Philosophy Hammer
Philosophy, Economics, Politics & Psychology Tested with a Hammer

The Prince
By: Nicolò Machiavelli
Major Topic: Politics
Minor Topic: Diplomacy

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         Chapter Fifteen

         How should a prince behave? Since men actually act differently than what they profess is the moral way to act, it is imperative to study what is actually done rather than some ideal that has never existed. The prince, therefore, who tries to act in accordance to a moral code will end up ruining himself.

         It is therefore unavoidable that a successful prince must learn how to do evil and to make use of evil as is necessary. While, if it were possible, it would be best to be known for all the good virtues and none of the evil ones, it is, however, the human condition that does not allow it. A practical prince will follow the virtues that will preserve his state and avoid the vices that will cause him to lose his state. A wise prince will learn that there are some virtues which when followed, can lead to ruin and some vices which when acted upon, will convey security, prosperity and the preservation of the state.


         Chapter Sixteen

         Concerning a reputation for generosity or stinginess, it is difficult to be generous without ruining the principality. For if the prince gives of his own wealth he will soon be poor. If the prince is poor and wishes to be considered generous he must raise taxes on the people. This is the surest way to lose the people's goodwill. Once he can no longer raise money to give away, the prince will gain the reputation of being stingy.

         It is therefore better to be thought of as stingy and miserly from the beginning. In time he will be thought of as better if he is wealth and great; can defend the realm; and does not have a high tax rate. In fact it will come to be understood that he is generous to all in that he does not take from all.

         History has shown that only the stingy succeed in getting things done. Meanness, therefore, is a vice that will help govern the principality.

         Some caveats: 1) Either a man is a prince or on his way to being a prince. For a prince generosity is dangerous but for a man on his way to being a prince it can be helpful. 2) Either a prince is generous with what is his or with what belongs to his subjects or with what belongs to foreigners. With what belongs to him or his subjects a prince must be very frugal for squandering the wealth of the principality is a fatal vice. With what belongs to foreigners, a prince ought to be very generous. Squandering the wealth of outsiders will enhance the prince's reputation.

         Generosity will end up making the prince despised and hated – the two greatest follies a prince can commit. Stinginess may bring some admonition but it will not bring hatred.


         Chapter Seventeen

         Concerning a reputation for cruelty or clemency, every prince should want to be thought of as merciful rather than cruel. However in the prince's actions he must be careful not to misapply his mercy. Consider that there may be an opportunity to be cruel to an individual or small group so as to bring order, peace and good government to a state that if not taken would result in disorder, murder, plunder, revolution and anarchy – in short the death and destruction of a state and its people.

         Consider also that all new princes cannot escape being cruel since new dominions are always full of dangers. And so the new prince should be slow to believe and slow to act. He should make his way with temperance, with prudence, with humanity and in fear and distrust but without showing fear or becoming intolerable with misgivings.

         What is better: to be feared or to be loved? A prince should seek to be both, but it is difficult and if one has to be chosen then it is safer to be feared. Human nature is such that men are ungrateful, capricious, fraudulent, spineless, avaricious and while the princes is successful and during good times, men will say all sorts of compliments and make solemn promises of support. However when times are tough and danger approaches, a prince who relies on these promise will be lost. Love and relationships can be bought but such relationships cannot be secured. The bite of conscience is far smaller when betraying a loved one than the pangs and continued anguish of terror that accompany the betrayal of a feared one. In short obligations that are broken are broken for some advantage; many are greater than love but there are few advantages greater than the terror of punishment.

         Fear is good but fear must not engender hatred. To avoid hatred a prince must not seize the property or the women of any of his citizens or subjects. When the prince seeks to punish he must appear to do it justly and for good cause. But he should not seek the property of the accused for men will forget the execution of a father more quickly than the loss of their inheritance.

         When with his army, a prince must keep a reputation for cruelty; for fear is the single best tool for keeping an army united and focused. A prince should seek to stand on his own, therefore, since the love men feel comes from their own will, the prince does not stand on his own. However , since the fear men feel comes from the will of the prince, fear is better than love because through fear the prince does stand on his own.


         Chapter Eighteen

         All believe that is laudable for a prince to be honest and to keep his word of honor. Yet it seems that great accomplishments are not done by princes who worry about keeping their word.

         There are two ways to settle disputes: through law or through force. Law is best for men but because it is often not enough, a prince must be ready to use what is best for a beast: force. When a prince resorts to force he should consider both the totems of the fox and the lion. The venerated symbol of a fox stands for cunning and a lion for strength. A prince will need both. The princes who have learned the ways of the fox best have also succeed best. So a prince should not fret his broken promises if they may be turned against him or if the situation changes. Consider also that men, by nature, are bad and will break their promise to the prince so the wise prince will not be bound by his word.

         Part of being a fox involves learning to disguise the dishonesty. In this way, men being so simple, the prince will never be short of suckers. It is useful to appear merciful, honest, compassionate, religious and righteous and sometimes to actually have these qualities, but often they are not useful in themselves and a prince should be ready to transform into their opposite (this is especially true for a new prince).

         The best way to maintain the appearance of these qualities is to always speak as if they are possessed. Men often judge by what they see and hear rather than what is done. Further men often judge by what others say, and since a prince is seen and heard by many more than will know him he can in this way maintain his image.


         Chapter Nineteen

         In so far as a prince can avoid being hated he can afford not to worry about any danger arising out of any other kind of criticism. Therefore, as has been said above, a prince should keep his hands off the property and women of his subjects. Nothing creates hatred more than an attack on a man's property or honor.

         Nevertheless a worthwhile and diligent prince will gain enormous benefit from avoiding actions that will make him contemptible. Therefore a prince should strive to avoid being considered unstable, silly, weak, cantankerous and/or indecisive.

         Through good acting or greatness of character a prince should demonstrate majesty, valor, seriousness and stoicism. Any judgments ought to be well thought out. For once made, the prince risks being thought contemptible if he changes his public judgment at the behest of a petitioner.

         The prince who follows this advice, will be extraordinarily admired. To conspire against such a prince will be highly unlikely and exceedingly dangerous for the conspirators. For the conspirators, in order to have a hope of success, will need to believe that the people themselves wish to remove their prince.

         A prince who has hostile people against him, has great reason to fear everything. Therefore the prince ought to strive to placate the people above all.

         One common problem princes have is that the people prefer a peace-loving prince but the army prefers a war-loving prince who is willing to let the army be cruel and rapacious towards the population. In this way the army can get double pay and give release to its abusiveness. It is safer for the prince to choose the people over the army.

         Hatred can be earned through good works just as much as by bad works. Should the army be corrupt and the prince finds himself in need of the army to maintain himself he will have to submit to their whims. This will usually involve earning the hatred of the people. A wise prince will do evil to his own army rather than allow the army to hurt the people. For the people, as a whole, are usually stronger and more trustworthy than an army of professional soldiers.

Added on: 2010-05-29 07:00:23
Text Crawl by: James Jeff McLaren
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