POL200Y1 Lecture Notes - Philopoemen, Social Contract, Girolamo Savonarola

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11 Apr 2012
POL200Y1: Visions of the Just/Good Society February 1st, 2012.
Machiavelli, The Prince: Chapters 9-14
On Chapter Eight: According to Chapter One of The Prince, all principalities are
acquired by either virtue or fortune. At the beginning of Chapter Eight, however,
Machiavelli suggests that in Chapters Eight and Nine we’ll encounter kinds of
principalities acquired by neither virtue nor fortune. What has happened here?
Did Machiavelli change his mind while he was writing his book, or remember
something that he had forgotten, but was too lazy or careless to return to correct
Chapter One?
Machiavelli offers Agathocles as the poster boy for all who have ascended to a
principality through crime rather than through virtue. Yet the central question of
the chapter proves to be that of Agathocles’ virtue? Was Agathocles virtuous or
wasn’t he? Why can’t Machiavelli get his story straight?
Remember, when you take the lesson of Moses from last class, you lose real morality.
Therefore, virtue remains to be only defined as being good at whatever we‟re talking
about: namely, making and keeping nations.
The simplest way to criticize Agathocles is to say all he did was WRONG. But
Machiavelli doesn‟t say that, but says simply that his actions didn‟t give him the respect,
honor of people after him.
Compare Agathocles to other revolutionary leaders, king etc. They committed the same
crimes! What leader hasn‟t killed, stolen, lied etc etc…The only difference is that the
„prophets‟ had something that just appealed honorable, and less criminal: they had a good
Agathocles just came off as a dick. That‟s the only difference.
In Chapter 8, Machiavelli has considered the most infamous way of coming to
power: through crime. In Chapter 9 he considers the most respectable way to do so:
through election by one’s fellow citizens. See if you can state the difference between
coming to power through crime and doing so through Machiavelli’s recommended
means of gaining election.
In Chapter 9 Machiavelli brings a new factor (and a new actor) onto the stage of the
Prince: “the people.” What is this “people” and what does it want? How would you
compare its desires to those of the opposing faction, “the great”? Does Machiavelli
present the people as morally superior to the grabby great?
No thinker we studied so far has based their political theory on upheaval of a state. They
recognized upheaval but did not make it the standard. All the ancient political theorists
we studied had lofty political goals, and that politics should aim high.
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POL200Y1: Visions of the Just/Good Society February 1st, 2012.
Machiavelli‟s debunking of the ethical definition of virtue, leaves him at a better foothold
with the people: methods through which the people can become powerful?
“The two factions: the great and the people”: the city is never a cohesive unit.
So who‟s humour is more important: the people‟s! Whereas the great want to EXPLOIT,
the people just want to be defended. One is not more selfish than the other; one just has
lesser demands. The people‟s goal is simply more decent, less ambitious. Basically, they
are apolitical: not concerned with ruling. Therefore, it is easier to satisfy people: that‟s
why you should win their favour, they still need a ruler: just not one that will oppress and
exploit them. Why do people make contracts? Cuz their profitable, and we‟re selfish.
Earlier political thinker thought in terms of brotherhood, friendship etc: actually caring
about other people. Social contract theory, though, is based on selfishness: we don‟t care
about it, we just agree with it because its safer. Social contract is realistic: because it
doesn‟t ask people to rise above their selfish instincts.
Later political theorists will characterize people like Machiavelli has: people as stupid
and apolitical, the great as exploitative.
Ultimately, Machiavelli says to Hoodwink the Great, to destroy them, then Hoodwnk the
people: rule them w/ an iron fist, which is similar to Agathocles. Therefore, there is no
real difference b/w coming to power through crime, and through the election of the
people; you‟re still an exploitative, power hungry ruler.
Once again Machiavelli seems to be floundering about. The order of Chapters 10
and 11 makes no sense. As the last of a series of chapters on specific types of
principality, chapter 11 should follow Chapter 9; as a chapter about principalities in
general, Chapter 10 should follow Chapter 11 and precede Chapter 12. Or should
it? Can you make sense of the present order of Chapters 10 and 11?
By talking about general principalities, then ecclesiastical principalities Machiavelli says
a lesson.
You would think you would read chapter 10, and take those lessons to Chapter 11.
Chapter 10: notice that there are no Italian examples. Uses German cities…. WHICH
OBEY NO SECULAR POWER. It seems hard to attack such cities because the people
will fall back to their prince for protection. He says not to do frontal attack. You have to
hang back, plant doubts etc. Destroy the loyalty of the people to the prince. Theme of
chapter is how to assess an enemy.
Chapter 11: Is chapter 11 the enemy: the eccliastical principality. Is strategy the same as
chapter 10?
If you‟re an ecclesiastic prince (the Pope), you have it really good. What does
Machiavelli mean when he says the Pope has subjects he doesn‟t protect, yet are still
loyal etc etc: has rulership, but doesn‟t need the virtues of a ruler. BECAUSE THE
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