Niccolo Machiavelli is revered as the founder of modern political philosophy. He was considered a “realist” because he concerned himself only with the political situations that actually arose in reality, where as previous philosophers were concerned largely with the theoretical politics of an “idealist” perfect society. In Machiavellis’ The Prince, written to the ruler of Florence at the time, Lorenzo de’ Medici, he analyzes the characteristics of numerous past rulers. In doing so, Machiavelli presents Medici with a sort of guidebook of successful political practices. Machiavelli goes against Platonic philosophy. Whereas Plato believed that human kind was virtuous by nature, with evil men being but a small faction of the species, Machiavelli felt that it was the virtuous who were a minority in a world of evil men. Machiavelli goes on to say that the evil majority would generally overcome the virtuous few.
Thus it is the duty of rulers to safeguard themselves from the evil men by committing non-virtuous acts. Rather than contemplating how one might change human nature, Machiavelli was more interested in using it to serve his own ends.Machiavelli begins by saying that the most difficult thing for a ruler to do is to acquire a new kingdom.
This may be accomplished one of two ways, “either by the arms of others or by one’s own, either by fortune or virtue.”What he means by the “arms of others” and “fortune” is monarchs that inherit their kingdoms. When Machiavelli refers to using one’s own arms or “virtue,” he is in fact equating virtue with force. By advocating the use of force, Machiavelli became the first political thinker to suggest power politics. According to Machiavelli, acquiring a kingdom by force is perfectly all right, because the desired end justifies any means necessary to achieve it. He does however instruct Medici as to “the good and bad use of cruelties.
”By this, Machiavelli is referring to both the effective and non-effective uses of force. Machiavelli states that “Good use is when…is when they acts of cruelty are perpetrated all at once…and subsequently not repeated.” Much like the reign or terror instituted by C.
Marius in the late Roman republic or the killing of the Russian royal family during the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. Machiavelli advocated the swift use of blatant force to kill off the opposition as well as to strike fear into the hearts of the masses. Over time the ruler may make the use of his force less often, thus giving him the appearance of being kind. Machiavelli goes on to say that the bad use of cruelty is when they are increased rather than extinguished with the passage of time.”When cruelty is implemented in such a way, the populaces mood changes from one of fear to one of hatred. Machiavelli also instructs Lorenzo de Medici that a successful ruler should be both loved and feared. However, since it is quite difficult to gain a reputation for two such contrasting traits, “it much more secure to be feared than to be loved.
”It is better to be feared because men, being evil natured, are more prone to turn on a man who they loved than a man they fear. Machiavelli goes on to say that a successful ruler does not necessarily have to possess every good human trait but that “it is truly necessary that he appear to have them.”Niccolo Machiavelli is regarded by many as an unscrupulous man. Some disagree with his policy of implementing calculated violence. Others disagree with his notion that ends justify means. However, Machiavelli was correct in that these are all things that have proven successful in politics both before and after his life.