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Old April 7th, 2010, 02:52 AM   #21
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Re: Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince


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Originally Posted by Sargon of Akkad View Post
I recently read The Prince, and found it very informative for when I end up ruling an empire. I'm sure it'll come in handy.

It was an excellent read, though.
From such good points it could seemingly be deduced that this reading may not have any practical value for most of us at all.

Far from that, if this work was a landmark in the history of philosophy and should be a must for most political analyses here and elsewhere, it's because it's extremely useful for the political analysis of the "Princes"; in plain words, any government.

IMHO, it's main message [in less than thirty words] is that most (if not all) History has been actually ruled by realpolitik, i.e. not based on theoretical or ethical objectives, but rather on practical and material factors.
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Old April 8th, 2010, 12:16 PM   #22
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Re: Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince


I'm on this one. Have only read 3 chapters so far, but I'm on it. This book club is an excellent idea by the way. I just wish my eyes didn't tire so easily staring at the laptop screen, I'd get so much done!
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Old April 9th, 2010, 08:04 AM   #23

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Re: Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince


Some of the passages in the later chapters are, to me, reminiscent of some of the arguments of Glaucon (and Adeimantus, iirc) in Book II of Plato's Republic. Not that they are the same arguments, of course, for Glaucon is arguing that men do not seek to be just for the sake of justice itself. But on noticing some of the similarities, I thought I might later go compare some of the passages in the two arguments. The interesting thought to me was that this idea of Realpolitik had certainly already been worked out 1800 years before Machiavelli.

On the question of whether it was satire, I think that Machiavelli's oft-quoted letter to Vettori militates against that notion. He says:

Quote:
On the coming of evening, I return to my house and enter my study; and at the door I take off the day's clothing, covered with mud and dust, and put on garments regal and courtly; and reclothed appropriately, I enter the ancient courts of ancient men, where, received by them with affection, I feed on that food which only is mine and which I was born for, where I am not ashamed to speak with them and to ask them the reason for their actions; and they in their kindness answer me; and for four hours of time I do not feel boredom, I forget every trouble, I do not dread poverty, I am not frightened by death; entirely I give myself over to them.

And because Dante says it does not produce knowledge when we hear but do not remember, I have noted everything in their conversation which has profited me, and have composed a little work On Princedoms, where I go as deeply as I can into considerations on this subject, debating what a princedom is, of what kinds they are, how they are gained, how they are kept, why they are lost. And if ever you can find any of my fantasies pleasing, this one should not displease you; and by a prince, and especially by a new prince, it ought to be welcomed. Hence I am dedicating it to His Magnificence Giuliano. Filippo Casavecchia has seen it; he can give you some account in part of the thing in itself and of the discussions I have had with him, though I am still enlarging and revising it.
I think the first paragraph, besides giving context for the second, alludes to his study of Livy and other ancient writers. The second obviously alludes to Il Principe and strongly suggest that he was already working on the Discourses on Livy.
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Old April 9th, 2010, 05:59 PM   #24

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Re: Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince


I only just caught the following remark while comparing translations. It is in Chapter XX:

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5. Princes, especially new ones, have found more fidelity and assistance in those men who in the beginning of their rule were distrusted than among those who in the beginning were trusted.


If we are to consider this as a "job application" rather than a satire; if it really is intended as an advice manual to princes, then considering his recent experience in the de Medici torture room this is pretty bluntly self-serving.
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Old April 9th, 2010, 06:30 PM   #25
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Re: Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince


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I only just caught the following remark while comparing translations. It is in Chapter XX:

[/font]

If we are to consider this as a "job application" rather than a satire; if it really is intended as an advice manual to princes, then considering his recent experience in the de Medici torture room this is pretty bluntly self-serving.
I think that as essentially all along this book, Machiavelli's choice of examples strongly suggests that this was intended as a serious treatise and not just a satire.

Regarding the passage above, the quoted example was the prince Pandolfo Petrucci of Siena, who IMHO rightly illustrated the author's point [ame="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pandolfo_Petrucci"]Pandolfo Petrucci - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia[/ame]; e.g. none other than his father-in-law Noccolo Borghese had first carried Petrucci to power and lately conspired to kill him.
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Old April 10th, 2010, 06:14 AM   #26

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Re: Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince


As I've indicated in my earlier posts, my real interest in Machiavelli is in how he has influenced modern thought. Let's consider him the watershed between medieval and modern since many of the practices he speaks of are much in line with the medieval and he was writing as early as 1500.

I mentioned Hobbes and Rousseau. Both took the "moral" out of political thought. But were either really influenced by Machiavelli. Were they really thinking in terms he would have understood?

What about Benedict de Spinoza? The intro to his Political Treatise could almost have been taken directly from Machiavelli's Il Principe.

I mentioned the nearly contemporary Hans Morgenthau and some of his points. How about Leo Strauss? Now there's a case for you. He is certainly not Machiavellian in his stress on theologico-politics. On the other hand, his liberal critics charge him with advocating political deception.

This is not a philosophy or literature forum, but a history forum. To me, the interesting thing about history is the history of ideas. I don't feel I understand history until I understand the thinking of people of historical times, and that must include the philosophies that those times gave rise to.
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Old April 14th, 2010, 03:34 PM   #27

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Re: Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince


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I mentioned Hobbes and Rousseau. Both took the "moral" out of political thought. But were either really influenced by Machiavelli. Were they really thinking in terms he would have understood?

What about Benedict de Spinoza? The intro to his Political Treatise could almost have been taken directly from Machiavelli's Il Principe.

I mentioned the nearly contemporary Hans Morgenthau and some of his points. How about Leo Strauss? Now there's a case for you. He is certainly not Machiavellian in his stress on theologico-politics. On the other hand, his liberal critics charge him with advocating political deception.
I think Strauss’ objection to Machiavelli turns upon the fact that M. seems to advocate immediate material-world gratification over heavenly rewards later. Again, Virtù over ‘virtue’. The implication of this is that it goes towards denying the existence of a God who punishes wrongdoing (and in the sixteenth-century God was certainly more punitive than nowadays). It denies the sociological value of human virtue by decrying that ‘man’ is fundamentally non-virtuous. If we briefly hark back towards the historical context, isn’t Machiavelli on the other side of the Church/State argument from Strauss? M. spent much The Prince criticising the activities of the Church in the political sphere. His basic tenet was that the spiritual ought not be cavorting with the temporal. This is a debate – nay, a ‘controversy’ – that was raging long before M. wrote his works. For Strauss, politics was not to be devoid of values. He advocated moral-values as integral to political judgements that Machiavelli clearly does not. On the first page of his book on Machiavelli (Thoughts on Machiavelli) he writes ‘If it is true that only an evil man will stoop to teach maxims of public and private gangsterism, we are forced to say that Machiavelli was an evil man..’ http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=w...page&q&f=false

Strauss was similarly mordant of Rousseau who noted in The Social Contract that princes
‘always prefer the doctrine that is more immediately useful to them. … [This is] what Machiavelli has proved very clearly – under the pretence of instructing kings, he has taught important lessons to the people. Machiavelli’s Prince is a handbook for republicans.’
It is not obvious that Rousseau saw the work as something of a satire or a deception. He footnotes this statement with:
Machiavelli was a gentleman and a good citizen; but being attached to the house of Medici, he was forced during the oppression of his country to disguise his love of liberty. The very choice of an execrable hero reveals his secret intention, and the antithesis between his principles in his book The Prince and those in his Discourses on Livy and The History of Florence proves that this profound political thinker has so far had only superficial and corrupted readers.
So, Rousseau positively observed the work as having deceitful ends, but placed oppression as the cause of that deceitfulness. What he seems to be missing is that Machiavelli also at the same time wrote the Discorsi and seemed perfectly free of Medicean oppression to do so.


(Apologies for not replying sooner. I've had flu for the past ten days or so and am only now starting to get back to my old self. I'll try and catch up. )
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Old April 14th, 2010, 03:39 PM   #28
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Re: Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince


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(Apologies for not replying sooner. I've had flu for the past ten days or so and am only now starting to get back to my old self. I'll try and catch up. )
Sorry to know about that ; please take care of yourself .
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Old April 14th, 2010, 03:58 PM   #29

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Re: Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince


Thanks. I'm getting there!
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Old April 14th, 2010, 04:00 PM   #30

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Re: Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince


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Some of the passages in the later chapters are, to me, reminiscent of some of the arguments of Glaucon (and Adeimantus, iirc) in Book II of Plato's Republic. Not that they are the same arguments, of course, for Glaucon is arguing that men do not seek to be just for the sake of justice itself. But on noticing some of the similarities, I thought I might later go compare some of the passages in the two arguments. The interesting thought to me was that this idea of Realpolitik had certainly already been worked out 1800 years before Machiavelli.
I think this is an interesting comparison that might be worth pursuing in more detail.
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