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UCI EUROST 10 - Machiavelli’s “mirror”

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Professor Smith European Studies Department Europe Studies 10 European History Course Code: 24000 ● Machiavelli’s “mirror” ○ How does machiavelli make his case to the prince? What kind of evidence does he adduce? ○ Classical examples; contemporary examples; “observation”; and reasoning ○ He wants to present the “truth” of the matter ○ End of chapter 3: Louis XII of France didn’t follow principles “observed” by others ○ Chapter 19: “as experience shows...” and “endless examples could be given on this subject...” ● Machiavelli’s “science” ○ This appeal to “observation” and (historical) “evidence” can be considered a form of “empiricism” (as opposed to rationalism) ○ We will see these appeals again in the next readings by galileo ● A tension between old and new - his evidence ○ Machiavelli is clearly interested in addressing the contemporary situation ○ But what are his sources? ○ Classical references both “traditional” and also part of the new humanist training ○ But he puts the classical references to very modern uses ● Machiavelli between tradition and modernity, old and new orders ○ Two examples: ■ The entire book is about the city-states, a unique italian structure, not unlike the principalities of the HRE (but no overarching structure) ● In many ways, a thing of the past; at least, not the wave of the future ● Even he seems to recognize that ■ He places great value in human agency, but also sees men set in their ways ● Chapter 6: “men intrinsically do not trust new things that they have not experienced themselves” ● Chapter 25: “one cannot find a man prudent enough to be capable of adapting to these changes, because man cannot deviate from that to which nature inclines him” ● 3. Imitation or innovation? ○ Chapter 6: let no one be surprised if, in speaking of entirely new principalities as I shall do, I adduce the highest examples both of prince and of state; because men, walking almost always in paths beaten by others, and following by imitation their deeds, are yet unable to keep entirely to the ways of others or attain the paths beaten by great men, and to imitate those who have been supreme, so that if his ability does not equal theirs, at least it will savour of it○ Let him act like the clever archers who, designing to hit the mark which yet appears too far distant, and knowing the limits to which the strength of their bow attains, take aim much higher the limits than the mark, not to reach by their strength or arrow to so great a height, but to be able with the aid of so high an aim to hit the mark they wish to reach ○ This coolness arises partly from fear of the opponents, who have the laws on their side, and partly from the incredulity of men, who do not readily believe in new things until they have had a long experience of them ○ Beginning of the book he mentions the power of tradition ■ By the end, he’s modern ■ Given the changes going on, the prince who can establish a new principality can be better off than one who has inherited power ■ But only if the new prince acts wisely ● Other tensions… ○ He places great value in human agency, but also sees men set in their ways ○ Chapter 25 on the free will and fortune ○ A conservative and traditional notion of human nature ○ Chapter 17: “it can be said of men…[that] men are evil” ○ Chapter 18: “all men are wicked” ○ And yet.. ● Using evil well? That is, no “human nature” ○ Chapter 8: agathocles of sicily and oliverotto da fermo ○ Even cruel rulers can “live securely in their states” ○ Cruelty used “to secure one’s power” but then “converted into the greatest possible benefit for one’s subjects” ○ “He can never rely on his subjects [if] they cannot feel secure under him” ○ “Primarily, a prince must live with his subjects in such a way that no incident, either good or bad, should make him change his course...” ● “Strength” ○ Chapter 10: what does it mean that a leader is “strong”? That is. What is the aim of power? ○ All emphasis is on stability (and the ability, therefore, to stand on one’s own) ■ Modern autonomy ○ In the past, one derived strength from the traditions one belonged to and the (familial) ties one fostered ● Machiavelli’s “virtue” ○ Instead of propounding Christian virtues, Machiavelli calls for virtu ○ The word is derived from latin virtus and means the qualities desirable in a man ○ These were, for the romans, martial strength and good citizenship (loyalty to the state) ○ Machiavelli sees in it the qualities of a good prince ● Better feared than loved? ○ Chapter 17 contains some of the most astounding claims: ■ A few good executions, done quickly, are better than general disorder ○ One is better feared than loved○ Hannibal kept a diverse army together through fear, vs. Scipio’s softness ○ But the ultimate virtue seems to be the creation of order for the citizens ● Machiavelli as “modern” ○ Chapter 18: ■ His interest is really in “our own era” ■ What do you think? ● “A wise ruler cannot and should not keep his word when it would be disadvantage to do so...” ■ What do you think? ● “He must have a spirit that can change depending on the winds and variations of fortune” ● “Fortuna” ○ Seems all powerful ○ What is Machiavelli’s response to Fortune? ○ Chapter 25: “fortune seems to be the arbiter of half our actions, but she does leave us the other half...” ○ She is a “torrent” and we can build “dikes and dams” ○ He must be prepared “so that when Fortune changes, she will find him prepared to resist her” ● Another irony ○ In a changeable world, the prince (all human beings?) must also be changeable and adaptable in order to create stability ● His Final Exhortation ○ In the last chapter, he calls upon his prince, Lorenzo de Medici to work together with others to liberate italy from foreign powers ○ Perhaps here we see the very beginnings of nationalism? ○ Keep this exhortation in mind since we’ll see a similar one in a couple of weeks, calling on italian princes to unite against the turkish ottomans ● Machiavelli’s intention - a matter of dispute ○ What were Machiavelli’s intentions? ○ Curry favor with the prince/family ○ Offer serious advice? Or


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