Machiavelli and Humanism

Topics: Republicanism, Niccolò Machiavelli, Political philosophy Pages: 19 (6988 words) Published: June 21, 2013


How far is Machiavelli and advocate of a republic and republicanism?

The History of Republics and Republicanism has been interpreted in numerous ways leading to the ambiguity seen in the modern world of what a republic really stands for and what are its principles. The same can also be said about Niccolo Machiavelli. His work The Prince has been interpreted in many different fashions since its publication in 1532 and has led to Machiavelli’s name being used as a synonym for evil. The Discourses on Livy however have shown that Machiavelli’s republican ideals can produce a positive and industrious form of government. The argument put forward that Machiavelli’s Discourse are synonymous with Thomas More’s Utopia is how the effectiveness of these republican ideals was on the citizens of Florence. The main structure of this essay revolves around the idea that the Discourses is an ideal form of government whereas The Prince is a piece of political action, which will be discussed in such context in section IV, that acts upon the actual realities of primarily Florentine life and the Italian state system.

This essay will contain five sections which deal with a vast array of issues crucial to understanding the political mind-set of Machiavelli. It is important to understand Machiavelli’s perception of theorists such as Plato, Aristotle, Polybius and Cicero as his interpretation of their thought is what lays the foundations for his own, classical republican style. The idea of Civic Humanism in relation to Classical Republicanism will be shown through the changing political sphere of Machiavelli’s Florence and how he adapted certain strands of this to form Civic Humanism. Section I of this essay examines how political liberties and freedom are exploited, constrained on one hand, and on the other celebrated as a means of improving the greatness of the power associated to the common people. There will also be emphasis on how this liberty is exerted in a religious aspect and therefore there will concentration on the argument about the need for secularisation, put forward by Machiavelli. The consequences of such will also be analysed, and by doing so Machiavelli’s secular ideas can be associated with certain types of government. The government’s limitations by abiding by Machiavelli’s rules of government in regards to the aspect of religion will also be evaluated as to their effectiveness in securing power. Discussion over the style of governments which provide the best stability for cities, Principalities, and Republics, is analysed in Section II. There is also a need to put the context of the Multitudes into this arrangement as it was the Multitudes which rulers of both style of governments seemed to want on their side in order to hold stability for their government and this is explained in section III. Section IV will consider the importance Machiavelli placed upon expansion and the means for it. There is a tussle between the idea of conquest and that of colonisation which many key thinkers believe Machiavelli underestimates or even completely ignores expansion. By doing this analysis of expansion then it can be determined if Machiavelli’s support was for a republic or a principality. Emphasis on The Prince occurs in section V as this is where Machiavelli is in tune with the ideas of principalities and the expansion policy that comes with them. The Discourses will primarily be used to aid the understanding of Machiavelli’s contradictions in The Prince concerning military strategy and how a republic is better suited to government in such a situation. Other aspects of section IV will consider the key principles in both The Prince and the Discourses to show other important comparisons or contradictions. The conclusion of this essay will draw upon how the...
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