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Consequently, they hate things due to their envy and their fear D 2. They do not know how to be either altogether bad or altogether good D 1. In something of a secularized echo of Augustinian original sin, Machiavelli even goes so far at times as to say that human beings are wicked P 17 and 18 and that they furthermore corrupt others by wicked means D 3.

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Unlike Augustine, however, he rarely if ever upbraids such behavior, and he furthermore does not seem to believe that any redemption of wickedness occurs in the next world. For Machiavelli, human beings are generally imitative. In other words, they almost always walk on previously beaten paths P 6. Especially in The Prince , imitation plays an important role.

Machiavelli regularly encourages or at least appears to encourage his readers to imitate figures such as Cesare Borgia P 7 and P 13 or Caesar P 14 , as well as certain models e. However, it should be noted that recent work has called into question whether these recommendations are sincere.


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On such a reading, Machiavelli might believe that substances are not determined by their natures or even that there are no natures and thus no substances. Machiavelli is among the handful of great philosophers who is also a great historian. Although he was interested in the study of nature, his primary interest seemed to be the study of human affairs. He urges the study of history many times in his writings e. He implies that the Bible is a history D 2. And Machiavelli wrote several historical works himself, including the verse Florentine history, I Decannali ; the fictionalized biography of Castruccio Castracani; and the Medici-commissioned Florentine Histories.

But what exactly does the historian study?

What is history? Both accounts are compatible with his suggestions that human nature does not change e. In some places in his writings, he gestures toward a progressive, even eschatological sense of time. His call for a legendary redeemer to unite Italy is a notable example P In other places, he gestures toward the cyclical account, such as his approximation of the Polybian cycle of regimes D 1.

Politics of Fear, Practices of Hope

Scholars thus remain divided on this question. History for Machiavelli might be a process that has its own purposes and to which we must submit. Alternatively, it might be a process that we can master and turn toward our own ends. In his major works, Machiavelli affords modern historians scant attention.

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Machiavelli was friends with the historian Francesco Guicciardini, who commented upon the Discourses. Machiavelli speaks more amply with respect to ancient historians. Among the Latin historians that Machiavelli studied were Herodian D 3. In , when Machiavelli was eight years old, his father obtained a complete copy of Livy and prepared an index of towns and places for the printer Donnus Nicolaus Germanus.

Machiavelli mentions and quotes Livy many times in his major works. With only a few exceptions AW 2. Machiavelli frequently returns to the way that necessity binds, or at least frames, human action. He speaks of the necessity that constrains writers FH 7.

Let and D 1. Machiavelli speaks of the necessities to be alone D 1. Necessity might be a condition to which we must submit ourselves. Alternatively, it might be a condition that we can alter, implying that we can alter the meaning of necessity itself. If what is necessary today might not be necessary tomorrow, then necessity becomes a weaker notion.

At the very least, necessity would not be directly opposed to contingency; instead, as some scholars maintain, necessity itself would be contingent in some way and therefore shapeable by human agency. The beginning of Prince 25 merits close attention on this point. There Machiavelli reports a view that he says is widely held in his day: the belief that our lives are fated or determined to such an extent that it does not matter what we choose to do. On this question, some scholars highlight Renaissance versions of the Stoic notion of fate, which contemporaries such as Pietro Pomponazzi seem to have held.

Two years before he wrote his famous September letter to Giovan Battista Soderini—the so-called Ghiribizzi al Soderini Musings to Soderini —Machiavelli wrote a now lost letter to Batolomeo Vespucci, a Florentine teacher of astrology at the University of Padua. In his response to Machiavelli, Vespucci suggests that a wise man can affect the influence of the stars not by altering the stars which is impossible but by altering himself. Still other scholars propose a connection with the so-called Master Argument kurieon logos of the ancient Megarian philosopher, Diodorus Cronus.

Diodorus denies the possibility of future contingencies, that is, the possibility that future events do not already have a determined truth value. Aristotle famously argues against this view in De Interpretatione ; Cicero and Boethius also discuss the issue in their respective treatments of divine providence. Although the effectual truth may pertain to military matters e.

Surprisingly, there is still relatively little work on this fundamental Machiavellian concept. What exactly is the effectual truth? One way to address this question is to begin with Chapter 15 of The Prince , where Machiavelli introduces the term. Two things seem to characterize the effectual truth in Chapter Whatever it is, the effectual truth does not seem to begin with images of things. The implication seems to be that other more utopian? Another way to address this question is to begin with the Dedicatory Letter to The Prince.

These sketchers place themselves at high and low vantage points or perspectives in order to see as princes and peoples do, respectively. The truth begins in ordinary apprehension e. But precisely because perspective is partial, it is subject to error and indeed manipulation e. Milan is not a wholly new principality as such but instead is new only to Francesco Sforza P 1. Unlike Machiavelli himself, those who damn the tumults of Rome do not see that these disorders actually lead to Roman liberty D 1. It is worth noting that perspectives do not always differ. Or does it? Some scholars believe that differing causes cannot help but modify effects; in this case, admiration itself would be stained and colored by either love or fear and would be experienced differently as a result.

And Machiavelli says that what makes a prince contemptible is to be held variable, light, effeminate, pusillanimous, or irresolute P What matters in politics is how we appear to others—how we are held tenuto by others. But how we appear depends upon what we do and where we place ourselves in order to do it. A wise prince for Machiavelli is not someone who is content to investigate causes—including superior causes P 11 , first causes P 14 and D 1.

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Rather, it is someone who produces effects. And there are no effects considered abstractly. Some commentators believe that effects are only effects if they are seen or displayed. They thus see the effectual truth as proto-phenomenological.

Others take a stronger line of interpretation and believe that effects are only effects if they produce actual changes in the world of human affairs. Touching rather than seeing might then be the better metaphor for the effectual truth see P Machiavelli is most famous as a political philosopher. Although he studied classical texts deeply, Machiavelli appears to depart somewhat from the tradition of political philosophy, a departure that in many ways captures the essence of his political position.

At least at first glance, it appears that Machiavelli does not believe that the polity is caused by an imposition of form onto matter.

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Given that Machiavelli talks of both form and matter e. For Aristotle, politics is similar to metaphysics in that form makes the city what it is. The difference between a monarchy and a republic is a difference in form. This is not simply a question of institutional arrangement; it is also a question of self-interpretation.

Aristotelian political form is something like a lens through which the people understand themselves. Firstly, it matters whether monarchs or republicans rule, as the citizens of such polities will almost certainly understand themselves differently in light of who rules them. Justice is thus the underlying basis of all claims to rule, meaning that, at least in principle, differing views can be brought into proximity to each other.

Concord, or at least the potential for it, is both the basis and the aim of the city. With respect to the first implication, Machiavelli occasionally refers to the six Aristotelian political forms e.