The Prince | Study Guide

Niccolò Machiavelli

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The Prince | Chapter 23 : How Flatterers Must Be Shunned | Summary

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Summary

When choosing ministers, a prince must avoid flatterers, encourage honesty, and discourage ambition. A prince must be deliberate with regard to whom he speaks. Among his ministers, the prince should encourage honesty by rewarding those who tell him the truth. In this way, he can get good advice and avoid having flatterers among his advisors. However, the prince should make it clear that only his advisors can speak their minds to him—and that he will listen to no one else. Further, he must make it clear to his advisors that they should speak their minds only when he seeks their advice. By proceeding this way, he makes it clear to everyone that he is in control but that he is also reasonable

Analysis

The picture of human nature Machiavelli provides looms large in the discussion of ministers. After all, these ministers are still human and are driven to maximize their own benefit and minimize their own harm. As such, given the chance, ministers will try to bend a prince's policy to suit their personal interests. Only an intelligent and powerful prince can take what is useful from his advisors while also checking their tendency to manipulate him.

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