January 20 , 2014 – Lecture 3
IOrigins of political societies and cycle of regime
II Artificial necessities
III Greatness: a “performance” in 2 steps?
IV Critique of Religion
VDefining good citizenship
VIRenewal/consistency Prince & Discourses?
• Machiavelli treats virtue, as justice is good in itself. Machiavelli: virtue is not
something internal, it’s external with appearance. Virtue is a performance, it’s
• Aristotle: virtue is a mean between two extremes… Machiavelli would say to that:
forget moderation, forget the mean, the middle course is impossible… you can’t
choose the middle, moderation is for wimps, and you should embrace boldness
• Chapter 25: Climax of the book (for some), metaphorical, Machiavelli formulates
the two policies that any prude and prince ought to follow. The goddess that
enjoys destroying men (as Machiavelli says), she stands for everything that is
outside human control. She also provides opportunities for heroes.
• Machiavelli describes her in two metaphors: Fortuna as a river – rises in the
spring or during storms, she will strike hardest where there are no dykes built to
destroy her. Landscape without any banks or barriers, no protection taken against
outsides, so no wonder Italy is humiliated. 2) Fortuna as a lady, (page 77) wants
the person that is bold and not cautious (offence) … be her then strike her.
• Machiavelli: Don’t get your hopes too high, you may not be able to adapt to
certain situations and you won’t be completely successful.
• Why is it humans aren’t great at adapting? 1) Man’s natural inclination (or
character), which is basically fixed. 2) Past successes – limit capacity and
willingness to adapt. Why is it good that all humans will be the same? It shows
consistency in politics and what they will do, great so he can convince you that
the Romans didn’t have special powers
• Is Machiavelli saying that caution and boldness, is usually good? Although he’s
hesitant to give fixed universal rules, he says (on page 76) that it is better to be
headstrong than cautious. Fortuna (as a woman)
The Discourses (Book 2, ch 29. Page 187)
• Machiavelli claims that Fortuna picks and chooses her man, and if she wants to
bring upon great things then she’ll choose someone bold, and if she wants to be
destructive then she’ll choose a twit. If anyone tries to get in her way then she’ll
kill him or her.
• Page 189 – Even with the best of skills and a great vision, you might not be able
to achieve anything at the end of the day
• Success is only possible if you have virtue (armed and a vision) and an
• Foresight: What might go on in the state… who’s better at this – rulers or people?
(Page 156) Book 1 chapter 58 (very important chapter) (deals with the democratic side of Machiavelli. People are better at foresight than the nobles or prince, since
they have better judgment and foresight. One of the reasons why republican
regimes are good (better than monarchies)
• A Republic will be more capable of adapting to the changing whims of Fortuna
(page 199) … Why’s the republican (the many, more than just one) regime more
flexible at changing circumstances? Potluck argument. Varieties of perspectives
make the feast better
• Chapter 26: Machiavelli wrote it after the guy that was supposed to get this book,
died. Weird: the tone changes, Machiavelli uses highly religious language,
hopeful tone, and tells the reader that there’s no easier time to act… says to
Lorenzo: don’t worry, it’s going to be easy, you’ll succeed just go ahead.
Machiavelli thinks Lorenzo is a twit… Clear evidence that chapter 26 doesn’t fit
and speaking to Lorenzo doesn’t make much sense (important: taking it seriously
Consistencies between the two texts
• Discourses are dedicated to two friends (not a ruler), causing him to be more
frank. Derive the people who do have the power as incompetent, these two
friends happen to be Republican friends to talk about art and literature (not just
the virtue of regimes) Republicans.
• (could be a good midterm question): What makes for greatness? What makes for
civic greatness? What explains Rome’s greatness? Answer: Liberty makes for
greatness… How is liberty to be acquired? 3 Steps: (page 87 book 1) Domestic
Policy – discusses things that happen inside the city, which will explain how you
can achieve and maintain freedom. Book 2) Foreign Policy Expand, attack, and
build and empire. Done outside by public council. 3) Public council – What
they’ll decide to do/say is good… not enough: he will tell you that great
individuals, great leadership and private council.
• Machiavelli says it’s dangerous to do a new order of things, the founders of new
religions and principalities are great, but this time he is talking about himself: a
founder of new order. Compares himself to Christopher Columbus (page 82) Set
out on a road no one has travelled before. Machiavelli believes he is the first one
to look at the Roman ways the proper way.
• How is it preserved/maintained, and how can we make it flourish? A lot more
glory attached to making something last (longevity).
• Preface to book one: Man will always be the same and forever will be (bottom of
• Are we too keen on ancients or not enough? He wants us to imitate the ancients
but not uncritically, we should be ready to face the cruelty and immorality of their
• He thinks at the end of the day, we might be able to do better than them.
• Machiavelli thinks he’s the creator of history and politics, as well as the teacher to
young people… especially the ones that are manly enough to be convinced to
fight for a great cause. Machiavelli thinks young people are great because they
can easily get excited about questioning, contesting authority and traditions (especially religious traditions), and not too cynical yet… Can still get all juiced
up from politics (page 161)
• Chapters 110 – Devoted to the old question: What is the best regime? (Aristotle:
best as aristocracy, best possible we can achieve on earth, the mixed regime where
the middle class is large)
• Chapter 1: begins by asking: why did men come together in the beginning and
gather to create cities? (Page 84&89) We get together because of reasons for
security and necessity… In the beginning there was fear, and fear pushed men to
get together to ensemble around the strongest to gain security and protect them.
Fear created the first monarchy. Page 89: Men came together that the injuries that
were done to others could equally be done to themselves, so in order to avoid that
they creates laws and punishment which created the idea of justice. Justice: a
compromise of what you’d like to do and what you fear the most (to get
• Fear and necessity are very good things, but fear is not everything. Fear can spur
men on to do great things. (Page 93): Men never do any good except when they’re
forced to… necessity forces us to do great things. Machiavelli fears idleness,
comfort and tranquility as they lead to corruption.
• Physical harshness is good for discipline, but you don’t have to rely on physical
necessity. He’s calling for: artificial necessities of laws. Do like the Romans and
• Which regime is best, according to Machiavelli? Gives 6 regimes: monarchy,
tyranny, aristocracy, oligarchy, anarchy, and democracy. (Page 91) All of them are
defective, the good ones don’t last and the bad ones are evil. Best regime? Praises
the mixed constitutions as the best and ideal regime. He thinks Rome has the best
mixture of all (perfect).
• Athens’ great problem was that it was too democratic, 3 elements; monarchy,
• Machiavelli loves a mixed regime because it builds (and keeps alive): social
conflict. The Roman republican is great because it’s institutions were designed in
such a way that the tension was kept alive and well managed, but the mistrust was
no eradicated. Tension is great for freedom, so he doesn’t want to get rid of it.
• What’s good about mistrust according to Machiavelli? (The poor don’t trust the
rich and vice versa) Safe guards liberty because each side will always look at
what the other side is doing. Tribunes are great because they keep the people in
check, and keeps the tension between classes. (page 93)
• Prince: Two personalities: (chapter 5, page 94)… Weighs pros and cons of
entrusting liberty to the people? (96) Who is best at safeguarding the liberty? It
depends on who you want, if you want great good then imitate the Romans (trust
the people with power and liberty), if you want to be a stable Republic that can
defend itself then imitate Venice/Sparta (imitate the nobles). The nobility are more
reliable for protecting liberty. Sparta and Venice lived longer, not saying at the
end of the day you should trust the nobles but more the opposite. (page 101): It’s
boring and dangerous for a state to see liberty, chapter 6: in life nothing stands still, things cannot stay in the same place they must either be rising or falling…
Machiavelli seems to say stability is not really an option.
• Glory is on the side of those states that rise and that are powerful. Machiavelli
chooses 400 years of Roman power, over 800 years of Spartan stability. Longevity
is not the only thing that matters at the end of the day, but power matters, (page
• Safer to entrust the protection of liberty to the people, can only build an empire
with the support of the people.
• There are two was in which liberty can be acquired and manitined: 1) Mixed
constitutions (both nobles and people have a voice) 2) a ruler should set up
institutions where the conflict between two institutions can be checked in healthy
• Other means to create and protect liberty: thinks that laws that give people a right
to make public accusations are extremely beneficial.
• Why are the laws so beneficial? 1) Easier to accuse someone in court, it serves as
a deterrent against abuse 2) Allow the scheme to get out of the pot, all republics
will be faced with lots of resentment and those energies must be voiced and let
• Machiavelli is convinced that starting a war with someone can keep things orderly
at home and get rid of the desire for vengeance and their destructive capacity
• When wars outside are finished, those inside begin.
Good citizen according to Machiavelli : prince/rulers or people/citizens (participate in
politics) can do both… but say explicitly what you concentrate on… good citizen is also
similar to the good prince, can concentrate on one or both.
• Chapter 9 & 10: (basically repeats the prince) Machiavelli will tell you that if
you’re going to found a new state or reform it drastically then use whatever means