Machiavelli & The Common Good
In Discourses on Livy, Machiavelli argues that the purpose of politics is to promote a “common good.” This statement holds true in Machiavelli’s The Prince, albeit differently than one might expect. It is evident in The Prince that Machiavelli believes ensuring the common good of the community should hold high priority; therefore a primary duty of the Prince to fulfill. Machiavelli’s view on how this should be obtained, however, drastically opposes the opinions and views of political philosophers of his time. It had been a common view among political philosophers of Machiavelli’s time that a certain relationship existed between legitimate authority and moral goodness. Philosophers of this time believed that the use of political power was just only if it was exercised by a ruler whose moral character was strictly virtuous. Along this line of thought, it was believed that rulers succeeded when they acted according to this moral goodness; rulers would earn obedience and respect so much as they showed themselves to be virtuous and moral. Machiavelli, on the other hand, separates morality and virtue from politics to promote the pursuit of power for its own sake. Machiavelli argues that it is the primary duty of the prince to secure and maintain power, in doing so setting aside moral considerations in order to pursue whatever strategies it takes to achieve that end. The saying, “The ends justify the means” can be attributed and traced back to Machiavelli. “Everybody sees what you appear to be, few feel what you are, and those few will not dare to oppose themselves to the many, who have the majesty of the state to defend them; and in the actions of men, and especially of princes, from which there is no appeal, the ends justify the means. Let a prince therefore aim at conquering and maintaining the state, and the means will always be judged honourable and praised by every one..” Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince, SIGNET CLASSICS (New...
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