Machiavelli’s The Prince

Machiavellianism has become a common term to mark the absence of moral principles in one’s methods to achieve success. Chapter 18 of Niccolo Machiavelli’s philosophical work The Prince is a quintessence of his controversial guidelines for politicians. He believes that rulers have to be flexible in terms of ethics, which means that practicality is higher than morality. Thus, both honorable and dishonorable ways are acceptable for the sake of the desired goal.

In this section of his book, Machiavelli does not simply state that a politician should not be choosy in his means, but attempts to justify this approach. He believes that because a ruler has to be more powerful than ordinary people, he has to possess the skills of both a man and a beast. Being a man means being virtuous, while beasts have no moral laws and their actions are driven by necessity and survival. The philosopher suggests that there is no need for the ruler’s people to know the actual methods that he uses, so he should make appearance of a noble person in order to please people’s expectations. At the same time, he should use the ways of a lion and a fox depending on a situation. Being a lion means direct and aggressive fight, while being a fox suggests using deceit and maneuvers in order to delude an opponent. Hence, Machiavelli implies that a successful politician should be extremely flexible in terms of moral laws; otherwise he will be unable to be competitive and successful. One of his controversial ideas about human nature also lies in his belief that common people need to be deceived because they do not understand the essence of politics and would be content with positive image: “he will be praised by everybody because the vulgar are always taken by what a thing seems to be and by what comes of it; and in the world there are only the vulgar, for the few find a place there only when the many have no ground to rest on”( Machiavelli, Chapter 18).

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