Machiavelli: Realism over Idealism

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Luke Pelagio
Due 5/27/2011
Period 4
Machiavelli: Realism Over Idealism
Nicolo Machiavelli is known as being an archetypical realist; in other words, he was someone who originated the idea that we should not try to figure out how people should be, but rather accept and deal with the world as it literally is. Unlike Machiavelli, Plato posited an idealist view of a philosopher king reigning through virtue. To Machiavelli, this is an extremely dangerous delusion for it ignores what he considers the reality of the human condition: humans are brutal, selfish, and fickle (Machiavelli and Power Politics). You don’t need a philosopher king to secure off enemies and reinforce order/stability; on the other hand, you need a prince or a leader who understands what it takes to lead.

It is better to be feared than loved if you can’t be both. “Nevertheless a prince ought to inspire fear in such a way that, if he does not win love, he avoids hated; because he can endure very well being feared whilst he not hated, which will always be as long as he abstains from the property of his citizens and subjects and from their women,” (Machiavelli, The Prince). Machiavelli applied force to get what he wanted, but he always kept his hands off the property of others. This is because men more quickly forget the death of their father than the loss of their patrimony (Machiavelli, The prince). In The Prince, Machiavelli demonstrates how to obtain and keep political power. This is what he did using witty tactics. 1

A prince must always pay diligent attention to military circumstances if he wants to reside in power, so the most desirable and beneficial type of army are native troops, composed of one’s own citizens or subjects. The prince has many characteristics that are crucial to his standing in a society such as: it is better to be stingy than generous, it is better to be cruel than merciful, it is better to break promises if keeping them would be against one’s interests, and...
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