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The Prince

Essay by   •  January 13, 2011  •  Essay  •  256 Words (2 Pages)  •  1,199 Views

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Much of the Prince’s subsequent fame us due to its unsavory reputation as an immoral or amoral work, a handbook for tyrants advocating the pernicious doctrine that the ends justify the means and presenting the infamous Cesear Borgia as a model for the new prince. Any understanding of the real significance of Machiavelli book must begin with the complex and controversial issue of Machiavelli’s intentions. With this treatise Machiavelli addresses a new kind of political figure, the new prince whose power lacked a basis in tradition, history, and custom. In the course of his discussion, Machiavelli examines a number of important philosophical and political issues: politics and morality, the importance of individual virtues, the role of fortune, the moral attributes of the new prince, and the proper goal toward which this revolutionary new figure should strive.

Politics and Morality

Any reader of The Prince has at least heard of the simplistic formula intended to summarize Machiavelli’s political theory that the “end justify the means.” This statement is actually a “mistranslation” of a key passage (XVIII) which has erected an almost insurmountable barrier to clear understanding of Machiavelli’s views on the relationship of politics and morality. The mere mention of the phrase conjures up a vision of power-mad rules who have justified any political means in a single-minded quest for immoral political ends. But Machiavelli says nothing about justifying any political means, he merely says that “in the actions of all men, and especially of princes, where there is no impartial arbiter, one must consider the final result.”

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