelli

By | October 1999
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The Prince

MAJOR THEME
Machiavelli had a true and abiding love for Florence. He wanted to make Florence great and also find himself a job, as he lost his when the Medici family came into power. He dedicated his book on political science, The Prince, to Lorenzo Medici in the hopes that Lorenzo would be impressed and offer him a job. However, Lorenzo ignored the book and Machiavelli.

The Prince is a didactic examination of political power, how to achieve it, maintain it, and expand it. Machiavelli does not take into consideration what is morally right, or amoral, only what is useful and useless. The book is more like a technical manual, and technical manuals only state the facts. The book defines what turns a mere man into a great ruler and what turns a great ruler into a mere man.

Machiavelli’s book of politics is unique because it is so realistic. He does not place man in a false utopia where man live in eternal peace and harmony, everyone doing good to one another for the good of the public whole. Rather, he writes a manual where there are political conflicts and tensions. Machiavelli writes how a prince should deal with these conflicts and tensions. He condones cruelty, punishment, religion, rewards, compassion, and integrity to achieve power. Whatever means to achieve the end.

QUESTIONS

2. Discuss Machiavelli’s “heroes”. Select one and discuss the traits that he finds admirable in that person. Be specific.
Machiavelli’s heroes are Moses, Cyrus, Romulus and Theseus. They all formed civilizations. When Machiavelli talks about his heroes he is speaking of how to acquire a princedom. As Isiah Berlin says in his essay, Machiavelli admired these heroes because they were high-minded, tough, and tough enough to use brutality against the few, to help the public good of the princedom.

He especially admired Moses because he was worthy to talk to God. Moses had the opportunity to create a new...
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