Machiavelli’s views on morality, based upon a literal interpretation of the satire The Prince, is very much a practical and realistic approach to the nature of morality and human nature.
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Cesare Borgia supposedly did so. The war soon ended. For Machiavelli, the end always justifies the means. Among his most famous dictates are that "it is better to be feared than loved" and that "the appearance of virtue" is more important than virtue itself. He also advocates that preparations for war should be the foremost occupation of a leader, and that constant, preemptive action is necessary to prevent others from seizing control. For downloadable excerpts of "The Prince" in RTF format, . For the complete text available online, go to .
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Niccolò Machiavelli was born into this unstable time of shifting fortunes in the year 1469. He served in a number of minor government positions, and was banished or imprisoned at various points of his career. One of his most notable positions was serving as a sort of political advisor to the Borgia family. The head of the family, Alexander Borgia, was Pope; the eldest son was Cesare Borgia, a bloodthirsty young warlord; the younger daughter Lucrezia was rumored to have poisoned her way through several husbands in order to stuff the Borgia coffers with golden inheritances. The name "Borgia" was synonymous with betrayal, murder, and powermongering.
Essays in History, Politics and Culture Copyright R
(1) Human nature is a starting point for classical political realism. Realists view human beings as inherently egoistic and self-interested to the extent that self-interest overcomes moralprinciples. At the debate in Sparta, described in Book I ofThucydides’ History, the Athenians affirm the priorityof self-interest over morality. They say that considerations of rightand wrong have “never turned people aside from the opportunitiesof aggrandizement offered by superior strength” (chap. 1 par.76).
Ideals and realities: Renaissance state communication …
The denial of the existence of universal moral principles in therelations among states brings Hobbes close to the Machiavellians andthe followers of the doctrine of raison d’état.His theory of international relations, which assumes that independentstates, like independent individuals, are enemies by nature, asocialand selfish, and that there is no moral limitation on their behavior,is a great challenge to the idealist political vision based on humansociability and to the concept of the international jurisprudence thatis built on this vision. However, what separates Hobbes fromMachiavelli and associates him more with classical realism is hisinsistence on the defensive character of foreign policy. His politicaltheory does not put forward the invitation to do whatever may beadvantageous for the state. His approach to international relations isprudential and pacific: sovereign states, like individuals, should bedisposed towards peace which is commended by reason.