MACHIAVELLI: The Prince Ch. XX-XXVI

  • Disarming people will beget hatred toward the prince. A prince should arm his citizens because those arms become yours. Those men who receive arms will become faithful to the prince, and those men who were faithful will remain so.
  • Factions can never be of use. They render a state susceptible to internal revolt and external threats.
  • A prince becomes great by overcoming obstacles and difficulties. Therefore, a prince ought to foster enmity against himself, so that he can crush it, and elevate his renown.
  • Princes often find greater fidelity and assistance from men who were distrusted in the commencement of the state than from men who were always faithful. Distrusted men know that it is necessary for them to atone for their past insults or injuries directed at the new prince, and therefore are more likely to be complaisant. Furthermore, a prince should consider the source of fidelity and love in those who sided with the prince during his rise to power. If they assisted the prince because they were discontent with the affairs of the old state, then the prince will have difficulty keeping them satisfied.
  • Those who were content with the previous government are likely inclined to favor whoever holds power, and therefore it is easier for the prince to secure the friendship of these men than those of his own party who were dissatisfied with the old regime.
  • To become esteemed, a prince must accomplish great enterprises and set a fine example.
  • A prince ought to endeavor in every action that bestows upon him the reputation of being a great and remarkable man.
  • A prince is respected when he is a true friend or a downright enemy. In other words, he must clearly declare his position on particular topic, and not be ambiguous. It is always more advantageous to take the side of one party or another because the conquering party will prey upon the ambiguous prince after the battle with the other party, and that prince will not have recourse to the prince who was conquered because he did not willingly take to arms during the initial quarrel.
  • If a prince sides with the conquering party, then the conquering party will not be shameless enough to become a monument of ingratitude by conquering the prince. If the prince sides with the losing party, then the losing party can shelter and aid the prince, and become companions on a fortune that may rise again.
  • Princes ought to avoid being at the discretion of anyone.
  • No Government can choose a perfectly safe course. When someone attempts to avoid one trouble, he inevitably encounters another. A prince must be able to distinguish between the varying levels of hardships and dangers, so that he can choose the lesser evil.
  • A prince ought to be a patron of ability, and honor the proficient in every art.
  • A prince ought to entertain the people with festivals and spectacles during appropriate seasons.
  • The first opinion that one forms of a prince is made by observing the men around him.
  •  There are three classes of intellect: one that comprehends by itself, one that appreciates what others comprehend, and one that neither comprehends by itself nor appreciates what others comprehend.
  • A prince cannot trust a servant who is primarily concerned about his own interests rather than the prince’s.
  • A prince should enrich his servants, but allow them to share the cares and difficulties of being a prince, so that the servant does not wish to aggrandize his status in the state any further.
  • A prince must take heed of flatterers. He ought to select a few wise men of the state to advise him on certain matters of state, and he ought only to listen to the opinions of these men. He must command them to be honest, and if he discovers that they lied to him in an attempt to gain favor with him, then the prince must exercise his wrath on the flatterer.
  • After listening to these few men, the prince must form his own opinion on the matter.
  • A prince ought not to permit everyone to speak the truth to him because then respect for him would abate. But he ought to encourage those few men, which he selected as advisors, to speak the truth to him regardless of whether the truth denigrates the prince.

Without doubt princes become great when they overcome the difficulties and obstacles by which they are confronted. For this reason many consider that a wise prince, when he has the opportunity, ought with craft to foster some animosity against himself, so that, having crushed it, his renown may rise higher.

One never seeks to avoid trouble without running into another; prudence consists in knowing how to distinguish the character of trouble, and for choice to take the lesser evil.

The first opinion that one forms of a prince is made by observing the men around him.

There are three classes of intellect: one that comprehends by itself, one that appreciates what others comprehend, and one that neither comprehends by itself nor appreciates what others comprehend; the first is the most excellent, the second is good, and the third is useless.

One of the most valuable pieces of advice Machiavelli offers in these chapters is that princes, and people in general, must overcome difficulties and obstacles in order to become great. This counsel is similar to Nietzsche’s favorable opinion of hardship, struggle, and pain. While other philosophers strive to create a way of life that is free of pain, Nietzsche recognizes the value that is derived from undergoing struggles in one’s life. Nietzsche wished pain, struggle, and hardships on anyone he considered worthwhile because they would become great, and transcend humanity’s tendency to be mediocre through struggling with affliction and ultimately conquering it. Similar to Nietzsche, Machiavelli praises the honor that can be attained through surmounting difficulties, and even goes so far as to exhort princes to seek out or stir up controversy and animosity so that the prince can quell the opposition and gain renown. Utilitarians, Epicureans, and the common person, regard pain as something to be avoided. Machiavelli and Nietzsche regard difficulties as opportunities to exert one’s power and strength of will to conquer the opposing force and gain honor, value, and purpose thereby.

I also believe that Machiavelli’s statement that a fortress, or other physical instrument of war, means very little if the people despise the prince is particularly insightful. It is yet another way to state that the pen is mightier than the sword. The powers of rhetoric, emotion, and persuasion are substantially stronger than any physical force. When I read this passage, I remembered a specific part of the Aeneid by Virgil, in which Aeneas tells Dido how a Greek agent named Sinon deceived the Trojans about the Trojan horse, and ultimately precipitated the Trojan defeat. Aeneas tells Dido that Sinon conquered the Trojans with chicanery, and thus did what ten years of war and thousands of armed men could not do.

  • A new prince can establish a more secure rule than a hereditary one because men are more attracted to the present than the past, and a new prince’s actions will be much more scrutinized than an hereditary prince; therefore, a new prince who is wise and honorable will gain more men and bind them tighter than an hereditary prince.
  • Fortune is not responsible for a prince losing his state. More often than not, the prince’s sloth is culpable for his downfall. It is a common defect in men not to make any provision in the calm against the tempest.
  • Many people believe that the affairs of men are governed by fortune or god, so that men with all their wisdom cannot affect the future and therefore should not labor much in affairs, but let chance govern them. Machiavelli believes that fortune governs at least half of our affairs, perhaps a little more, but we can direct the other part.
  • Machiavelli regards fortune as a river, which can overflow the banks and sweep away trees and buildings. Everything yields to the raging river’s violence, and nothing can withstand its power. However, although fortune’s nature is like this, it does not follow that men cannot make provision for such a flood, and even prevent the river from overflowing its banks entirely by constructing dikes and levees. The types of barriers and defenses against fortune are found in the virtues of courage and prudence.
  • Machiavelli admits that a prince can be happy today and ruined tomorrow through no change of his character. This would imply that fortune, rather than his own free will, ruined him. However, Machiavelli argues that a prince must adapt his actions according to the time. If the time calls for impetuosity rather than patience, then a prince must be hasty.
  • Men are often unable to change their actions according to the necessities of the time because they have difficulty deviating from what nature inclines them to do, or having success in the past renders them reluctant to change the disposition that aided their ascent to greatness.
  • Machiavelli believes that it is better to be adventurous than cautious because fortune is a woman, and if one wishes to keep her under it is necessary to beat and ill-use her; and it is seen that she allows herself to be mastered by the adventurous rather than those who go to work more coldly. She is therefore always woman-like, a lover of young men because they are less cautious, more violent, and with more audacity to command her.
  • Machiavelli believes that the time is perfect for a new prince to arise in Italy. As it was necessary for the Israelites to be enslaved in Egypt to manifest the ability of Moses, and that the Persians should be oppressed by the Medes so as to discover the greatness of Cyrus, and that the Athenians should be dispersed to illustrate the capabilities of Theseus, so too is Italy now enslaved, oppressed, and scattered in order to discover a virtuous Italian spirit. Machiavelli exhorts the audience of The Prince, Medici, to be that redeemer of Italy.
  • Where the will is great, the difficulties cannot be great.
  • War is just when it is necessary, and force is hallowed when there exists no other hope, but in them.

It is a common defect in men not to make any provision in the calm against a tempest.

It is better to be adventurous than cautious because fortune is a woman, and if one wishes to keep her under it is necessary to beat and ill-use her; and it is seen that she allows herself to be mastered by the adventurous rather than those who go to work more coldly. She is therefore always woman-like, a lover of young men because they are less cautious, more violent, and with more audacity to command her.

Where the will is great, the difficulties cannot be great.

War is just when it is necessary, and force is hallowed when hope exists in nothing other than it.

The most interesting argument made by Machiavelli in these chapters was his belief that Fortune governs only half the affairs of men, and men are free to direct the other part. In the Free Will v. Determinism debate, I would place Machiavelli in the compatibilists category. Machiavelli concedes that Fortune is like a raging river, and when she overflows her banks, nothing can withstand her power. However, he argues that wise men can make provision against such a violent flood, and even prevent the raging river of Fortune from overflowing her banks altogether. A man must possess wisdom, prudence, and foresight to anticipate and prepare for every possible unfavorable scenario. This is excellent advice to remember in times of peace and happiness because men have a tendency to become complacent, which renders them vulnerable to affliction in the future, affliction that could have been prevented through anticipatory reflection upon possible evils and threats.

I also found Machiavelli’s description of Fortune as a woman who must be beat and ill-used in order to discipline and command her extraordinarily perceptive. Although the analogy of woman-beating is offensive, the idea that people who are adventurous and regard Fortune as something to be mastered rather than something that masters them is a concept that can be very advantageous and encouraging to people considering undertaking an uncertain, yet great enterprise.

The Prince

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s