Ethics in Machiavelli's The Prince Essay example

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Ethics in Machiavelli's The Prince Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527) was an Italian statesman and political philosopher. He was employed on diplomatic missions as defence secretary of the Florentine republic, and was tortured when the Medici returned to power in 1512. When he retired from public life he wrote his most famous work, The Prince (1532), which describes the means by which a leader may gain and maintain power. The Prince has had a long and chequered history and the number of controversies that it has generated is indeed surprising. Almost every ideology has tried to appropriate it for itself - as a result everyone from Clement VII to Mussolini has laid claim to it. Yet there were times when it was terribly unpopular. Its…show more content…
Let us get a few fundamental facts clear. Nowhere in The Prince or The Discourses does Machiavelli explicitly make morality or ethics his concern. Nor does he openly eschew it. Only one specific ethical system, the Christian ethic has no place in Machiavelli. That is easily inferred because from the very first pages a system based more on the power of arms than on Christian love is spoken of. Murder is condoned when necessary. Virtue and vice are not seen so much as black and white as interchangeable shades of grey. This does not however exclude the possibility of a separate ethical paradigm which Machiavelli might have thought of for his state. This is in accordance with Berlin's suggestion of a 'pagan' paradigm [8]. Morality per se, comes in only when The Prince deems it compatible with Necessitas and Fortuna [9].The separate ethical paradigm must therefore be one founded on political necessities. The Prince itself is avowedly political. Its object is the clear and concise statement of a foolproof political program for Italian princes. It begins by clearly classifying the types of principality, how one wins them and how to hold them. There is a very well-informed section on the war tactics prevalent in the peninsula together with Machiavelli's own theories for improving these. And there is the unscrupulous advice, which gained the book so much infamy. But The Prince is not unique among Machiavelli's books. The Discourses carry on the ideas found in The
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