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1. How does Machiavelli view human nature?

Machiavelli differs from the many political theorists who offer conceptions of a “natural
state,” a presocial condition arising solely from human instinct and character. But while
Machiavelli never puts forth a vision of what society would be like without civil
government, he nonetheless presents a coherent, although not particularly comprehensive,
vision of human nature. Machiavelli mentions explicitly a number of traits innate among
humans. People are generally self-interested, although their affections for others can be
won and lost. They remain content and happy so long they avoid affliction or oppression.
They might be trustworthy in prosperous times, but they can turn selfish, deceitful, and
profit-driven in adverse times. They admire honor, generosity, courage, and piety in
others, but most do not harbor these virtues. Ambition lies among those who have
achieved some power, but most common people are satisfied with the way things are and
therefore do not yearn to improve on the status quo. People will naturally feel obligated
after receiving a favor or service, and this bond is usually not broken capriciously.
Nevertheless, loyalties are won and lost, and goodwill is never absolute. These statements
about human nature often serve as justification for much of Machiavelli’s advice to
princes. For example, a prince should never trust mercenary leaders because they, like
most leaders, are overly ambitious. At the same time, while many of Machiavelli’s
remarks on the subject seem reasonable, most are assumptions not grounded in evidence
or popular notions and can easily be criticized. For example, a Hobbesian might argue
that Machiavelli puts too much faith in people’s ability to remain content in the absence
of government force. A related issue to explore, then, might be the extent to which
Machiavelli’s political theory relies too heavily on any single, possibly fallacious
depiction of human nature.
2. What are Machiavelli’s views regarding free will?

His view was free will of the masses can be controlled two ways. And free will of the
masses was the reasons that empires fell so free will of the masses must be controlled. Do
not let them become educated, illiteracy of the masses is what you want if you wish to
control them. Also, the masses should fear you not love you. If they love you they can
turn on you but if they fear you they more likely will not.

Can historical events be shaped by individuals, or are they the consequences of


fortune and circumstance?

According to Machiavelli, both.

3. In Discourses on Livy (1517), Machiavelli argues that the purpose of politics is to


promote a “common good.” How does this statement relate to the idea’s Machiavelli
presents in the prince?

CHAPTER V — CONCERNING THE WAY TO GOVERN CITIES OR


PRINCIPALITIES WHICH LIVED UNDER THEIR OWN LAWS BEFORE THEY
WERE ANNEXED
Whenever those states which have been acquired as stated have been accustomed to live
under their own laws and in freedom, there are three courses for those who wish to hold
them:

(1) the first is to ruin them,


(2) the next is to reside there in person,
(3) the third is to permit them to live under their own laws, drawing a tribute, and
establishing within it an oligarchy which will keep it friendly to you.

Because such a government[(3) the oligarchy] being created by the prince, knows that it
cannot stand without his friendship and interest, and does its utmost to support him; and
therefore he who would keep a city accustomed to freedom will hold it more easily by the
means of its own citizens than in any other way. How does a "Prince" promote "a
common good" by (1) RUINING a state, he has acquired (by fraud or by force or both
KB) where the citizens have been accustomed to living in freedom under their own
laws??? The ideas expressed by Machiavelli in "The Prince" directly contradict the
"common good" thesis of politics in "Discourses on Livy". The ideas of "The Prince" all
patronize the "special interests" of Prince-rulers; arguably tyrants; CONTRARY to the
"common good" of, alternatively, ruined or subjected formerly free people.

4. Do you agree with Machiavelli’s these that stability and power are the only qualities
that matter in the evaluation of governments? If not, what else matters?

5. Discuss class conflict in The Prince and its relationship to successful government.

6. Discuss The Prince’s Historical context. In what ways do the arguments and
examples of the Prince reflect that context?

7. Discuss the form, tone, and rhetoric of The Prince. Does Machiavelli’s choice in this
area lead to a persuasive argument? Why or why not?

8. How much of The Prince is relevant to contemporary society in an age when


monarchies no longer are the primary form of government?
Politics are still a game of power, manipulation and control. I'd say it pretty much still
applies (or at least quite a bit of it still does).

9. Below are various themes outlined in the text. Identify their locations in the text and
then provide an explanation of them as given by Machiavelli:

Statesmanship & Warcraft

Machiavelli believes that good laws follow naturally from a good military. His famous
statement that “the presence of sound military forces indicates the presence of sound
laws” describes the relationship between developing states and war in The
Prince. Machiavelli reverses the conventional understanding of war as a necessary, but
not definitive, element of the development of states, and instead asserts that successful
war is the very foundation upon which all states are built. Much of The Prince is devoted
to describing exactly what it means to conduct a good war: how to effectively fortify a
city, how to treat subjects in newly acquired territories, and how to prevent domestic
insurrection that would distract from a successful war. But Machiavelli’s description of
war encompasses more than just the direct use of military force—it comprises
international diplomacy, domestic politics, tactical strategy, geographic mastery, and
historical analysis. Within the context of Machiavelli’s Italy—when cities were
constantly threatened by neighboring principalities and the area had suffered through
power struggles for many years—his method of viewing almost all affairs of state
through a military lens was a timely innovation in political thinking.

Goodwill & Hatred


To remain in power, a prince must avoid the hatred of his people. It is not necessary for
him to be loved; in fact, it is often better for him to be feared. Being hated, however, can
cause a prince’s downfall. This assertion might seem incompatible with Machiavelli’s
statements on the utility of cruelty, but Machiavelli advocates the use of cruelty only
insofar as it does not compromise the long-term goodwill of the people. The people’s
goodwill is always the best defense against both domestic insurrection and foreign
aggression. Machiavelli warns princes against doing things that might result in hatred,
such as the confiscation of property or the dissolution of traditional institutions. Even
installations that are normally valued for military use, such as fortresses, should be
judged primarily on their potential to garner support for the prince. Indeed, only when he
is absolutely sure that the people who hate him will never be able to rise against him can
a prince cease to worry about incurring the hatred of any of his subjects. Ultimately,
however, obtaining the goodwill of the people has little or nothing to do with a desire for
the overall happiness of the populace. Rather, goodwill is a political instrument to ensure
the stability of the prince’s reign.

Human Nature

Machiavelli asserts that a number of traits are inherent in human nature. People are
generally self-interested, although their affection for others can be won and lost. They are
content and happy so long they are not victims of something terrible. They may be
trustworthy in prosperous times, but they will quickly turn selfish, deceitful, and profit-
driven in times of adversity. People admire honor, generosity, courage, and piety in
others, but most of them do not exhibit these virtues themselves. Ambition is commonly
found among those who have achieved some power, but most common people are
satisfied with the status quo and therefore do not yearn for increased status. People will
naturally feel a sense of obligation after receiving a favor or service, and this bond is
usually not easily broken. Nevertheless, loyalties are won and lost, and goodwill is never
absolute. Such statements about human nature are often offered up as justifications for
the book’s advice to princes. While Machiavelli backs up his political arguments with
concrete historical evidence, his statements about society and human nature sometimes
have the character of assumptions rather than observations.

Virtue

Machiavelli defines virtues as qualities that are praised by others, such as generosity,
compassion, and piety. He argues that a prince should always try to appear virtuous, but
that acting virtuously for virtue’s sake can prove detrimental to the principality. A prince
should not necessarily avoid vices such as cruelty or dishonesty if employing them will
benefit the state. Cruelty and other vices should not be pursued for their own sake, just as
virtue should not be pursued for its own sake: virtues and vices should be conceived as
means to an end. Every action the prince takes must be considered in light of its effect on
the state, not in terms of its intrinsic moral value.

Political, social, and cultural climate of the time:

• The Prince was written during a time of political turbulence as a practical guide to
help Lorenzo de’ Medici stay in power. Lorenzo did not agree with many of
Machiavelli’s suggestions. The book appeared on the pope’s “Index of Prohibited
Books” in 1559.

• Renaissance Era

• Italy at that time became the scene of intense political conflict. The city-states of
Florence, Milan, Venice, and Naples fought for control of Italy, as did the papacy,
France, Spain, and the Holy Roman Empire. Each of these powers attempted to
pursue a strategy of playing the other powers off of one other, but they also
engaged in less honorable practices such as blackmail and violence. The same
year that Machiavelli returned to Florence, Italy was invaded by Charles VIII of
France—the first of several French invasions that would occur during
Machiavelli’s lifetime. These events influenced Machiavelli’s attitudes toward
government, forming the backdrop for his later impassioned pleas for Italian
unity.

The Prince is an extended analysis of how to acquire and maintain political power. It includes 26
chapters and an opening dedication to Lorenzo de Medici. The dedication declares Machiavelli's
intention to discuss in plain language the conduct of great men and the principles of princely
government. He does so in hope of pleasing and enlightening the Medici family.

The book's 26 chapters can be divided into four sections: Chapters 1–11 discuss the different
types of principalities or states, Chapters 12–14 discuss the different types of armies and the
proper conduct of a prince as military leader, Chapters 15–23 discuss the character and behavior
of the prince, and Chapters 24–26 discuss Italy's desperate political situation. The final chapter is
a plea for the Medici family to supply the prince who will lead Italy out of humiliation.

The types of principalities


Machiavelli lists four types of principalities:
• Hereditary principalities, which are inherited by the ruler
• Mixed principalities, territories that are annexed to the ruler's existing territories
• New principalities, which may be acquired by several methods: by one's own power, by
the power of others, by criminal acts or extreme cruelty, or by the will of the people (civic
principalities)
• Ecclesiastical principalities, namely the Papal States belonging to the Catholic church

The types of armies


A prince must always pay close attention to military affairs if he wants to remain in power.
Machiavelli lists four types of armies:
• Mercenaries or hired soldiers, which are dangerous and unreliable
• Auxiliaries, troops that are loaned to you by other rulers—also dangerous and unreliable
• Native troops, composed of one's own citizens or subjects—by far the most desirable
kind
• Mixed troops, a combination of native troops and mercenaries or auxiliaries—still less
desirable than a completely native army

The character and behavior of the prince


Machiavelli recommends the following character and behavior for princes:
• It is better to be stingy than generous.
• It is better to be cruel than merciful.
• It is better to break promises if keeping them would be against one's interests.
• Princes must avoid making themselves hated and despised; the goodwill of the people is a
better defense than any fortress.
• Princes should undertake great projects to enhance their reputation.
• Princes should choose wise advisors and avoid flatterers.

Italy's political situation


Machiavelli outlines and recommends the following:
• The rulers of Italy have lost their states by ignoring the political and military principles
Machiavelli enumerates.
• Fortune controls half of human affairs, but free will controls the rest, leaving the prince
free to act. However, few princes can adapt their actions to the times.
• The final chapter is an exhortation to the Medici family to follow Machiavelli's principles
and thereby free Italy from foreign domination.