Reading Classics, Chronologically Through the Ages discussion

The Prince
This topic is about The Prince
History > The Prince (1513 CE) - #27

Comments Showing 1-2 of 2 (2 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Kendra (last edited Sep 01, 2019 08:19AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kendra (kendrary) | 146 comments Mod
"A short treatise on how to acquire power, create a state, and keep it, The Prince represents Machiavelli’s effort to provide a guide for political action based on the lessons of history and his own experience as a foreign secretary in Florence. His belief that politics has its own rules so shocked his readers that the adjectival form of his surname, Machiavellian, came to be used as a synonym for political maneuvers marked by cunning, duplicity, or bad faith.

Machiavelli referred to his treatise as De Principatibus ('Of Principalities') while writing it, and it circulated in manuscript form during the 1510s. When it was first published in 1532, five years after Machiavelli had died, it carried the title Il Principe ('The Prince')." Source

Here is a link to a great introductory video of Machiavelli's principles and the context of his writing.

Happy Reading!

Kendra (kendrary) | 146 comments Mod
Periodically, as I was reading this book, I would stop and say, “Wow, Machiavelli is a complete pessimist.” It is well summed up when he says, “Yet the way men live is so far removed from the way they ought to live that anyone who abandons what is for what should be pursues his downfall rather than his preservation; for a man who strives after goodness in all his acts is sure to come to ruin, since there are so many men who are not good.”

And he’s not afraid to be direct with his clear distrust of human goodness. For example:

“Men will always prove bad unless necessity compels them to be good.”

“A wise prince cannot and should not keep his pledge when it is against his interest to do so and when his reasons for making the pledge are no longer operative. If all men were good, this would be a bad precept, but since they are evil and would not keep a pledge to you, then you need not keep yours to them.”

“Men will never do good except by necessity. Whenever they have the freedom to choose and the chance to act with abandon, they introduce confusion and chaos everywhere.”

Machiavelli believes that people are inherently bad and that is at the core of all his philosophies about government and politics. He thinks it is better for a ruler to be feared than to be loved because people will more easily betray bonds based on love than fear. So why bother even trying to play by the rules of fairness, honesty, trust, and goodness?

Machiavelli also sees outcomes as a balance of fate and ability. A prince who has the ability to be great and powerful can only become so when the right opportunity arises. “Since our free will must not be denied, I estimate that even if fortune is the arbiter of half our actions, she still allows us to control the other half, of thereabouts.”

This is a scary combination. On one hand, there’s a mindset that humans are naturally bad and will screw you over at every opportunity so don’t even bother to treat them decently and feel no remorse when you do mistreat them. Additionally, you only have partial free will. So are you to blame for anything you do?

Nevertheless, he still believes strongly in the honor and sanctity of life and liberty. The final note in The Discourses, which were partially included in my version of the book, reads, “Where the well-being of one’s country is at all in question, no consideration of justice or injustice, of mercy or cruelty, of honor or shame must be allowed to enter in at all. Indeed, every other consideration having been put aside, that course of action alone which will save the life and liberty of the country ought to be wholeheartedly pursued.”

Within this horrifying statement is a large amount of pride and identity in one’s country. An interesting, and almost out of place sentiment in his musings on the dog eat dog nature of men. His conclusions would lead me to apathy more so than anything else.

All in all, I loved this book and found look through its point of view very fascinating. It truly lives up to its reputation.

back to top


Reading Classics, Chronologically Through the Ages

unread topics | mark unread