Lecture 14: Machiavelli, The Prince
Outline of the Lecture
1. Review of Wednesday's lecture: the role of Fortune in human affairs
a) The relationship between Fortune and free will
b) When Fortune thwarts our plans and ambitions
c) How to overcome or subdue Fortune; Fortune as a woman attracted by vir
d) Roman and Christian attitudes towards Fortune
2. Chapter 25: M on Fortune: no Divine Providence; half (or "thereabouts") of our
actions are under our control; wrongs can be put to right
a) Make oneself an ally of Fortune
b) The goods bestowed by Fortune: glory and honour
3. Chapter 26: Exhortation to seize Italy and free her from the barbarians
a) How to achieve lasting glory and honour: good government
b) M as theorist of ideology
Review of Last Lecture
• People care about their property; they are selfish and don’t want others bothering
with their stuff
• ForAristotle generosity means the middle ground
• For Machiavelli; both extremes give you the bad reputation but for the prince
should be cheap because that is the most affordable
• Lewis tries his best to be a good Christian but he does not understand what virtue
really is because it has changed by being Christian
• Agathocles became too cruel to everyone all the time – there is no glory in cruelty
• One has to form a new army, founding new laws
• Upon founding a new army someone has to found new laws
• How does a prince get glory? Through order, stability and peace
• Both Epicurus and Glaucon see justice as an invention of the weak. The best thing
we can do is instigating laws to protect ourselves from one another. The purpose
of the Republic is to rebut the view that justice is used to run an orderly life.
• Epicurus says that justice is just an invention of the weak. Something that we
create in order to restrain other people.
• Justice is an invention of the strong for Machiavelli. Those capable of climbing to
the highest heights and capable of creating new orders, arms and laws in the
service of peace, security, stability and accumulation.
• Build upon the people because their needs are easy to satisfy.
• Machiavelli thinks of politics being in the service of self-preservation.
M on Fortune:God falls out of the picture
“I am not unaware of the fact that many have held and still hold the view that the affairs
of this world are so completely governed by fortune and by God that human prudence is
incapable of correcting them.” “Since our free will must not be eliminated, I think it may be true that fortune determines
one half our actions, but that, even so, she leaves us to control the other half, or
“Our rulers [who have lost their power] should not blame fortune but their own
indolence. For when times were quiet they never once considered the possibility that they
might change (it is a common human failing not to plan ahead for stormy weather while
the sun shines). When difficult times did come, they thought of flight, not self- defense.”
• Chapter 5 “I am not aware of the fact… human prudence is not able of correcting
• The conventional view says that half of our actions are governed by fortune and
god governs the other half.
• There is no room for responsibility for the individual – no space for human
• People don’t think wrongs can be turned to rights.
• This reminds us ofAugustine who says; human beings are right for throwing their
hands up in despair because we are just pilgrims passing through. God is in
control and things ought to be a matter of indifference. The earth is not a home for
human beings, only heaven is.
• Machiavelli later on drops god out of the picture and makes it free will and
fortune. The irony is that free will is a Christian doctrine.
• This is something to be celebrated because fortune unlike god doesn’t have
complete control over us. It can be made our ally, which implies human agency is
stronger than human fortune.
• Fortune can be overcome through foresight, planning and virtue. He also sees it as
something that can be overcome.
• One sure way to be undone by fortune is to show a lack of flexibility. Princes
have a bad habit of never changing how they act. Ex. Borgia was over weaning in
• Success depends on adapting ones self to the circumstances. Our natural
inclination is to always be the same person. The point is that we have to learn
when not to be ourselves. Ex. cautious people not to be cautious.
• Fortune is seen the same way. We have to achieve a flexibility we don’t possess
by nature. We have to conquer ourselves in order to not conquer fortune.
• Pg.75 – I think a ruler will flourish if he adjusts his policies as the characters of
times changes. He will fail if he doesn’t follow policies of that time.
• When Machiavelli tried to think of the influence of human affairs on humans – he
looked back at the romans. The romans always ask themselves how they can get
fortune to bestow their powers on them and not others.Although fortune is a
goddess she is still a woman, meaning she is attracted by the veer (the man of true
manliness). Fortune likes to reward manly courage.
• Livy for example says several times that fo