The prince

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The prince

Niccolo Machiavelli
The Prince
In The Prince’, Niccolo Machiavelli approaches, the topic of political morality and human
nature in a very different way than thinkers preceding him. His argument on political morality
and human nature is made very clear in the early part of his book. For him politics is war, no
matter which way you look at it. “You must, therefore, know that there are two means of
fighting: one according to the laws, the other with force; the first way is proper to man, the
second to beasts; but because the first, in many cases is not sufficient , it becomes necessary to
have recourse to the second.” (Machiavelli, p.351-352). He clearly points out towards man’s
poor behavior in politics and accepts it as a fact, saying that law is a type of combat. He does not
look up to god or any other divine authority for the political morality, like Augustine in his book
the city of god’ or try and look at things the way they should have been in the ideal state, but
instead probes into the individual. He aims straight at the reality of politics.


Machiavelli In his vision, to guide the actions of men in general, turns to the actions of the
strong prince. Machiavelli’s higher political morality is to pursue the means to gain and hold
power. He is of the view that the ruling prince should be of the sole authority and to gain this
authority the prince has to command a certain fear from his citizens.


Machiavelli believes that good laws follow naturally from a good military. His famous statement
that “the presence of sound military forces indicates the presence of sound laws” describes the
relationship between developing states and war in The Prince. Machiavelli reverses the
conventional understanding of war as a necessary, but not definitive, element of the development
of states, and instead asserts that successful war is the very foundation upon which all states are
built. Much of The Prince is devoted to describing exactly what it means to conduct a good war:
how to effectively fortify a city, how to treat subjects in newly acquired territories, and how to
prevent domestic insurrection that would distract from a successful war. But Machiavelli’s
description of war encompasses more than just the direct use of military force, it comprises
international diplomacy, domestic politics, tactical strategy, geographic mastery, and historical
analysis. Within the context of the political situation those times, when cities were constantly
threatened by neighboring states and the area had suffered through power struggles for
many years, his method of analyzing all the affairs of state through a military point was timely
useful in political thinking.


Machiavelli’s analysis could be thought of as pessimistic from the point of view of other
thinkers, but in reference to the times , Machiavelli is simply telling it the way it is. He is
simply describing his experiences and observations about human nature. Machiavelli believes
that politics has turned into war and that this war is not a consequence of men sinking to new
lows, or men reversing evolution and grasping the characteristics of beasts, but rather men living
they way their bodies and minds guide them to. Machiavelli believes that this is human nature
and instead of criticizing the poor behavior he accepts is as a fact and analyses the results.
“While you the prince work for their good, they are completely yours, offering you their blood,
property, lives, and their sons, as I said earlier, when danger is far away; but, when it is nearer to
you, they turn away revolt. And that prince who has bases his power entirely on their words,
finding himself completely without other preparations, comes to ruin.” (Machiavelli, P. 350).
Machiavelli has a very low opinion of the people throughout history. In general, he feels that
men are “ungrateful, fickle, liars, and deceiver.” They avoid danger and are greedy for profit;
while you treat them well, they are yours. They will do anything for you but when you are in
danger they turn against you. Machiavelli has little respect for the people, and he feels
as though they have not earned much either.
Machiavelli asserts that a number of traits