Modern Political Thought: Lecture notes 09/04/06
Machiavelli's problem is human nature (p. 52)
People are evil and look out only for themselves.
They are “fickle, ungreatful, deceptive,
and eager to gain.” Therefore, a prince cannot be nice.
A Prince must know how to be
cruel, deceitful and when to use force.
The toolkit of a sucessful prince is a varied one.
This is why a prince sometimes must
act like a beast.
Erasmus said that prince's must never act like beasts because reason distinguishes them
Machiavelli says that laws are for men, and force for animals.
However, there are
cases where laws aren't effective, so man must use force (p. 54)
a ruler must use force wisely (being a fox vs. being a lion).
The prince must use different abilities and virtues depending on the situation.
The ability to change is crucial (p.54)
You should have good qualities, but at a moment's notice, you must be able to
change or be something else.
It is useful
to be good, even if you are not (Caesar Borgia and d'Orco).
B. Subjects should be in awe of princes, but they should not hate princes.
Princes should be feared, not hated, and love should be purely optional (p. 51)
If you are hated by the people or the elite, then they will try to overthrow you, so it is
important to be feared, not hated.
If you are both feared and hated, it is a question of which feeling will overcome the
This question, Machiavelli says, should be avoided.
There are general things to stop revolt
Don't opress people
Make sure they don't hate you
Keep the people in awe of you.
Don't take away people's property
Don't take away men's wives
Only use violence when necessary
However, one can never be certain that these things will ensure
always be ready for change.
C. One of Machiavelli's key pieces of advice is the proper use of violence.