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Early life and political career

In any case Machiavelli presented himself at various times as someone reminding Italians of the old virtues of the Romans and Greeks, and other times as someone promoting a completely new approach to politics. That Machiavelli had a wide range of influences is in itself not controversial. Their relative importance is however a subject of on-going discussion. It is possible to summarize some of the main influences emphasized by different commentators.

The Mirror of Princes genre. Gilbert summarized the similarities between The Prince and the genre it obviously imitates, the so-called " Mirror of Princes " style.

This was a classically influenced genre, with models at least as far back as Xenophon and Isocrates. While Gilbert emphasized the similarities, however, he agreed with all other commentators that Machiavelli was particularly novel in the way he used this genre, even when compared to his contemporaries such as Baldassare Castiglione and Erasmus.

One of the major innovations Gilbert noted was that Machiavelli focused upon the "deliberate purpose of dealing with a new ruler who will need to establish himself in defiance of custom". Normally, these types of works were addressed only to hereditary princes. Xenophon is also an exception in this regard. Commentators such as Quentin Skinner and J. Pocock , in the so-called "Cambridge School" of interpretation, have been able to show that some of the republican themes in Machiavelli's political works, particularly the Discourses on Livy , can be found in medieval Italian literature which was influenced by classical authors such as Sallust.

Xenophon, Plato and Aristotle. The Socratic school of classical political philosophy, especially Aristotle , had become a major influence upon European political thinking in the late Middle Ages. It existed both in the Catholicised form presented by Thomas Aquinas , and in the more controversial " Averroist " form of authors like Marsilius of Padua.

Machiavelli was critical of Catholic political thinking and may have been influenced by Averroism. But he cites Plato and Aristotle very infrequently and apparently did not approve of them. Leo Strauss argued that the strong influence of Xenophon , a student of Socrates more known as an historian, rhetorician and soldier, was a major source of Socratic ideas for Machiavelli, sometimes not in line with Aristotle.

While interest in Plato was increasing in Florence during Machiavelli's lifetime, Machiavelli does not show particular interest in him, but was indirectly influenced by his readings of authors such as Polybius , Plutarch and Cicero.

The major difference between Machiavelli and the Socratics, according to Strauss, is Machiavelli's materialism, and therefore his rejection of both a teleological view of nature and of the view that philosophy is higher than politics. With their teleological understanding of things, Socratics argued that desirable things tend to happen by nature, as if nature desired them, but Machiavelli claimed that such things happen by blind chance or human action.

Strauss argued that Machiavelli may have seen himself as influenced by some ideas from classical materialists such as Democritus , Epicurus and Lucretius. Strauss however sees this also as a sign of major innovation in Machiavelli, because classical materialists did not share the Socratic regard for political life, while Machiavelli clearly did. Some scholars note the similarity between Machiavelli and the Greek historian Thucydides , since both emphasized power politics.

Yet Thucydides never calls in question the intrinsic superiority of nobility to baseness, a superiority that shines forth particularly when the noble is destroyed by the base. Therefore Thucydides' History arouses in the reader a sadness which is never aroused by Machiavelli's books. In Machiavelli we find comedies, parodies, and satires but nothing reminding of tragedy. One half of humanity remains outside of his thought.

There is no tragedy in Machiavelli because he has no sense of the sacredness of "the common. Amongst commentators, there are a few consistently made proposals concerning what was most new in Machiavelli's work. Machiavelli is sometimes seen as the prototype of a modern empirical scientist, building generalizations from experience and historical facts, and emphasizing the uselessness of theorizing with the imagination.

He emancipated politics from theology and moral philosophy. He undertook to describe simply what rulers actually did and thus anticipated what was later called the scientific spirit in which questions of good and bad are ignored, and the observer attempts to discover only what really happens.

Machiavelli felt that his early schooling along the lines of a traditional classical education was essentially useless for the purpose of understanding politics. Nevertheless, he advocated intensive study of the past, particularly regarding the founding of a city, which he felt was a key to understanding its later development. For example, Machiavelli denies that living virtuously necessarily leads to happiness. And Machiavelli viewed misery as one of the vices that enables a prince to rule.

But since the two rarely come together, anyone compelled to choose will find greater security in being feared than in being loved. A related and more controversial proposal often made is that he described how to do things in politics in a way which seemed neutral concerning who used the advice—tyrants or good rulers.

The Prince made the word "Machiavellian" a byword for deceit, despotism, and political manipulation. Even if Machiavelli was not himself evil, Leo Strauss declared himself inclined toward the traditional view that Machiavelli was self-consciously a "teacher of evil," since he counsels the princes to avoid the values of justice, mercy, temperance, wisdom, and love of their people in preference to the use of cruelty, violence, fear, and deception.

Machiavelli is generally seen as being critical of Christianity as it existed in his time, specifically its effect upon politics, and also everyday life. In his opinion, Christianity, along with the teleological Aristotelianism that the church had come to accept, allowed practical decisions to be guided too much by imaginary ideals and encouraged people to lazily leave events up to providence or, as he would put it, chance, luck or fortune.

While Christianity sees modesty as a virtue and pride as sinful, Machiavelli took a more classical position, seeing ambition, spiritedness, and the pursuit of glory as good and natural things, and part of the virtue and prudence that good princes should have.

Famously, Machiavelli argued that virtue and prudence can help a man control more of his future, in the place of allowing fortune to do so. Najemy has argued that this same approach can be found in Machiavelli's approach to love and desire, as seen in his comedies and correspondence.

Najemy shows how Machiavelli's friend Vettori argued against Machiavelli and cited a more traditional understanding of fortune. On the other hand, humanism in Machiavelli's time meant that classical pre-Christian ideas about virtue and prudence, including the possibility of trying to control one's future, were not unique to him. But humanists did not go so far as to promote the extra glory of deliberately aiming to establish a new state, in defiance of traditions and laws.

While Machiavelli's approach had classical precedents, it has been argued that it did more than just bring back old ideas and that Machiavelli was not a typical humanist. Strauss argues that the way Machiavelli combines classical ideas is new.

While Xenophon and Plato also described realistic politics and were closer to Machiavelli than Aristotle was, they, like Aristotle, also saw Philosophy as something higher than politics. Machiavelli was apparently a materialist who objected to explanations involving formal and final causation , or teleology. Machiavelli's promotion of ambition among leaders while denying any higher standard meant that he encouraged risk-taking, and innovation, most famously the founding of new modes and orders.

His advice to princes was therefore certainly not limited to discussing how to maintain a state. It has been argued that Machiavelli's promotion of innovation led directly to the argument for progress as an aim of politics and civilisation. But while a belief that humanity can control its own future, control nature, and "progress" has been long lasting, Machiavelli's followers, starting with his own friend Guicciardini, have tended to prefer peaceful progress through economic development, and not warlike progress.

As Harvey Mansfield , p. Machiavelli however, along with some of his classical predecessors, saw ambition and spiritedness, and therefore war, as inevitable and part of human nature. Strauss concludes his Thoughts on Machiavelli by proposing that this promotion of progress leads directly to the modern arms race. Strauss argued that the unavoidable nature of such arms races, which have existed before modern times and led to the collapse of peaceful civilisations, provides us with both an explanation of what is most truly dangerous in Machiavelli's innovations, but also the way in which the aims of his apparently immoral innovation can be understood.

Machiavelli explains repeatedly that he saw religion as man-made, and that the value of religion lies in its contribution to social order and the rules of morality must be dispensed with if security requires it.

In The Prince, the Discourses, and in the Life of Castruccio Castracani , he describes "prophets", as he calls them, like Moses , Romulus , Cyrus the Great , and Theseus he treated pagan and Christian patriarchs in the same way as the greatest of new princes, the glorious and brutal founders of the most novel innovations in politics, and men whom Machiavelli assures us have always used a large amount of armed force and murder against their own people.

He estimated that these sects last from 1, to 3, years each time, which, as pointed out by Leo Strauss, would mean that Christianity became due to start finishing about years after Machiavelli. While fear of God can be replaced by fear of the prince, if there is a strong enough prince, Machiavelli felt that having a religion is in any case especially essential to keeping a republic in order. For Machiavelli, a truly great prince can never be conventionally religious himself, but he should make his people religious if he can.

According to Strauss , pp. Machiavelli's judgment that democracies need religion for practical political reasons was widespread among modern proponents of republics until approximately the time of the French Revolution. This therefore represents a point of disagreement between himself and late modernity. Despite the classical precedents, which Machiavelli was not the only one to promote in his time, Machiavelli's realism and willingness to argue that good ends justify bad things, is seen as a critical stimulus towards some of the most important theories of modern politics.

Firstly, particularly in the Discourses on Livy, Machiavelli is unusual in the positive side he sometimes seems to describe in factionalism in republics. For example, quite early in the Discourses, in Book I, chapter 4 , a chapter title announces that the disunion of the plebs and senate in Rome "kept Rome free. Similarly, the modern economic argument for capitalism , and most modern forms of economics, was often stated in the form of "public virtue from private vices.

Mansfield however argues that Machiavelli's own aims have not been shared by those he influenced. Machiavelli argued against seeing mere peace and economic growth as worthy aims on their own, if they would lead to what Mansfield calls the "taming of the prince. Machiavelli is most famous for a short political treatise, The Prince , written in but not published until , five years after his death. Although he privately circulated The Prince among friends, the only theoretical work to be printed in his lifetime was The Art of War , which was about military science.

Since the 16th century, generations of politicians remain attracted and repelled by its apparently neutral acceptance, or even positive encouragement, of the immorality of powerful men, described especially in The Prince but also in his other works.

His works are sometimes even said to have contributed to the modern negative connotations of the words politics and politician , [31] and it is sometimes thought that it is because of him that Old Nick became an English term for the Devil. Machiavellianism also remains a popular term used in speeches and journalism; while in psychology, it denotes a personality type.

While Machiavellianism is notable in the works of Machiavelli, Machiavelli's works are complex and he is generally agreed to have been more than just "Machiavellian" himself. Pocock saw him as a major source of the republicanism that spread throughout England and North America in the 17th and 18th centuries and Leo Strauss , whose view of Machiavelli is quite different in many ways, agreed about Machiavelli's influence on republicanism and argued that even though Machiavelli was a teacher of evil he had a nobility of spirit that led him to advocate ignoble actions.

Whatever his intentions, which are still debated today, he has become associated with any proposal where " the end justifies the means ". For example, Leo Strauss , p. Machiavelli is the only political thinker whose name has come into common use for designating a kind of politics, which exists and will continue to exist independently of his influence, a politics guided exclusively by considerations of expediency, which uses all means, fair or foul, iron or poison, for achieving its ends—its end being the aggrandizement of one's country or fatherland—but also using the fatherland in the service of the self-aggrandizement of the politician or statesman or one's party.

To quote Robert Bireley: Three principal writers took the field against Machiavelli between the publication of his works and their condemnation in and again by the Tridentine Index in These were the English cardinal Reginald Pole and the Portuguese bishop Jeronymo Osorio , both of whom lived for many years in Italy, and the Italian humanist and later bishop, Ambrogio Caterino Politi. Machiavelli's ideas had a profound impact on political leaders throughout the modern west, helped by the new technology of the printing press.

During the first generations after Machiavelli, his main influence was in non-Republican governments. In fact, he was apparently influencing both Catholic and Protestant kings. One of the most important early works dedicated to criticism of Machiavelli, especially The Prince , was that of the Huguenot , Innocent Gentillet , whose work commonly referred to as Discourse against Machiavelli or Anti Machiavel was published in Geneva in This became the theme of much future political discourse in Europe during the 17th century.

This includes the Catholic Counter Reformation writers summarised by Bireley: They accepted the need for a prince to be concerned with reputation, and even a need for cunning and deceit, but compared to Machiavelli, and like later modernist writers, they emphasized economic progress much more than the riskier ventures of war. These authors tended to cite Tacitus as their source for realist political advice, rather than Machiavelli, and this pretense came to be known as " Tacitism ". Modern materialist philosophy developed in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, starting in the generations after Machiavelli.

This philosophy tended to be republican, more in the original spirit of Machiavellian, but as with the Catholic authors Machiavelli's realism and encouragement of using innovation to try to control one's own fortune were more accepted than his emphasis upon war and politics.

Not only was innovative economics and politics a result, but also modern science , leading some commentators to say that the 18th century Enlightenment involved a "humanitarian" moderating of Machiavellianism. Although he was not always mentioned by name as an inspiration, due to his controversy, he is also thought to have been an influence for other major philosophers, such as Montaigne , [48] Descartes , [49] Hobbes , Locke [50] and Montesquieu.

Although Jean-Jacques Rousseau is associated with very different political ideas, it is important to view Machiavelli's work from different points of view rather than just the traditional notion. For example, Rousseau viewed Machiavelli's work as a satirical piece in which Machiavelli exposes the faults of a one-man rule rather than exalting amorality.

In the seventeenth century it was in England that Machiavelli's ideas were most substantially developed and adapted, and that republicanism came once more to life; and out of seventeenth-century English republicanism there were to emerge in the next century not only a theme of English political and historical reflection—of the writings of the Bolingbroke circle and of Gibbon and of early parliamentary radicals—but a stimulus to the Enlightenment in Scotland, on the Continent, and in America.

Scholars have argued that Machiavelli was a major indirect and direct influence upon the political thinking of the Founding Fathers of the United States due to his overwhelming favoritism of republicanism and the republic type of government.

According to John McCormick, it is still very much debatable whether or not Machiavelli was "an advisor of tyranny or partisan of liberty. The Founding Father who perhaps most studied and valued Machiavelli as a political philosopher was John Adams , who profusely commented on the Italian's thought in his work, A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America.

For Adams, Machiavelli restored empirical reason to politics, while his analysis of factions was commendable. Adams likewise agreed with the Florentine that human nature was immutable and driven by passions. He also accepted Machiavelli's belief that all societies were subject to cyclical periods of growth and decay. For Adams, Machiavelli lacked only a clear understanding of the institutions necessary for good government.

The 20th-century Italian Communist Antonio Gramsci drew great inspiration from Machiavelli's writings on ethics, morals, and how they relate to the State and revolution in his writings on Passive Revolution , and how a society can be manipulated by controlling popular notions of morality. Joseph Stalin read The Prince and annotated his own copy. In the 20th century there was also renewed interest in Machiavelli's La Mandragola , which received numerous stagings, including several in New York, at the New York Shakespeare Festival in and the Riverside Shakespeare Company in , as a musical comedy by Peer Raben in Munich's antiteater in , and at London's National Theatre in Machiavelli's best-known book Il Principe contains several maxims concerning politics.

Instead of the more traditional target audience of a hereditary prince, it concentrates on the possibility of a "new prince". To retain power, the hereditary prince must carefully balance the interests of a variety of institutions to which the people are accustomed. By contrast, a new prince has the more difficult task in ruling: He must first stabilise his newfound power in order to build an enduring political structure.

Machiavelli suggests that the social benefits of stability and security can be achieved in the face of moral corruption. Machiavelli believed that public and private morality had to be understood as two different things in order to rule well.

As a result, a ruler must be concerned not only with reputation, but also must be positively willing to act immorally at the right times. Machiavelli believed as a ruler, it was better to be widely feared than to be greatly loved; A loved ruler retains authority by obligation while a feared leader rules by fear of punishment. Scholars often note that Machiavelli glorifies instrumentality in state building, an approach embodied by the saying " The ends justify the means.

Violence may be necessary for the successful stabilisation of power and introduction of new legal institutions. Force may be used to eliminate political rivals, to coerce resistant populations, and to purge the community of other men strong enough of a character to rule, who will inevitably attempt to replace the ruler. Machiavelli has become infamous for such political advice, ensuring that he would be remembered in history through the adjective, "Machiavellian".

Humanists also viewed the book negatively, including Erasmus of Rotterdam. It explains who Machiavelli was and what the term Machiavellian has come to mean.

It contains summary of the and analyses of most of Machiavelli's major writings. Get all of your Machiavelli information below Mike Abrams' NJ Site. Click here to see modern applications of Machiavellian principles to Modern living. Machiavelli as an individual was not "Machiavellian. He was erudite, analytical and even wrote comedies.

His essay "The Prince" was a tract written for the Florentine ruling family de Medici to help him obtain work. Sexuality and Its Disorders explores sexuality from an evolutionary perspective using powerful, real-life case studies to help readers provide effective guidance around issues relating to sexuality.

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Niccoló Machiavelli (), Italian political thinker and historical figure best remembered for his masterpiece, The Prince (written in , but published .

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Machiavelli’s influence on later times must be divided into what was transmitted under his own name and what was known through the works of others but not acknowledged as Machiavelli’s. Since his own name was infamous, there is little of the former kind.

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machiavelli and niccolo machiavelli information summaries of the prince, and the works of nicolo machiavelli This site contains all of Niccol ò Machiavelli's writings and updated commentary (see thoughts for today) on his work. Niccolo Machiavelli Quotes Italian - Writer May 3, - June 21, The promise given was a necessity of the past: the word broken is a necessity of the present.