De Lue Chapter Five
Modern v. Pre-Modern Era
• Tradition v. Novelty
• History is Cyclical v. History is Linear
• Humans as creatures v. Humans as creators
• Contemplation and Education v. Action/Revolution
• Transcendent moral standards v. intramundane (within the world) morals
Modern Political Thought
• Political life as artificial rather than natural
• Government as coercive force
• Self-interest as the strongest human motive
• A realistic lowering of political standards from what OUGHT TO BE to WHAT IS
• Machiavelli paved the way for a civil society that worked to secure the rule of law to
protect individual freedom
Modern Political Philosophy
• Three Themes
– Individualistic: point of departure is the individual human being (Hobbes and
– Communitarian: human community is the starting point for understanding (Burke
– Historicist: look at history for a complete understanding of political dev. (Hegel
Introduction to Machiavelli
• 1469-1527 (around the time of Calvin and Luther)
• Italian politics: rule by the Medici’s who overthrew the republic.
• Machiavelli was imprisoned, tortured, and exiled
• The Prince is a treatise on princeship. M. dedicated it to the Medici and praised the
dynasty that stood in opposition to the republic.
• The Discourses are about how to establish a good republic government
• Renaissance: rationalism, this-wordly, secular, humans as the center of the universe,
• Pragmatism in contrast to stoicism (moral selfhood and responsibility) and to
Christianity (human soul is dependent on outside authority)
• Machiavelli brought in a new stage in the development of political thought.
• He was aware that what he was writing had never been said before but he would not
claim to be a systematic political philosopher.
Themes and Goals
• Gaining and maintaining power
• What he would do if he could=political wisdom as he sees it
• Examination of Great men; Why? To imitate
• Well-used cruelties=> leaving room for morality
Method of Argument
• Rules for the conduct of politics could not be formulated on the basis of theoretical or
philosophical assumptions regarding the nature of a good society. Experience only.
• Politics as an autonomous field; rejecting theology and moral philosophy as basis for
View of Human Nature
• Pessimism: look at the past
• NOT optimism: man is improvable, history is progressive, freedom can be achieved
• Humankind is incapable of being changed or progressing
• Untrustworthy: “They are fickle, ungrateful, pretenders, evaders of danger, eager for
• Sees humans as AMBITIOUS: want more than they have, to acquire land and be more
“Whoever desires to found a state and give it laws, must start with assuming that all men
are bad and ever ready to display their vicious nature, whenever they may find
occasion for it.
The Nature of Politics
• Machiavelli does not us the state in the modern concept of an organic unit embracing
individuals and institutions
• The state is a product of the ruler’s will
• The state is an autonomous system of values independent of any other source, separate
from morality, ethics, religion, etc.
• Politics is usually a choice between a greater and lesser evil (not between good and
• Do you agree with this?
• Best form of government (Discourses) is mixed regime that arises from the balance of
forces among three competing interests: the prince, the nobles, and the people
• Reason d’etat: Reason/Goal of the state
For where the safety of the country depends on the resolution to be taken, no
consideration of justice or injustice, humanity or cruelty, nor of glory or of shame,
should be allowed to prevail. But putting all other considerations aside, the only
question should be :What course will save the life and liberty of this country?”
Advice to the Prince
• Pragmatic use of virtue: seem merciful, faithful, humane, sincere, religious
• When it is required, however, you must change to opposite qualities, acting against
faith, charity, humanity and religion
• Political EFFICACY: Mach. Was not concerned with goodness or badness but with
• It is better to be feared than loved
• Reputation is the key to success and it si appearance that is the most important
• Be like the fox and the lion
– Can you explain this?
• Political Morality: why should personal morality be important?
– Ex. Gary Condit, Clinton
• Machiavelli did support some standards of behavior
– Make sure there is proper justification and manifest reason for taking life
– Above all, do not take a man’s property—this makes him more angry and less
likely to forget than even killing his father
• Virtu: means military courage and intelligence, combined with civic responsibility and
• How to treat citizens
– Encourage their callings (commerce, farming, etc.)
– They will then work hard out of fear of losing their possessions
– Reward those who work hard and improve the city or state
– Provide cultural experiences
– Mingle the classes from time to time
– Don’t disturb their private lives
• Military Advice
– A Prince hardly thinks of anything else but of the art of war
– A powerful military force is required for political independence
– Prince himself should lead his own men, not hire mercenary soldier (private, paid)
or auxiliary soldiers (from other nations)
What is Machiavellian Virtue?
• The story of Mandragola
–What are the facts of this story
–What is Machiavelli’s point?
• Does the ends justify the means?
• It is plausible that the virtue of a Machiavellian prince serves a moral purpose insofar
as it promotes the happiness and nobility of his state.
• Virtue requires moral limits to political ruthlessness “Well-used cruelties”
• Harsh measures are justified only when they are necessary to secure the prince’s
power and to benefit his people by promoting peace and unity
• Power must include GLORY (peace not just fear)
• Glory: In Federalist Papers no. 72, Hamilton expressed hope that American presidents
would always be moved by “love of fame, the ruling passion of the noblest mind.”
• Does the ends justify the means?
– We sometimes permit our political leaders to break the law and violate individual
rights for the sake of national interests.
– Examples? Lincoln, FDR, Bush?
Does Machiavellianism Subvert Popular Government?
• Prince has few limits to his power. Mach. Never mentions individual rights and shows
little concern for popular consent
• BUT in the Discourses he endorses Republican government
• The prince must respect the desires of the people if he is to protect himself v.
conspirators who would overthrow him
• Prince would have to accept the rule of law as a limit on his otherwise absolute power.
Problems with Machiavelli
• He fails to grasp that ideas and ideals can become potent facts and decisive weapons in
the struggle for political survival
• His doctrine of the evilness of man is just as much an oversimplification as the
goodness of man.
• Misses man’s will to be free, to put freedom above all other goods, even life itself.
• Because he was only interested in the means of acquiring power and not the ends of
the state, he remained unaware of the relations between means and ends. Ends are
shaped by means.
• Role of the government
– Pre-Machiavelli: the view that the task of government was distribution and
maintenance of justice
– Machiavelli believed growth and Expansion were the law of life. Force is an
essential part of politics
• Relation between morality and politics
– The prince was supposed to embody virtue and be just, merciful, faithful to his
obligations, do everything to be loved by his subjects