Niccolò Machiavelli

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The lion cannot protect himself from traps, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves. One must therefore be a fox to recognize traps, and a lion to frighten wolves.

Niccolò Machiavelli (May 3 1469June 21 1527) was a Florentine political philosopher, historian, musician, poet, and romantic comedic playwright. Machiavelli was also a key figure in realist political theory, crucial to European statecraft during the Renaissance.

Quotes[edit]

It ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.
It is better to be loved rather than feared, or feared rather than loved? It might perhaps be answered that we should wish to be both: but since love and fear can hardly exist together, if we must choose between them, it is far safer to be feared than loved.
Friendships that are won by awards, and not by greatness and nobility of soul, although deserved, yet are not real, and cannot be depended upon in time of adversity.
The prince must consider, as has been in part said before, how to avoid those things which will make him hated or contemptible … when neither their property nor honour is touched, the majority of men live content, and he has only to contend with the ambition of a few, whom he can curb with ease in many ways.
The first method for estimating the intelligence of a ruler is to look at the men he has around him.
Macchiavelli proposed three classes of intellects: one that comprehends by itself, another that appreciates what others comprehend, and a third that neither comprehends by itself nor by the showing of others — the first is best, the second good, and the third useless.
  • Occasionally words must serve to veil the facts. But let this happen in such a way that no one become aware of it; or, if it should be noticed, excuses must be at hand to be produced immediately.
    • Machiavelli's instructions to diplomat Raffaello Girolami, as quoted in Arthur Koestler's Darkness At Noon (1941), p. 169 of 2006 trade paperback printing by Simon & Schuster.
  • In judging policies we should consider the results that have been achieved through them rather than the means by which they have been executed.
    • From an undated letter to Piero Soderini (translated here by Dr. Arthur Livingston), in The Living Thoughts of Machiavelli, by Count Carlo Sforza, published by Cassell, London (1942), p. 85

The Prince (1513)[edit]

Original Italian title: Il Principe (written c. 1505)
  • Upon this, one has to remark that men ought either to be well treated or crushed, because they can avenge themselves of lighter injuries, of more serious ones they cannot; therefore the injury that is to be done to a man ought to be of such a kind that one does not stand in fear of revenge.
    • Ch. 3; Variant translation: Never do any enemy a small injury for they are like a snake which is half beaten and it will strike back the first chance it gets.
  • The Romans never allowed a trouble spot to remain simply to avoid going to war over it, because they knew that wars don't just go away, they are only postponed to someone else's advantage. Therefore, they made war with Philip and Antiochus in Greece, in order not to have to fight them in Italy... They never went by that saying which you constantly hear from the wiseacres of our day, that time heals all things. They trusted rather their own character and prudence — knowing perfectly well that time contains the seeds of all things, good as well as bad.
    • Ch. 3 (as translated by RM Adams) Variants [these can seem to generalize the circumstances in ways that the translation above does not.]: The Romans, foreseeing troubles, dealt with them at once, and, even to avoid a war, would not let them come to a head, for they knew that war is not to be avoided, but is only put off to the advantage of others.
      There is no avoiding war; it can only be postponed to the advantage of others.
  • If someone puts up the argument that King Louis gave the Romagna to Pope Alexander, and the kingdom of Naples to Spain, in order to avoid a war, I would answer as I did before: that you should never let things get out of hand in order to avoid war. You don't avoid such a war, you merely postpone it, to your own disadvantage.
    • Ch. 3 (as translated by RM Adams)
  • ...debbe un uomo prudente entrare sempre per vie battute da uomini grandi, e quelli che sono stati eccellentissimi, imitare...
    • A prudent man should always follow in the path trodden by great men and imitate those who are most excellent.
    • Ch. 6
  • It ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new. This coolness arises partly from fear of the opponents, who have the laws on their side, and partly from the incredulity of men, who do not readily believe in new things until they have had a long experience of them.
    • Ch. 6
  • Hence it comes that all armed prophets have been victorious, and all unarmed prophets have been destroyed.
    • Ch. 6
  • The chief foundations of all states, new as well as old or composite, are good laws and good arms; and as there cannot be good laws where the state is not well armed, it follows that where they are well armed they have good laws.
    • Ch. 12
  • A prince ought to have no other aim or thought, nor select anything else for his study, than war and its rules and discipline; for this is the sole art that belongs to him who rules, and it is of such force that it not only upholds those who are born princes, but it often enables men to rise from a private station to that rank. And, on the contrary, it is seen that when princes have thought more of ease than of arms they have lost their states. And the first cause of your losing it is to neglect this art; and what enables you to acquire a state is to be master of the art.
    • Ch. 14; Variant: A prince should therefore have no other aim or thought, nor take up any other thing for his study but war and it organization and discipline, for that is the only art that is necessary to one who commands.
  • Among other evils which being unarmed brings you, it causes you to be despised.
    • Ch 14
  • Many have imagined republics and principalities which have never been seen or known to exist in reality; for how we live is so far removed from how we ought to live, that he who abandons what is done for what ought to be done, will rather bring about his own ruin than his preservation.
    • Ch. 15
  • I say that every prince must desire to be considered merciful and not cruel. He must, however, take care not to misuse this mercifulness. … A prince, therefore, must not mind incurring the charge of cruelty for the purpose of keeping his subjects united and confident; for, with a very few examples, he will be more merciful than those who, from excess of tenderness, allow disorders to arise, from whence spring murders and rapine; for these as a rule injure the whole community, while the executions carried out by the prince injure only one individual. And of all princes, it is impossible for a new prince to escape the name of cruel, new states being always full of dangers. … Nevertheless, he must be cautious in believing and acting, and must not inspire fear of his own accord, and must proceed in a temperate manner with prudence and humanity, so that too much confidence does not render him incautious, and too much diffidence does not render him intolerant. From this arises the question whether it is better to be loved more than feared, or feared more than loved. The reply is, that one ought to be both feared and loved, but as it is difficult for the two to go together, it is much safer to be feared than loved, if one of the two has to be wanting. For it may be said of men in general that they are ungrateful, voluble, dissemblers, anxious to avoid danger, and covetous of gain ; as long as you benefit them, they are entirely yours; they offer you their blood, their goods, their life, and their children, as I have before said, when the necessity is remote; but when it approaches, they revolt. And the prince who has relied solely on their words, without making other preparations, is ruined, for the friendship which is gained by purchase and not through grandeur and nobility of spirit is merited but is not secured, and at times is not to be had. And men have less scruple in offending one who makes himself loved than one who makes himself feared; for love is held by a chain of obligation which, men being selfish, is broken whenever it serves their purpose; but fear is maintained by a dread of punishment which never fails.
    • Ch. 17, as translated by Luigi Ricci (1903)
    • Variant translations of portions of this passage:
    • From this arises the question whether it is better to be loved rather than feared, or feared rather than loved. It might perhaps be answered that we should wish to be both: but since love and fear can hardly exist together, if we must choose between them, it is far safer to be feared than loved.
    • He ought to be slow to believe and to act, nor should he himself show fear, but proceed in a temperate manner with prudence and humanity, so that too much confidence may not make him incautious and too much distrust render him intolerable.
    • The prince who relies upon their words, without having otherwise provided for his security, is ruined; for friendships that are won by awards, and not by greatness and nobility of soul, although deserved, yet are not real, and cannot be depended upon in time of adversity.
  • Still, a prince should make himself feared in such a way that if he does not gain love, he at any rate avoids hatred; for fear and the absence of hatred may well go together, and will be always attained by one who abstains from interfering with the property of his citizens and subjects or with their women. And when he is obliged to take the life of any one, to do so when there is a proper justification and manifest reason for it; but above all he must abstain from taking the property of others, for men forget more easily the death of their father than the loss of their patrimony. Then also pretexts for seizing property are never wanting, and one who begins to live by rapine will always find some reason for taking the goods of others, whereas causes for taking life are rarer and more quickly destroyed.
    • Ch. 17
  • How laudable it is for a prince to keep good faith and live with integrity, and not with astuteness, every one knows. Still the experience of our times shows those princes to have done great things who have had little regard for good faith, and have been able by astuteness to confuse men's brains, and who have ultimately overcome those who have made loyalty their foundation. You must know, then, that there are two methods of fighting, the one by law, the other by force: the first method is that of men, the second of beasts; but as the first method is often insufficient, one must have recourse to the second. It is therefore necessary to know well how to use both the beast and the man. This was covertly taught to princes by ancient writers, who relate how Achilles and many others of those princes were given to Chiron the centaur to be brought up, who kept them under his discipline; this system of having for teacher one who was half beast and half man is meant to indicate that a prince must know how to use both natures, and that the one without the other is not durable. A prince being thus obliged to know well how to act as a beast must imitate the fox and the lion, for the lion cannot protect himself from snares, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves. One must therefore be a fox to recognise snares, and a lion to frighten wolves. Those that wish to be only lions do not understand this. Therefore, a prudent ruler ought not to keep faith when by so doing it would be against his interest, and when the reasons which made him bind himself no longer exist. If men were all good, this precept would not be a good one; but as they are bad, and would not observe their faith with you, so you are not bound to keep faith with them.
    • Ch. 18
    • Variant translations of portions of this passage:
    • Every one admits how praiseworthy it is in a prince to keep faith, and to live with integrity and not with craft. Nevertheless our experience has been that those princes who have done great things have held good faith of little account, and have known how to circumvent the intellect of men by craft, and in the end have overcome those who have relied on their word.
      • Ch. 18. Concerning the Way in which Princes should keep Faith (as translated by W. K. Marriott)
    • A prince being thus obliged to know well how to act as a beast must imitate the fox and the lion, for the lion cannot protect himself from traps, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves. One must therefore be a fox to recognize traps, and a lion to frighten wolves.
    • You must know there are two ways of contesting, the one by the law, the other by force; the first method is proper to men, the second to beasts; but because the first is frequently not sufficient, it is necessary to have recourse to the second.
  • A prince never lacks legitimate reasons to break his promise.
    • Ch. 18
  • Every one sees what you appear to be, few really know what you are, and those few dare not oppose themselves to the opinion of the many, who have the majesty of the state to defend them.
    • Ch. 18
  • The prince must consider, as has been in part said before, how to avoid those things which will make him hated or contemptible; and as often as he shall have succeeded he will have fulfilled his part, and he need not fear any danger in other reproaches. It makes him hated above all things, as I have said, to be rapacious, and to be a violator of the property and women of his subjects, from both of which he must abstain. And when neither their property nor honour is touched, the majority of men live content, and he has only to contend with the ambition of a few, whom he can curb with ease in many ways. It makes him contemptible to be considered fickle, frivolous, effeminate, mean-spirited, irresolute, from all of which a prince should guard himself as from a rock; and he should endeavour to show in his actions greatness, courage, gravity, and fortitude; and in his private dealings with his subjects let him show that his judgments are irrevocable, and maintain himself in such reputation that no one can hope either to deceive him or to get round him. That prince is highly esteemed who conveys this impression of himself, and he who is highly esteemed is not easily conspired against; for, provided it is well known that he is an excellent man and revered by his people, he can only be attacked with difficulty.
    • Ch. 19 "That one should avoid being despised and hated"
  • A prince ought to have two fears, one from within, on account of his subjects, the other from without, on account of external powers. From the latter he is defended by being well armed and having good allies, and if he is well armed he will have good friends, and affairs will always remain quiet within when they are quiet without, unless they should have been already disturbed by conspiracy; and even should affairs outside be disturbed, if he has carried out his preparations and has lived as I have said, as long as he does not despair, he will resist every attack.
    • Ch. 19; Variant: Against foreign powers, a prince can defend himself with good weapons and good friends; if he has good weapons, he will never lack for good friends. (as translated by RM Adams)
  • The best fortress which a prince can possess is the affection of his people.
    • Ch. 20 "Are fortresses, and many other things to which princes often resort advantageous or hurtful"
  • The first opinion which one forms of a prince, and of his understanding, is by observing the men he has around him; and when they are capable and faithful he may always be considered wise, because he has known how to recognize the capable and to keep them faithful. But when they are otherwise one cannot form a good opinion of him, for the prime error which he made was in choosing them. (as tranlsated by W. K. Marriott)
    • Ch. 22. Variant translation: The first method for estimating the intelligence of a ruler is to look at the men he has around him.
  • There are three classes of intellects: one which comprehends by itself; another which appreciates what others comprehend; and a third which neither comprehends by itself nor by the showing of others; the first is the most excellent, the second is good, and the third is useless.
    • Ch. 22
  • There is no other way of guarding oneself against flattery than by letting men understand that they will not offend you by speaking the truth; but when everyone can tell you the truth, you lose their respect.
    • Ch. 23
  • Io iudico bene questo, che sia meglio essere impetuoso che respettivo; perché la fortuna è donna, et è necessario, volendola tenere sotto, batterla et urtarla. E si vede che la si lascia più vincere da questi, che da quelli che freddamente procedano. E però sempre, come donna, è amica de' giovani, perché sono meno respettivi, più feroci e con più audacia la comandano.
    • Translation: I conclude, then, that so long as Fortune varies and men stand still, they will prosper while they suit the times, and fail when they do not. But I do feel this: that it is better to be rash than timid, for Fortune is a woman, and the man who wants to hold her down must beat and bully her. We see that she yields more often to men of this stripe than to those who come coldly toward her.
    • Ch. 25 (as translated by RM Adams)
  • Where the willingness is great, the difficulties cannot be great.
    • Ch. 26
  • God is not willing to do everything, and thus take away our free will and that share of glory which belongs to us.
    • Ch. 26
  • ognuno vede quello che tu pari, pochi sentono quello che tu se; e quelli pochi non ardiseano opporsi alla opinione di molti che abbino la maestà dello stato ch li difenda:...
    • Translation: Every one sees what you appear to be, few really know what you are, and those few dare not oppose themselves to the opinion of the many, who have the majesty of the state to defend them
    • Variant trans: Everybody sees what you seem, but few know what thou art
    • Ch. 28

Discourses on Livy (1517)[edit]

Whenever men are not obliged to fight from necessity, they fight from ambition; which is so powerful in human breasts, that it never leaves them no matter to what rank they rise.
Anyone who studies present and ancient affairs will easily see how in all cities and all peoples there still exist, and have always existed, the same desires and passions.
Quotes from translations of Discorsi sopra la prima deca di Tito Livio; 3 vols. published between 1512–1517 (Discourses on the First Ten Books of Titus Livius)
  • As all those have shown who have discussed civil institutions, and as every history is full of examples, it is necessary to whoever arranges to found a Republic and establish laws in it, to presuppose that all men are bad and that they will use their malignity of mind every time they have the opportunity; and if such malignity is hidden for a time, it proceeds from the unknown reason that would not be known because the experience of the contrary had not been seen, but time, which is said to be the father of every truth, will cause it to be discovered.
    • Book 1, Ch. 3 Variant portion: Whoever desires to found a state and give it laws, must start with assuming that all men are bad and ever ready to display their vicious nature, whenever they may find occasion for it.
  • Men never do good unless necessity drives them to it; but when they are free to choose and can do just as they please, confusion and disorder become rampant.
    • Book 1, Ch. 3 (as translated by LJ Walker and B Crick)
  • The demands of a free populace, too, are very seldom harmful to liberty, for they are due either to the populace being oppressed or to the suspicious that it is going to be oppressed... and, should these impressions be false, a remedy is provided in the public platform on which some man of standing can get up, appeal to the crowd, and show that it is mistaken. And though, as Tully remarks, the populace may be ignorant, it is capable of grasping the truth and readily yields when a man, worthy of confidence, lays the truth before it.
    • Book 1, Ch. 4 (as translated by LJ Walker and B Crick)
  • For as when much superfluous matter has gathered in simple bodies, nature makes repeated efforts to remove and purge it away, thereby promoting the health of these bodies, so likewise as regards that composite body the human race, when every province of the world so teems with inhabitants that they can neither subsist where they are nor remove elsewhere, every region being equally crowded and over-peopled, and when human craft and wickedness have reached their highest pitch, it must needs come about that the world will purge herself in one or another of these three ways, to the end that men, becoming few and contrite, may amend their lives and live with more convenience.
    • Book 1 Ch. 5 (as translated by Ninian Hill Thomson)
  • So in all human affairs one notices, if one examines them closely, that it is impossible to remove one inconvenience without another emerging.
    • Book 1, Ch. 6 (as translated by LJ Walker and B Crick)
  • I am firmly convinced, therefore, that to set up a republic which is to last a long time, the way to set about it is to constitute it as Sparta and Venice were constituted; to place it in a strong position, and so to fortify it that no one will dream of taking it by a sudden assault; and, on the other hand, not to make it so large as to appear formidable to its neighbors. It should in this way be able to enjoy its form of government for a long time. For war is made on a commonwealth for two reasons: to subjugate it, and for fear of being subjugated by it.
    • Book 1, Ch. 6 (as translated by LJ Walker and B Crick)
  • The people resemble a wild beast, which, naturally fierce and accustomed to live in the woods, has been brought up, as it were, in a prison and in servitude, and having by accident got its liberty, not being accustomed to search for its food, and not knowing where to conceal itself, easily becomes the prey of the first who seeks to incarcerate it again.
    • Book 1, Ch. 16
  • It was the verdict of ancient writers that men afflict themselves in evil and weary themselves in the good, and that the same effects result from both of these passions. For whenever men are not obliged to fight from necessity, they fight from ambition; which is so powerful in human breasts, that it never leaves them no matter to what rank they rise. The reason is that nature has so created men that they are able to desire everything but are not able to attain everything: so that the desire being always greater than the acquisition, there results discontent with the possession and little satisfaction to themselves from it. From this arises the changes in their fortunes; for as men desire, some to have more, some in fear of losing their acquisition, there ensues enmity and war, from which results the ruin of that province and the elevation of another.
    • Book 1, Ch. 37 Variant: Nature has so contrived that to men, though all things are objects of desire, not all things are attainable; so that desire always exceeds the power of attainment, with the result that men are ill-content with what they possess and their present state brings them little satisfaction. Hence arise the vicissitudes of their fortune. (as translated by LJ Walker and B Crick)
  • Anyone who studies present and ancient affairs will easily see how in all cities and all peoples there still exist, and have always existed, the same desires and passions. Thus, it is an easy matter for him who carefully examines past events to foresee future events in a republic and to apply the remedies employed by the ancients, or, if old remedies cannot be found, to devise new ones based upon the similarity of the events. But since these matters are neglected or not understood by those who read, or, if understood, remain unknown to those who govern, the result is that the same problems always exist in every era.
    • Book 1, Chapter 39
  • It is enough to ask somebody for his weapons without saying 'I want to kill you with them', because when you have his weapons in hand, you can satisfy your desire.
    • Book 1, Ch 44 (as translated by Julia Conaway Bondanella and Peter Bondanella)
  • When Scipio became consul and was keen on getting the province of Africa, promising that Carthage should be completely destroyed, and the senate would not agree to this because Fabius Maximus was against it, he threatened to appeal to the people, for he knew full well how pleasing such projects are to the populace.
    • Book 1, Ch. 53 (as translated by LJ Walker and B Crick)
  • It is truly a marvelous thing to consider to what greatness Athens arrived in the space of one hundred years after she freed herself from the tyranny of Pisistratus; but, above all, it is even more marvelous to consider the greatness Rome reached when she freed herself from her kings. The reason is easy to understand, for it is the common good and not private gain that makes cities great. Yet, without a doubt, this common good is observed only in republics, for in them everything that promotes it is practised, and however much damage it does to this or that private individual, those who benefit from the said common good are so numerous that they are able to advance in spite of the inclination of the few citizens who are oppressed by it.
    • Book 2, Chapter 2
  • The end of the republic is to enervate and to weaken all other bodies so as to increase its own body.
    • Book 2, Ch. 3 (translation by Mansfield and Tarcov)
  • Cunning and deceit will every time serve a man better than force to rise from a base condition to great fortune.
    • Book 2, Ch. 13
  • I assert once again as a truth to which history as a whole bears witness that men may second their fortune, but cannot oppose it; that they may weave its warp, but cannot break it. Yet they should never give up, because there is always hope, though they know not the end and more towards it along roads which cross one another and as yet are unexplored; and since there is hope, they should not despair, no matter what fortune brings or in what travail they find themselves.
    • Book 2, Ch. 29 (as translated by LJ Walker and B Crick)
  • This return of Republics back to their principles also results from the simple virtue of one man, without depending on any law that excites him to any execution: none the less, they are of such influence and example that good men desire to imitate him, and the wicked are ashamed to lead a life contrary to those examples.
    • Book 3, Ch. 1
  • It is not titles that make men illustrious, but men who make titles illustrious.
    • Book 3, Ch. 38

The Art of War (1520)[edit]

Quotations from translations of Dell'arte della guerra — also known as On the Art of War
  • I believe that it is possible for one to praise, without concern, any man after he is dead since every reason and supervision for adulation is lacking.
    • Book 1
  • No proceeding is better than that which you have concealed from the enemy until the time you have executed it. To know how to recognize an opportunity in war, and take it, benefits you more than anything else. Nature creates few men brave, industry and training makes many. Discipline in war counts more than fury.
    • Book 7; Variant translation: No enterprise is more likely to succeed than one concealed from the enemy until it is ripe for execution.
      Nothing is of greater importance in time of war than in knowing how to make the best use of a fair opportunity when it is offered.

      Few men are brave by nature, but good discipline and experience make many so.
      Good order and discipline in an army are more to be depended upon than ferocity.
      • As translated by Neal Wood (1965)

Florentine Histories (1521–1525)[edit]

Original Italian title: Istorie Fiorentine
  • It may be observed, that provinces amid the vicissitudes to which they are subject, pass from order into confusion, and afterward recur to a state of order again; for the nature of mundane affairs not allowing them to continue in an even course, when they have arrived at their greatest perfection, they soon begin to decline. In the same manner, having been reduced by disorder, and sunk to their utmost state of depression, unable to descend lower, they, of necessity, reascend; and thus from good they gradually decline to evil, and from evil again return to good. The reason is, that valor produces peace; peace, repose; repose, disorder; disorder, ruin; so from disorder order springs; from order virtue, and from this, glory and good fortune.
  • If you only notice human proceedings, you may observe that all who attain great power and riches, make use of either force or fraud; and what they have acquired either by deceit or violence, in order to conceal the disgraceful methods of attainment, they endeavor to sanctify with the false title of honest gains. Those who either from imprudence or want of sagacity avoid doing so, are always overwhelmed with servitude and poverty; for faithful servants are always servants, and honest men are always poor; nor do any ever escape from servitude but the bold and faithless, or from poverty, but the rapacious and fraudulent. God and nature have thrown all human fortunes into the midst of mankind; and they are thus attainable rather by rapine than by industry, by wicked actions rather than by good. Hence it is that men feed upon each other, and those who cannot defend themselves must be worried.
    • Book III, Chapter 13
  • Wars begin when you will, but they do not end when you please.
    • Book III, Chapter 2


Misattributed[edit]

  • War is just when it is necessary; arms are permissible when there is no hope except in arms.
    • This is a quotation of Titus Livius IX:1 iustum enim est bellum quibus necessarium, et pia arma ubi nulla in armis spes est) that Machiavelli uses in Ch. 24 of Discourses on Livy; Machiavelli similarly writes that "The justice of the cause is conspicuous; for that war is just which is necessary, and those arms are sacred from which we derive our only hope." (The Prince, Ch. 26)
  • I am not interested in preserving the status quo; I want to overthrow it.
  • Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.
    • This has sometimes been attributed to Machiavelli, but more often to Sun Tzu, though there are no published sources yet found which predate its use by "Michael Corleone" in The Godfather Part II (1974), written by Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola: My father taught me many things here — he taught me in this room. He taught me — keep your friends close but your enemies closer.

Quotes about Machiavelli[edit]

  • We are much beholden to Machiavelli and others, that write what men do, and not what they ought to do. For it is not possible to join serpentine wisdom with the columbine innocency, except men know exactly all the conditions of the serpent; his baseness and going upon his belly, his volubility and lubricity, his envy and sting, and the rest; that is, all forms and natures of evil. For without this, virtue lieth open and unfenced. Nay, an honest man can do no good upon those that are wicked, to reclaim them, without the help of the knowledge of evil.
  • When Machiavelli advises the Prince to carry out the Machiavellian scheme of action, he invests those actions with no sort of morality or beauty. For him morality remains what it is for everyone else, and does not cease to remain so because he observes (not without melancholy) that it is incompatible with politics. … For him evil, even if it aids politics, still remains evil. The modern realists are the moralists of realism. For them, the act which makes the State strong is invested with a moral character by the fact that it does so, and this whatever the act may be. The evil which serves politics ceases to be evil and becomes good.
  • While there may exist no more than the normal extent of disagreement about the meaning of particular terms or theses contained in these works, there is a startling degree of divergence about the central view, the basic political attitude of Machiavelli.
    • Isaiah Berlin, "A Special Supplement: The Question of Machiavelli" (1971)
  • What has been shown by Machiavelli, who is often (like Nietzsche) congratulated for tearing off hypocritical masks, brutally revealing the truth, and so on, is not that men profess one thing and do another (although no doubt he shows this too) but that when they assume that the two ideals are compatible, or perhaps are even one and the same ideal, and do not allow this assumption to be questioned, they are guilty of bad faith (as the existentialists call it, or of “false consciousness,” to use a Marxist formula) which their actual behavior exhibits. Machiavelli calls the bluff not just of official morality—the hypocrisies of ordinary life—but of one of the foundations of the central Western philosophical tradition, the belief in the ultimate compatibility of all genuine values. His own withers are unwrung. He has made his choice. He seems wholly unworried by, indeed scarcely aware of, parting company with traditional Western morality.
    • Isaiah Berlin, "A Special Supplement: The Question of Machiavelli" (1971)
  • Machiavelli is the complete contrary of a machiavellian, since he describes the tricks of power and “gives the whole show away.” The seducer and the politician, who live in the dialectic and have a feeling and instinct for it, try their best to keep it hidden.
  • My vacation, my preference, my cure for all things Platonic has always been Thucydides. Thucydides, and perhaps Machiavelli's Principe are most closely related to me in terms of their unconditional will not to be fooled and to see reason in reality, - not in 'reason', and even less in ‘morality’...
  • Machiavelli was the first philosopher to define politics as treachery. This is not to say that he approved of treachery, only that he wished to describe politics as various forms of it. That he set out to do so, however, is no doubt why for almost five hundred years the single most influential of all modern political thinkers, as this biography hopes to show, has himself been described as revolting, nauseating, unprincipled and evil.
    • Paul Oppenheimer, Machiavelli: A Life Beyond Ideology (2011), "Introduction: Modern Evil and The Sack of Rome"
  • It is this that Samuel insisted on to the Hebrews; it is this that Machiavelli clearly demonstrated. While pretending to give lessons to kings, he gave great ones to peoples. The Prince of Machiavelli is the book for republicans.
  • Machiavelli was an honorable man and a good citizen; but, attached to the house of the Medici, he was forced, during the oppression of his country, to conceal his love for liberty. The mere choice of his execrable hero sufficiently manifests his secret intention; and the opposition between the maxims of his book the Prince and those of his Discourses on Titus Livius and his History of Florence shows that this profound politician has had hitherto only superficial or corrupt readers. The court of Rome has strictly prohibited his book; I certainly believe it, for it is that court which he most clearly depicts.
  • Machiavelli died nearly 500 years ago, but his name lives on as a byword for cunning, duplicity, and the exercise of bad faith in political affairs.
    • Quentin Skinner, Machiavelli: A Very Short Introduction (1981)
  • In the case of a prince whose sole motive is lust for power, the means he must employ to strengthen and preserve his state have been described at some length by that keen observer, Machiavelli, but with what purpose appears uncertain. If he did have some good purpose in mind, as one should believe of so wise a man, it must have been to show how foolish are the attempts so often made to get rid of a tyrant while yet the causes that have made the prince a tyrant cannot be removed; on the contrary, they become more firmly established as the prince is given more grounds for fear.
  • Call me a dreamer, but one day, my name will become an adjective for everything cynical and untrustworthy in human nature.
  • We shall not shock anyone, we shall merely expose ourselves to good-natured or at any rate harmless ridicule, if we profess ourselves inclined to the old­ fashioned and simple opinion according to which Machiavelli was a teacher of evil.
    • Leo Strauss, "Introduction", in Thoughts on Machiavelli (1958)
  • The founder of modern political philosophy is Machiavelli. He tried to effect, and he did effect, a break with the whole tradition of political philosophy. He compared his achievement to that of men like Columbus. He claimed to have discovered a new moral continent. His claim is well founded; his political teaching is "wholly new." The only question is whether the new continent is fit for human habitation.
    • Leo Strauss, "What is Political Philosophy?", published in What is Political Philosophy? And Other Studies (1959)
  • For a philosophy based on faith is no longer philosophy. Perhaps it was this unresolved conflict which has prevented Western thought from ever coming to rest. Perhaps it is this conflict which is at the bottom of a kind of thought which is philosophic indeed but no longer Greek: modern philosophy. It is in trying to understand modern philosophy that we come across Machiavelli.
    • Leo Strauss, "Niccolo Machiavelli" in Leo Strauss and Joseph Cropsey (ed.) History of Political Philosophy
  • Machiavelli is not concerned with how men do live merely in order to describe it; his intention is rather, on the basis of knowledge of how men do live, to teach princes how they ought to rule and even how they ought to live.
    • Leo Strauss, "Niccolo Machiavelli", in Leo Strauss and Joseph Cropsey (ed.) History of Political Philosophy
  • Niccolò Machiavelli was the restorer of the Roman conception of politics as civil wisdom—that is, the idea of politics as the wisdom of the citizen whose aim is to preserve the civil life—and the founder of the theory of modern republicanism based pon this conception. He was a founder, but in a very different sense from the usual meaning of the word, and most of the pompous titles which have been attributed to him should be put aside, beginning with the least justified of all, that of founder of the modern science of politics.
    • Maurizio Viroli, Machiavelli (1998), "Introduction"
  • The elements of Realpolitik, exhaustively listed, are these: The ruler's, and later the state's, interest provides the spring of action; the necessities of policy arise from the unregulated competition of states; calculation based on these necessities can discover the policies that will best serve a state's interests; success is the ultimate test of policy, and success is defined as preserving and strengthening the state . Ever since Machiavelli, interest and necessity — and raison d'état, the phrase that comprehends them-have remained the key concepts of Realpolitik. From Machiavelli through Meinecke and Morgenthau the elements of the approach and the reasoning remain constant. Machiavelli stands so clearly as the exponent of Realpolitik that one easily slips into thinking that he developed the closely associated idea of balance of power as well . Although he did not, his conviction that politics can be explained in its own terms established the ground on which balance-of-power theory can be built.
    • Kenneth Waltz, Theory of International Politics (1979) Chapter 6. Anarchic Structures and Balances of Power

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