Julian Figueroa’s Impressions on The Prince!

The Prince is an interesting treatise, and I was really glad to have read it. So far, it is quite independent from all the other pieces of literature we have read, as it is non-fiction in the form of a didactic. In this text, the author, Niccolo Machiavelli, outlines methods that a prince should take in governing his populace. He describes the consequences of failing to do so, raises some great examples (Hannibal, etc.) to support his notions, and begins the piece with an introduction (essentially chapters 1 and 2), explaining the scope of the book, and concluding it. Essentially an essay.

His ideas that one must strike fear to the people below him is one that has been employed by many rulers, before and after him. Although I do find it quite unfair that  people credit any “Prince-esque” ruler post-Machiavelli to derive inspiration from him, as he did not invent the concepts of things such as love versus fear, strength in unity, faithful representation, etc. He simply outlines them in his book, which at the time would have sounded much more like political commentary rather than a creation of something brand new, akin to the works of Marx… or something like that.

Nonetheless, it is a great piece of literature, and it will continue to be timeless as the points brought up are not really refutable. What I mean by that, is that they are passable ways to control a populace, and this has been proven by centuries of rule before and after the release of The Prince.  We have modern day Machiavellis everywhere, Kissinger, Obama, Kennedy, you name it. And their legacies alone will live to inspire future politicians until the end of time.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading The Prince. It really tied into our reading of The Republic and Machiavelli raises some great, interesting points about dictatorships throughout.

The Prince — Analysis

I find myself to thoroughly enjoy shorter reads that are filled with much insight and knowledge, and I think that The Prince by Machiavelli does exactly that. However, I did not find this read to be all that interesting to me. I initially thought that this book would strike my interest and by right up my alley when it came to preferences, but that was definitely not the case for me here. But in spite of this opinion, I thought that the text was substantial and a great outline of how one can gain power and superiority.

This text is quite reminiscent to Plato’s account, as they merely take the same route by creating an intricate guide to help others succeed in a certain area. Much like Plato’s Republic, The Prince describes step-by-step the way in which a man should act, or the course he should take if he desires to prevail as a Prince. Upon reading Machiavelli’s guide to success, I began to compare past characters we have analyzed in this course to Machiavelli’s expectations and rules; basically seeing which characters are Machiavelli, and which are not. Machiavelli’s dialect acts as a mere handbook dictating the seemingly proper way in which one should rule.

Furthermore, I also found in this book that Machiavelli expresses how a Prince mustn’t be dominated by emotion. I found this to be interesting, for as stated above, this particular rule or standard, is quite similar to Plato’s handbook, which states that guardians should not show extreme emotion of any sort for they will appear as weak. Also, in the guide, Machiavelli also states how a Prince must maintain a proper illusion of goodness to find confidence in his citizens, as a means of strengthening his support from fellow citizens in his nation. With all these little suggestions and rules, I think that it is safe to say that Machiavelli makes extreme presumptions about us as human beings. He is quick to generalize humans, and thinks that we are easily manipulated and naïve.  Although I believe that instilling a strong, political structure in a nation is of great importance, I do think that Machiavelli has some harsh and cruel expectations.

Overall, I found this to be a somewhat intriguing read. Although I got bored at many parts and found this book to be more of a task than a fun and interesting read, I thought that it was alright.

The Prince

While reading Machiavelli’s “The Prince” I was consistently amazed by many of Machiavelli’s ideals and principles. I feel like I finally understand why “The Prince” is such an important book, as many of Machiavelli’s ideas are still applicable today for the modern ruler. Ultimately it seems like Machiavelli was one of the first of his time to be truly cynical when it came to power, and how to achieve it. Machiavelli doesn’t view power as a luxury, he sees it more as a necessity, and the way to get it is through his very precise and almost scientific methods outlined in “The Prince”. While a lot of his ideas are fantastic and still sort of applicable (ex. better to rule with fear than love), there are others which didn’t quite relate to me (such as conquering foreign lands), yet it was still really interesting to read about Machiavelli’s thoughts and historical evidence and stories.

Maybe it shows how times have changed, but I feel like a Machiavellian leader is much more difficult to come across today. While there will always be those strange exceptions like North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un and Russia’s Vladimir Putin, the majority of world leaders seem to have strayed away from being Machiavellian, and instead understand that their relationship with their people is actually important, and being truly virtuous as well. While I have never met Barack Obama, I feel like I can safely say that he isn’t faking his kindness and virtues, and that he is indeed a kind man with the goal of improving the average American’s well being. While leaders are less Machiavellian in that way, the fact that results are what matter has not changed.

The fact that results still are what truly matters is what makes Machiavelli’s “The Prince” still applicable today. “The Prince” is all about getting results, and making sure that those results are never compromised due to uprisings or political enemies outsmarting you. I guess that’s something that will never change about politics and power, and that’s what makes Machiavelli’s work so important, is that it teaches the most important aspect and doesn’t dance around talking about other aspects of ruling which can change with time. Machiavelli’s “The Prince” is all about results, and it remains such an important piece of literature today because our society is still based around results, and probably always will be.

The Prince

            Machiavelli’s The Prince was a text I enjoyed. The Prince is a must have guide book for aspiring and established Princes a like. Upon first reading the book I was confused, I had confused The Prince with another text about etiquette. However in the letter Machiavelli talks about social conduct and the expectation of letter writing ad receiving, which is kind of the same thing. He also talks about how a Prince should be, although it is more political in nature than just for elitism.

            The structure of The Prince was something I found to be reader accessible and easy to follow. The chapters were concise and to the point. In fact I thought they were really short and that in comparison it makes Plato look massive. He uses historical examples to show his observation on how one should rule, what weakness each has and how it could be further improved. The beginning of Machiavelli’s Prince starts with a letter and a dedication where we could not only view his status, intent or relationship to the intended audience, but also see how he is like as a character. Machiavelli is very interesting and he sets himself up in his letter and dedication. He calls himself lowly and humble, offering his He is also rather suspicious in nature, where he contemplates for what reason would Francesco Vettori would stop writing back to him and the idea that “that chap” (page 4) would take the credit for his book. This is not surprising, as you read on, you find he believes that the outer appearance of a Prince should be one of helpfulness, while behind his back decisive and not tied to justice. The voice of Machiavelli is interesting as he continues in an advice and lowers himself. I thought he was quite logical, and gave good examples on why his advice is advantageous and valuable in practice.

            The lecture spoke of the Machiavellism and the Machiavelli villain, which had many fun examples. I am looking forward to hearing what everyone has to say in the lecture.

Machiavelli in Practice

I remember the first time I was introduced to Machiavelli’s political philosophy. A friend of mine finished reading his presentation before my Philosophy class and the first question I asked was “So is he just an inhumane dick?” After reading his political guide and Looking back on my initial thoughts, I realize how naive I was to just shrug it off for its harsh rational. Evidence of the truth in his  preachings surrounds history.
Within the first few chapter I immediately found myself agreeing with many of Machiavelli’s laws. The first was perfectly relevant to me. If you are to strike your enemies, you must cripple them to never retaliate. As ruthless as it sounds its argument is sound. After the Great War, Britain, France and the United States were left in a position to disarm and dissolve Germany beyond recovery. Instead they chose to scold them into temporary economic hardship and reduce their military strength, rather than eradicate it’s presence entirely through disassembling Germany’s territory. This was a crucial mistake that only served to backfire upon the Entente Alliance with the restructuring and rebirth of the Third Reich and Hitlers avenging European conquest. If the Entente powers had applied Machiavellian principles, the largest conflict in the history of mankind may of been avoided.  As cruel as it would have been to cripple Germany beyond repair we can see in hindsight that it would have been for the better.

Another valid assessment is that neutrality or peace among rivals is evasive and futile. Conflict should confronted immediately or it will only impede the inevitable and give the enemy the time necessary to strengthen it’s strike. Another evident historical context is the Nazi-Soviet Pact signed between the USSR and Germany. Through Stalin’s consent, he only averted an inevitable conflict between the two powers and spared Germany a strengthened opposing force. Doing so lost respect from the West and allowed itself to be stabbed in the back with the German assault on Stalingrad .

Machiavelli’s dialect is used as a primer for any leader, and acts as a handbook dictating how to rule and be represented. A Prince should maintain the illusion of goodness or the guise of morality to appease and find confidence in the nations citizens. This tactic serves to strengthen a rulers support by the masses and suppresses revolution. Furthermore a Prince should not follow the advice from advisers or share his power amongst the nobles. Stalin’s purges and 5 Year Labor Plans were kept in omission from the populace by censoring the press from the Russian people. Doing so weeded out all rivalry and threats within his regime and kept his people in check while committing his atrocities. Millions were placed in labor camps under excruciating conditions. Hundreds of thousands died from the harsh conditions and all objectors were executed to instill fear. Doing so restructured the USSR into industrial prosperity that would ascend it to the level of the world’s only other Super Power. The atrocities committed were horrendously inhumane, but it saved the country from political and economic turmoil. According to Machiavelli these ends were justified and the necessary steps to achieve them were irrelevant.

Machiavelli acknowledges that a Prince must not be pervased and dominated by emotion. Essentially it has no place within politics. The role must be filled with someone who is a martyr of his or her own conscious and rules their actions by cold and calculating logic alone. Men are futile and must be governed through fear. My boss once practiced Machiavelli principles when he first took place as ruler of his new “principality”/supermarket. He fired two managers within his first week. Their work was nothing special, but was adequate at the very least. I’ve never seen so many workers snap in line and work so diligently.

I hate to be a defender of Machiavelli with his ideals, but they do hold some truth in practice.

The Prince

Wow, If only I could rename this book from “The Prince” to “The Survival Guide to American Politics”. It appears as though politicians in the US (that’s where I live) have been rereading this book over and over. The dishonesty that we see in today’s politicians seems no different from what Machiavelli was trying for when he wrote this text. What I saw as a very disturbing pattern in the book was the disregard for citizens of the state. The only importance placed is on the prince. We are not shown the qualities of a good or virtuous leader within the text. What we are shown is how to survive as ruler while simultaneously doing as little as possible for the good of the people. Constantly we hear that is important to control the masses and make them believe that you, as the prince, is doing what is best for the state.

It is stated that a prince should hope to replicate the hereditary laws and customs of rule. It is not important as the prince to try and produce new laws that could benefit society. The importance is creating a political structure which could be just as flawed as the previous when that was adopted. We simply hear of ways to avoid unrest from citizens. And if the flock happens to disagree with the structure you put into place, you always have the option of killing everything off. It truly shows the role Machiavelli places on the prince and what he considers leadership to be. To him, all that is important is establishing yourself as the prince; from that point, you can attempt to maintain this position by the simplest and least contradictory means.

I feel as though Machiavelli makes many assumptions about humans. Whether these are true or not, he appears to generalize humans as sheepish and easily manipulated. As much as I would love to agree with that statement, I believe it is necessary to provide a political structure based more around removing these individuals from this docile state. I believe that the prince is responsible for aiding the state, not just himself. Leaders should try to improve their domain without the condition of gaining loyalty in the process. This produces leaders who lack sincere passion for their role and who merely attempt to hold onto their status as the prince.

The Prince by Machiavelli

I really like this book, I’ll just get that out there. This is not to say that were I ever to magically become a 16th century prince I would adopt its principals, but I do find it very interesting, and therefore an enjoyable read. An old teacher of mind mentioned that it was possibly written as a sort of joke. I don’t think, however, that this is a commonly held belief, but I do see how it could be viewed satirically. Was Machiavelli intending to be sarcastic? Perhaps the lecture will address this. On the topic of defining “The Prince” I found the form of it very intriguing. As it was written as a sort of gift, it feels very much like a letter at some points, almost conversational. And yet it’s also very much a “how-to” type book. If you want to be a successful ruler, this is how to do it. Again, I’m not entirely sure if this was Machiavelli’s true opinion, but for now I’ll treat it as though it was. And what an opinion it is. That’s one of my favourite parts about this text, the bold statements it makes, such as how he says that, in a way, cruelty is more compassionate than compassion itself, for it sacrifices a few for the sake of many. What I’ve been taught and how I’ve been brought up leads me to morally object to this, but I’d like to avoid simply brushing him off by saying ‘no Machiavelli, you’re wrong and a meanie’.

As an argument, it’s all very logical, in a pessimist way. Near the end he states “men are always wicked, unless you give them no alternative but to be good”. With this point of view, his opinions on ruling do seem necessary. This reminds me in many ways of Hobbes, and his need for the ‘leviathan’ to keep people in check. Another logical he has is about change. Though it seems very simple, he essentially says change leads to more change. But, this is what causes a whole wealth of problems, he believes, for princes. This is interesting in the context of modern democratic politics, because change is the thing most politicians base their platforms on. Though I suppose it’s no surprize that things have changed drastically since the 1500s. Still, this idea of change begetting change stuck in my mind.

With Plato, I think most of us were very sceptical that his ideal state would actually work. Now, with Machiavelli’s guide to ruling, do you think this would actually work? Morals aside (though as we’ve established, this isn’t exactly possible) do you think fear is logically more effective than love at keeping citizens loyal? Are people wicked by nature? I still haven’t quite decided whether I’m more of an optimist or pessimist, as my opinion changes fairly frequently. But I think I may agree with certain elements of human nature that Machiavelli brings up, though he didn’t quite persuaded me of his solution.

The Prince

The Prince is like an easier version of The Republic in some ways. Or perhaps the political version of it. The book begins with the letter from Machiavelli to Lorenzo de Medici and this letter is very interesting because it outlines the fact that this book was written in order to show the ruler Machiavelli’s thought process along with his intelligence when it comes to political strategy. Machiavelli has some ideas about politics and state which while seemingly complex and controversial in some ways are political ideas which we all think about and yet don’t talk about. One of the most effective line from the book is about people being either “caressed” or “crushed” which I think is interesting because that is often what governments do. However at the same time I think that his ideas are true in some ways. He is merely writing about politics in a straightforward way – he does not try and sugarcoat what people have to do in order to retain power and I think that is the most important part of the book. Many people lie and try and go around the truth in order to make it see less harsh and try to tone down ways to control things however Machiavelli does not try and sugarcoat anything.

I was surprised to find that I liked this book a great deal. While political things do not really interest me in general I found this book both interesting and educational because politics normally would not interest me at all. Machiavelli’s book has small chapters about the different kinds of cities and states and types of imperialism and control. Machiavelli’s book also takes each different subject or type of rule and then looks at it in different ways in order to see just how to handle each individual situation with relations to kinds of countries conquered. Machiavelli also mainly talks about ways in order to keep control of conquered cities and countries and this is an indicator of the time they lived in since one of the main problems at that time was probably being able to keep control of the cities which we had conquered. This book not only provides a window into the lives and politics of the people of his time but also emphasizes how the politics and political problems of today have changed from the problems of the past. While this book is about political problems of the past it may also be used in order to look at problems today.

Machiavelli: More Machinery

The thing about Machiavelli is that although I don’t want to agree with what he is saying I do, wholeheartedly. The one key difference between Machiavelli and Plato is that Plato sees men as they ought to be, while Machiavelli sees men as they are, and works with that. I think if one wanted to learn how to understand the flawed mindset of mankind in order to dominate it this would be the book for them. Although the general theme of this book (power at all costs) made me feel uncomfortable, Machiavellis insights on politics, loyalty, and human priorities were depressingly accurate. He knows it is “easy to persuade people  of something, but difficult to change their minds” He knows that men fear punishment more than they honor obligation. Etc. Etc.

He knows all this is “just so” and therefore works it into his plan for an ultimate ruler. The truly uncomfortable part is when you realize the whole doctrine is only trying to continue this idea of self interest. What I mean is this: Machiavelli encourages his ruler to only look after themselves. Even when he encourages this leader to do something for his people, or to be noble and to make agreements, it is only ever to strengthen his position as a ruler. In doing this, Machiavelli seems to forget that the role of a ruler is to ‘look after” his people. Similarly,  killings and deceit are just another part of his system that maintains power. Slaughter and generousity are really no different from each other in Machiavellis eyes, they are each just a tool you can use to achieve the same goal. He recommends you have selfless advisors, but these advisors are here to serve you best. There seems to be more focus on simply staying in power and being “great”, rather than doing something significant for your people.

Because of this focus on the individual ruler and individual success, it is obvious that no two good rulers could coexist. If both were as good as Machiavelli hopes, they would expand across continents until they met each other, and according to Machiavellis ideas, one would always eventually find a way to get the upper hand over the other. That’s just the “way it works” So what Machiavellis plan or rule book would ultimately lead to is a massive dictatorship over a massive empire. World domination even.  If a populace was that big, would all the rules of a perfect leader still apply? Or would some of them erode on themselves and begin to act the other way? Power is a scary thing.