The Amoral Prince

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Machiavelli’s The Prince is believed a work of immorality, or at least ammorality by many: a disregard for morals and a welcoming of whatever means are necessary to gain maintenance of power and of state. I disagree with this premise, Machiavelli is not, as Leo Strauss says, a ‘teacher of evil’ he is a teacher of how to gain power and glory. While maintaining power often requires immoral acts, Machiavelli presents this as merely an amoral truth, not an immoral edict. Though Machiavelli is largely amoral, there is a sense of morals that comes through in the search for glory. Machiavelli presents his stance on morality first through his rejection of morality as a viable framework, and second through his promotion of virtù, glory, and reputation, which brings considerations outside of the amoral nature of the search for power. It is clear that Machiavelli has higher priorities than the moral actions of the prince. He regularly rejects morality as a necessity, opting instead generally for that which creates stability. “This leads us to a question that is in dispute: Is it better to be loved than feared, or vice versa? My reply is one ought to be both loved and feared; but, since it is difficult to accomplish both at the same time, I maintain it is much safer to be feared than loved…”(51) Here he spurns the idea that love, a generally accepted goal of those seeking the moral high ground, is relevant to the higher goal of the safety of the prince. Some would contend that Machiavelli is promoting evil by promoting fear over love, but he doesn’t ever promote evil when it is not called for, only when it is most efficacious. In this instance he simply felt being feared was the safer alternative. Evil for the sake of itself is actively discouraged. “[the prince] should do what is right if he can; but he must be prepared to do wrong if necessary”(55) Here what is necessary is what maintains power, but with that necessity absent, honorable actions are...
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