Machiavelli a Modern Thinker

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Niccollo Machiavelli can be referred to as a Modern Thinker, as evidenced by his novels: The Prince and Discourses on Livy. He had decided to take a path as yet untrodden by anyone (Machiavelli, Discourses On Livy, 1. Preface. 5). Even though this found in the Preface of Discourses On Livy, Machiavelli also takes the path less traveled when he writes The Prince.

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His work is original for his time period, and differs from other writers on the same topics. It is different from all the other works during that time period about princes and advice for princes (Allen, MPT1, 44). An example of this can be found in the comparison of princes and animals: such as foxes and lions. According to the MPT1 PowerPoint, previous writers said that a good prince should emulate neither the lion nor the fox . The previous writers believed that they should not be representing these animals because they should be taking a friendlier approach and appear warm and kind to their followers.

Machiavelli on the other hand thinks that it is necessary for a prince to know well how to use the beast and the man and that one needs to be a fox to recognize the snares and a lion to frighten the wolves (Machiavelli, The Prince, 18.69). He believes that one should actually emulate one of these animals because it will help them with their survival as a leader.

Another example of his differing thought from other writers is his belief that a prince will only incur the infamy of meanness (Machiavelli, The Prince, 16.63) if they were generous, lavishing gifts and favors on friends, and himself in luxury (Allen, MPT1, 45) like the other writers had his time period suggested. The other writers believed that the prince should be glorious to be respected, but Machiavelli believed that in order to be glorious the prince would end up raising taxes or neglecting his subjects and become hated over time.

Machiavelli also introduces a new way of looking at politics and analyzing them: by looking back at history and becoming knowledgeable of it so that a leader can create new ways to rule his own state. Machiavelli said that what is done for what should be done (Machiavelli, The Prince, 15.61). His idea in this quote was that leaders should learn from the past instead of focusing on the future. According to the MPT1 PowerPoint, to return to old ideals is not to resurrect the past, but to create something at least partly new. (Allen, MPT,1 41). In both texts, he often spoke of the history of leaders and what had been done right and wrong in their rulings and nation building, and what the current leaders should do now knowing how the past outcomes had turned out.

In the Introduction to Discourses On Livy, Mansfield and Tarcov discuss Machiavelli’s view on his own time: moderns are weak, the ancients were strong (Mansfield & Tarcov, Discourses On Livy, Intro 33) because he was profoundly dissatisfied with the Renaissance he saw underway (Mansfield & Tarcov, Discourses On Livy, Intro 18). Machiavelli’s criticism is useful, and he is not trying to say that the modern republics cannot be strong, but he thinks that they should take the advice that he gives about looking back at the way the ancients did things so that they can be as strong as they were or maybe even stronger. This can be seen in Machiavelli’s The Prince, even though the texts were very different, but The Prince is written for Medici and Machiavelli approaches it as a how to for princes.

For example, he presented that (King) Louis had made five errors (Machiavelli, The Prince 15.61). One of King Louis errors was when he allowed himself to be threatened by foreign powers by weakening his own state. King Louis had given aid to the Pope and with that decision he was weakening himself (Machiavelli, The Prince, 3.14). Sending his troops away to aid the Pope, weakened his own defenses and left him open for invasion, which is why Machiavelli marks it as an error. Louis should have kept his forces in his home state in case a invasion against France had soon occurred because if it had he would be weaker and vulnerable to losing his own state for the sake of another.
He wants the princes to learn from these mistakes that a kind made and not repeat them in their own principalities. Not only does he say to make awareness of the wrong but he also says that is may be a good idea for princes to walk on paths beaten by others and proceed in their actions by imitation (Machiavelli, The Prince, 6.22). Some leaders are ones that created good examples that should be followed so that the prince can gain power or respect from his people that leads to power.

Machiavelli also had another modern idea that he presented when speaking about France and the Pope. Most states at this time often represented themselves as either Catholic or Protestant nations etc. For example, during Louis’ reign France was Catholic. The Catholic Nations often had to give support to the Pope, but Machiavelli argues that since France was aiding the Pope that the French knew nothing about politics, because if they did they wouldn’t be letting the Pope grow so powerful (Machiavelli, The Prince, 3.16). He didn’t think it mattered that the Pope was a religious figure because he looked at it as strictly politicalthe Pope was another rulerand Machiavelli believed in a general rule that whoever is the cause of someone’s becoming powerful is ruined (Machiavelli, The Prince, 3.16). Some may have been opposed to this at Machiavelli’s time because many were invested in their faith, and being invested in their faith to them went along with supporting the Pope, but Machiavelli had a point and the Pope did grow to have great armies and power, and eventually took sides against Louis in the Italian Wars.

In Discourses On Livy, Machiavelli titles Book 3 Chapter 1 as If One Wishes a Sect or Republic to Live Long, It Is Necessary to Draw It Back Often toward Its Beginning (Machiavelli, Discourses On Livy, 3.1.209). He believes that the success of a republic will only continue and for the republic to live long, they have to go back and look at what was done in the past and at the beginning on the republics life. This is because the beginning of the republics or sects must have some goodness in them so if one is to look back at it they can see ways to intervene to lead it back to the mark since goodness is corrupted as time goes on (Machiavelli, Discourses On Livy, 3.1.209).

Machiavelli believes that the republics and sects can regain some of their goodness that they once had if they look back to see how it all started and where it went wrong and started to corrupt, so that they can change the path that the republic is currently on.

Machiavelli preferred republics over principalities. Principalities were old-fashioned, and Machiavelli believed they would not last much longer, and republics were the more modern way over ruling. He believed that a republic has a greater life and has good fortune longer than a principality (Machiavelli, Discourses On Livy, 3.9.240). He supported this statement earlier in Discourses On Livy, by saying that they should not have one prince who governs prudently while he lives, but one individual who orders it so that it is also maintained while he dies (Machiavelli, Discourses On Livy, 1.11.36). Republics survive much longer because they have more than once person associated with governing, like a senate, but one person representing, but when this one person dies he is not the only one that was ever knowledgeable or capable of running the state. For example, the government of the United States has a President, but also has a Vice President, Advisors, Speaker of the House, Secretary of State, Attorney General and more. If the President dies, the U.S. is not left to crumble without their leader because there are several other important people that can maintain it, as Machiavelli had suggested.

Machiavelli, said that to prevent a state from becoming weak and of no value that the kings be extinguished in Rome (Machiavelli, Discourses On Livy, 1.17.47). Machiavelli believed that principalities were not the future and that states very seriously needed to move on from the, or risk becoming weak. They would become weak for different reasons, but one of them being that a republic could accommodate itself better than one prince can to the diversity of times through the diversity of the citizens that are in it (Machiavelli, Discourses On Livy, 3.9.240).
Machiavelli does want leaders to refer to the past but he does stress that the cause of good and bad fortune of men is matching the modes of one’s proceeding with the times (Machiavelli, Discourses On Livy, 3.9.239). He does not believe that leaders should do everything the same way that they had been done in the past, he just wants them to learn from it and move forward and make their own ways because the leaders has to be able to lead in ways that fit into the time period in which they a ruling in and they have to be able to vary with the times so that their tactics to not fizzle out and become too outdated to work anymore.

Machiavelli believed that every city out to have its modes to with which the people can vent its ambitions (Machiavelli, Discourses On Livy, 1.4.17). Again, he brings us back to Rome because Rome had this mode. If the people were not allowed to protest and vent their ambition, by closing their shops or avoiding war, then the republics would not have been forced to make some changes that made it better in the long run. The people are just important to the republic getting better as anything else, according to this segment by Machiavelli. This is another important piece he introduces aside the facts of history, that is original for his time period.

He again emphasizes the importance of the people in The Prince when he said, the end of the people is more decent than that of the great (Machiavelli, The Prince, 9.13). This is found in the passage that explains how the people do not want to be oppressed, but greats will want to oppress them. So if a leader is to build his state in the aims of pleasing the people then he will be better off in running it because the people will be faithful to him and not rebel against his rule.

According to our MPT1 PowerPoint, classical authors try to reduce the amount of evil in the word (Allen, MPT1, 38). Machiavelli does not try to do this and admits that there is evil in some parts of the world. He believes that there can be evil in everything and that close to the good there is always some evil that arises with that good (Machiavelli, Discourses On Livy, 3.37.294). There is even evil in good, according to Machiavelli, and instead of trying to reduce the amount like other authors he is increasing the amount by saying this.

Normally good outweighs evil and cancels it out, but Machiavelli says that good has evil in it, so overall there is no way to avoid evil in the world. Since there is no way to avoid it, Machiavelli offers another solution. He suggests that people are soon healed if one recognizes from afar the evils that arise I state (Machiavelli, The Prince, 3.12). Instead of reducing it, Machiavelli wants people to see it and by seeing it they will be made better because once they are knowledgeable of the evils they can try and do right.

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Machiavelli A Modern Thinker. (2019, Dec 11). Retrieved January 30, 2023 , from
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