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Can A Machiavellian Prince Be A Essay

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Can Machiavelli’s Prince be a Good Christian?

… [Many] have pictured republics and principalities which in fact have never been known or seen, because how one lives is so far distant from how one ought to live, that he who neglects what is done for what ought to be done, sooner effects his ruin than his preservation… Hence it is necessary for a prince wishing to hold his own to know how to do wrong, and to make use of it or not according to necessity. (Machiavelli, 62)

Machiavelli’s suggestion to rulers to sacrifice virtue to win and maintain states has brought his political treatise, The Prince, both attention and contention for the past five centuries. While condemned for the ruthlessness and cruelty that it espouses, The Prince has been hailed as the first modern political treatise for the meticulous warfare and statecraft strategies it prescribes to the rulers. It is a sprawling discourse on how a king “needs”, not “ought”, to behave in order to maintain his kingdom; Machiavelli’s Prince is a strategist whose decisions are based on calculating reason rather than on any abiding faith in morality or virtue. His overarching argument is to value, in order to achieve and hold power, being feared over being loved, being cruel over being kind, being parsimonious over being generous, and so on.

While other texts in the wisdom tradition – Plato’s Republic and Aurelius’ Meditation, for example – emphasize the importance of a ruler being “good” and “just”, Machiavelli concerns himself solely with practicality, dismissing the philosophical tradition of holding rulers to moral perfection. Under the light of comparison then, it is easy to dismiss The Prince as an aberration in the history of classical philosophy; after all, it never came to be read by a ruler and Machiavelli himself saw little political success in his life after writing it (Machiavelli, p. 9).

Yet, interspersed through The Prince are phrases like “… without burdening the people (Machiavelli, p. 64)” which make the reader wonder at the engaging struggle between what he prescribes for the king – a relentless and amoral pursuit of reasoning and strategy – and what he hopes the king will achieve for his populace, which is overall stability and peace. At stake is a fundamental rift between what Machiavelli’s Prince does to win and maintain states, and why he does it. Machiavelli prizes a king’s use of far-reaching...

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