Machiavelli's View on Human Nature

Topics: Niccolò Machiavelli, Virtue, Political philosophy Pages: 4 (1453 words) Published: August 2, 2012
Machiavelli’s View on Human Nature
The author, Niccoló Machiavelli, is different from other humanists in his time, because his view on the nature of man contradicts what most humanists believed. Humanists of that time believed that individuals played an important role to the well-being of the state, and that “… they also believed in classicism’s basic tenet that human nature is inherently rational and good” (Western Humanities, pg. 343). Machiavelli, however, had a negative view on human nature and made the central message of his writings based on human weakness (Western Humanities, pg. 346). In The Prince, Machiavelli describes the many negative traits that are inherent among human beings. These traits included are that: people are interested only in themselves, but their affections for others can be won and lost; they are trustworthy when times are good, but turn selfish, deceitful, and driven by profit when times are bad; they admire courage, honor, generosity, and virtue in others, but most people do not have these traits; and that common people are not ambitious and that ambition lies with those who have achieved some power. Machiavelli coherently presents these traits, and others, as evidence on his view on human nature while giving justification on his advice on how a prince should govern their principality. Machiavelli believes that the common people are only interested in their own well-being, and that they will only support their prince if he supports and benefits their happiness and rules the state well. This view can be applied to the prince as well because the book serves to the prince’s best interests. The prince will gain the respect of his citizens if he can be feared and loved, but Machiavelli believes that it would be better for the prince to be feared than loved. “…for love is held by a chain of obligation, which, because men are wicked, is broken at every opportunity for their own utility, but fear is held by a dread of punishment that...
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