Machiavelli Essay

1000 words - 4 pages

=====================================================MACHIAVELLI'S VIEW OF HUMAN NATUREIn The Prince Niccolo Machiavelli presents a view of governing a state that isdrastically different from that of humanists of his time. Machiavelli believes theruling Prince should be the sole authority determining every aspect of the state andput in effect a policy which would serve his best interests. These interests weregaining, maintaining, and expanding his political power.1 His understanding of humannature was a complete contradiction of what humanists believed and taught. Machiavellistrongly promoted a secular society and felt morality was not necessary but in factstood in the way of an effectively governed principality.2 Though in come casesMachiavelli's suggestions seem harsh and immoral one must remember that these viewswere derived out of concern Italy's unstable political condition.3Though humanists of Machiavelli's time believed that an individual had much to offer tothe well being of the state, Machiavelli was quick to mock human nature. Humanistsbelieved that 'An individual only 'grows to maturity- both intellectually and morally-through participation' in the life of the state.'4 Machiavelli generally distrustedcitizens, stating that '...in time of adversity, when the state is in need of it'scitizens there are few to be found.'5 Machiavelli further goes on to question theloyalty of the citizens and advises the Prince that '...because men a wretchedcreatures who would not keep their word to you, you need keep your word to them.'6However, Machiavelli did not feel that a Prince should mistreat the citizens. Thissuggestion once again to serve the Prince's best interests.If a prince can not be both feared and loved, Machiavelli suggests, it would be betterfor him to be feared bey the citizens within his own principality. He makes thegeneralization that men are, '...ungrateful, fickle, liars, and deceivers, they shundanger and are greedy for profit; while you treat them well they are yours.'7 Hecharacterizes men as being self centered and not willing to act in the best interest ofthe state,'[and when the prince] is in danger they turn against [him].'8 Machiavellireinforces the prince's need to be feared by stating:Men worry less about doing an injury to one who makes himself loved than to one who makeshimself feared. The bond of love is one which men, wretched creatures they are, breakwhen it is to their advantage to do so; but fear is strengthened by a dread of punishmentwhich is always effective.9In order to win honor, Machaivelli suggests that a prince must be readily willing todeceive the citizens. One way is to '...show his esteem for talent activelyencouraging the able and honouring those who excel in their professions...so that theycan go peaceably about their business.'10 By encouraging citizens to excel at theirprofessions he would also be encouraging them to '...increase the prosperity of thetheir state.'11 These measures, though carried out...

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