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Lecture

POL200Y1 Lecture Notes - Cesare Borgia


Department
Political Science
Course Code
POL200Y1
Professor
Clifford Orwin

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POL200Y1: Visions of the Just/Good Society February 9th, 2012.
Machiavelli, The Prince: Chapters 15-18
Philosophy by Plato:
Either be corrupted for use of others, or abandon society.
But Machiavelli has a third option: create your own society.
Machiavelli though holds that these third types of individuals to form new societies is
fear: society fears them, therefore makes itself their biggest fear.
Fear is at the centre of it all, according to Machiavelli, and Hobbes will democratize this
fear.
Machiavelli is the rogue thinker, who, unlike Plato, who decides to reserve himself to the
theoretical world, actually tries to surmount the effectual world: being in favour of a
practical goal. Machiavelli therefore brings the supreme human being closer to us, allows
him to collaborate with us. Machiavelli though, suggests ways of working out this
problem of mutual fear.
Chapter 15
Call to arms for modernity. Title: “Human Beings as Such and Ways Through Which
Princes are Praised or Blamed”
Why doesn‟t Machiavelli call it Virtues and Vices, instead of Praise and Blame?
Machiavelli says he doesn‟t want to be presumptuous (also says this in dedicatory letter
for giving advice to Lorenzo). Then says „my intent is to write something useful to
anyone who is able to understand it” NOT LORENZO, US!
Philosopher: “I hold no sin but ignorance.” A playwright says that through the character
of Machiavelli.
Brings about effectual truth vs. imagined truth.
Effectual truth: truth backed by evidence! REAL LIFE evidence! Effectual truth applied
= whatever works in practice, rather than what seems logical! You can rewrite what logic
is to what works! à Science! What is true is what you can prove in real life, what works!
What you get is knowledge for the sake of power. Knowledge for the sake of itself: the
classic philosopher, is useless, its not even real! Its just acquiring knowledge for the sake
of knowledge.
(One of the biggest influence is in fact Francis Bacon: the theoretical foundation builder
of modern science: he states that the smartest scientist (not politician) is the greatest
benefit to humankind.)
Says lots of people imagine principalities (classically, Plato and The Republic). But there
is an enormous gulf between way one is supposed to live, and how one actually lives.
Machiavelli might see that such imaginary principalities are just coping mechanisms for
the bewildered.
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POL200Y1: Visions of the Just/Good Society February 9th, 2012.
Common interpretation of this paragraph: its good to be good, bad to be bad, but to
preserve ourselves, we must sometimes sink to badness: Tragic Christian Machiavellian
view.
Another interpretation: Machiavelli then uses pairs of virtues and vices (seems to be 10,
like 10 commandments, or, based on Tuscan dialect: 11: number of listed virtues in
Aristotle‟s ethics). But doesn‟t pose those qualities as whats to be chosen: this is good,
that is bad: but CHOICES. IN FACT, HE LISTS THE PAIRS IN A MIXED ORDER:
THE SEEMINGLY „GOOD‟ VIRTUE CHOICE SOMETIMES IS SAID FIRST,
SOMETIMES SAID SECOND.
Machiavelli doesn‟t say to avoid certain virtues and vices, but only suggests to not
APPEAR to have certain virtues and vices. In fact, he then says how some „virtues‟ when
pursued actually causes harm, and other „vices‟ are actually beneficial.
You would think that there is therefore a tension between being good, and doing what
benefits you, but if you read the sentence carefully, you understand that THE ONLY
GOOD IS WHAT BENEFITS YOU!!! VIRTUE SHOULD BE WHAT HELPS YOU,
NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND. VIRTUE IS NOT THE END THAT WE PURSUE
FOR ITS OWN, BUT SIMPLY BECOMES THE MEANS TO AN END: WHICH IS
SURVIVAL OR SUCCESS. HE, UNLIKE CLASSIC THINKERS, DOESN‟T THINK
THERE IS SOME HIGHER ENDS BEYOND SURVIVAL (BEING VIRTUOUS)
EXIST.
In the following chapters, he puts these virtues/vices to the test.
Chapter 16
Testing the virtue of liberality: giving the right amount to the right person. Aristotelian
gentleman gives the right amount to the right people.
Machiavelli starts off by painting liberality, like Aristotle, as a good thing.
But then Machiavelli says, that if you do, do it, it‟ll only harm you. BECAUSE THE
ONLY WAY TO GAIN THE REPUTATION FOR LIBERALITY IS TO GIVE MORE
THAN PEOPLE DESERVE, AND THAT IS UNAFFORDABLE, LEADING YOU TO
TAKE TO GIVE, SO DON‟T GO THERE. BETTER TO BE STINGY AND SETTLE
WITH THE REPUTATION OF STINGINESS. But Machiavelli defects from Aristotle
by caring about the appearance/reputation. Aristotle doesn‟t care about reputation.
He then suggests to be thrift, making that as a virtue. + he says, if you are stingy, people
will think you are liberal by not taking it from them à this is really making fun of
Aristotle in a sense)
(But do people really think that way: not really)
BUT THEN HE WITHDRAWS THAT CLAIM: he says the prince should not care about
being mean, but refers to it as a vice right after. And then gives some objections:
-If your on your way up to become a prince, you have to be a big spender, and when you
become a prince, that‟s when you stop spending.
- One can be as liberal as he likes, when it comes to giving other people‟s property. BUT
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