Creator Niccolo Machiavelli Discussion

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11:00:43 AM Feb 24th 2012
edited by TheJessterLeVar
Should we really state that "it has been suggested that that book [The Prince] was actually an elaborate parody, intended to illustrate just how bad of an idea a pure monarchy really is"? This is a view that was largely held by 18th century Englightenment thinkers and is not particularly in vogue today. It does not really deserve any more mention than Hegel's view that Machiavelli was writing for a particular period of history (when a state has been overrun by and split apart by foreign powers) or Ernst Cassirer's that The Prince was Machiavelli describing the way the world work in a manner that mirror's the way a scientist like Galileo or Newton described the way the world works (which is currently a rather popular view). There's also the view that The Prince is a work whose theory can only be incorporated along with the theory present in the Discourses on Livy.

Also, where does the impression that Machiavelli worked for/was The Consigliere of Cesare Borgia come from? Almost the entirety of their time spent together was with Machiavelli as a foreign ambassador of Florence, not as a political advisor to Cesare. In fact, this article goes so far as to list Machiavelli's support of Borgia being an example of My Country, Right or Wrong when in fact Machiavelli was a Florentine (not a Roman or citizen of the Papal States) and had a deep distrust (if not hatred) of the Papacy. Furthermore, I'm not aware of any evidence that suggests that Soderini was incompetent and that Machiavelli was the man behind the throne.

TL;DR - the interpretation of The Prince as a satire is over 200 years old and hasn't been popular since the early 20th century (if not longer) and more popular interpretations are that it's a scientific work describing politics as they are or as a fragment of a totality that includes the Discourses. Machiavelli neither worked with Cesare Borgia nor was the power behind the throne. Soderini was neither incompetent nor a puppet of Machiavelli's.

I'd like some discussion on the matter before I begin rewriting the article.
12:17:38 PM Feb 27th 2012
edited by TheJessterLeVar
Here are some references from Ernst Cassirer's The Myth of the State:

"For to him [Spinoza] Machiavelli was not only a very ingenious and penetrating but also a very cunning writer. He looked up on him as a master of craftiness. This judgment is, however, not in keeping with the historical fats. If Machiavellism means deception or hypocrisy Machiavelli was no Machiavellian. He was never a hypocrite. When reading his familiar letters we are suprised to find a Machiavelli widely different from out conventional conceptions and prejudices; a man who speaks frankly, open-mindedly and with a certain ingenuousness" (1st edition, p120)

"In his Letters for the Advancement of Humanity Herder declared that it was a mistake to regard Machiavelli's Prince either as a satire or as pernicious book on politics or as a hybrid of these two things... The mistake of his book was due to the fact that nobody saw the book in its right environment... It is a political masterpiece written for the contemporaries of Machiavelli." (Ibid, p121)

"To put it in the words of Spinoza he [Machiavelli] speaks of these things [political action] as if they were lines, planes or solids. He did not attack the principles of morality; but he could find no use for these principles when engrossed in problems of political life." (Ibid, p143)

"The Prince is neither a moral nor an immoral book: it is simply a technical book. In a technical book we do not seek for rules of ethical conduct, of good and evil." (Ibid, p153)

"Machiavelli studied political actions in the same way as a chemist studies chemical reactions". (Ibid, p154)

Here are references from other sources:

"We are much beholden to Machiavelli and other writers of that class who openly and unfeignedly declare or describe what men do, and not what they ought to do" (Bacon, De augmentis scientiarum, Lib. VII, cap. II, sec. 10)

"It is most unreasonable to treat the development of an idea which was formed by observing the conditions of Italy as a disinterested summary of moral and political principles fit for all conditions and therefore no condition. One has to read the Prince taking into consideration the history of the centuries preceding Machiavelli and the contemporary history of Italy." (Hegel, Constitution of Germany)

"The Prince was never meant except for Italians, and Italians too of a given period; indeed, we may go further, and ask whether it was ever intended even for all Italians." (Niccolo Machiavelli, Il Principe, ed. L. Arthur Burd (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1891), p14)

I know that this is not exactly a wide sample and the extensive use of Cassirer is due to the fact that I am currently reading The Myth of the State, so it's examples are most recent in my mind. I'll look to see if I can find a copy of Strauss's or Meinecke's works on Machiavellism or other, more recent, academic articles.
01:35:59 PM Feb 27th 2012
edited by LordGro
From experience, I doubt that you will get much discussion here — the discussion pages are visited only sporadically (editors typically come here only when they are dissatisfied with the current article).

But you seem quite knowledgeable, and I think it'd be okay if you go ahead and rewrite the article (if somebody doesn't like it, he'll probably come here).
10:15:21 AM Mar 28th 2012
edited by TheJessterLeVar
Okay, I finally got around to rewriting it. Or at least parts of it.
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