Cassirer, Nietzsche and Niccolò Machiavelli's The Prince
When the word "Renaissance" is mentioned, an image of love for antiquity learning and fine arts usually springs to one's mind. Yet this perception, however legitimate it may be in many areas of Renaissance human achievements, shatters in the face of Niccolò Machiavelli's masterpiece The Prince. Unlike his contemporary Baldassare Castiglione who exemplified subtlety, Machiavelli was ruthlessly practical, nonchalantly callous, and admirably seamless in his logics about the bloody art of political power.
By all accounts The Prince, is a handbook on the acquisition and maintenance of political power. Neither can it be argued any otherwise, like Ernest Cassirer has acknowledged in…show more content… (p164, "New Theory of the State") The keen observer that was Machiavelli merely organized and publicized the thoughts that once were only whispered amongst the political elites.
However, while The Prince can hardly be convicted of being a product of malice, what the readers cannot forget is that Machiavelli based his Political Ruler 101 on his fundamental and unshakable personal philosophical conviction that men are inherently self-serving. Cassirer recognizes Machiavelli for his cynical side: "we shall never understand [man] as long as we are suffering from the illusion of his 'original goodness'" (p163, "New Theory of the State"). Much like Thomas More who had the fictional More and Raphael Hythloday—two halves of his same philosophical self—arguing about the practicality of an ideal society in Utopia, Ernest Cassirer attempted to draw a distinction between Machiavelli the idealist who cherished dreams of a Republic and Machiavelli the pragmatist who was necessarily pessimistic about the natures of human and politics alike. The liberal Machiavelli ventured that "the aim of the common people is more honest than that of the nobles" (p28); while the cynical Machiavelli claimed that "any man who tries to be good all the time is bound to come to ruin among the great number who are not good." (p42)
The darker Machiavelli's views are echoed in Fredrich Nietzsche's philosophy. In his "Morals as Fossilized Violence", Nietzsche charged that humans at