The Philosophy of Machiavelli

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The Philosophy of Machiavelli

<p>Machiavelli’s influence on political theory cannot be overstated, and his ideas are still radical and challenging to this day. Like all great philosophers, Machiavelli institutes a new way of

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Machiavelli’s influence on political theory cannot be overstated, and his ideas are still radical and challenging to this day. Like all great philosophers, Machiavelli institutes a new way of thinking about problems, which has had a much broader application than just politics. Study Machiavelli’s philosophy of human nature; his ‘real politic’ of the state; his alarming ethics; and his thoughts on war, religion, and literature. Consider also his ideas on love and sex particularly in his plays, poems and letters. Machiavellian politics is very much part of contemporary debate and we will see how his theory is being used now.


COURSE OUTLINE

  • Introduction to life and times: Machiavelli’s biography reads like an action packed drama. He is at the epicenter of Popes, Princes and Plots until his arrest, torture and exile, but then makes a comeback tour at the end. We will also look at the philosophical ideas surrounding him and the theories of the Cosmos in the middle Renaissance.
  • The Prince. I will introduce Machiavelli’s ideas on human nature; his theory of power; and the role of deception in the state.
  • Machiavelli on Violence and the Law. Machiavelli was an advisor to the Florentine Government on military affairs, and had firsthand experience of warfare. He believed that there can be no law without a strong military foundation. We will look at his theory in The Prince, the Discourses and The Art of War.
  • ‘Fortuna’ and Free Will. In both The Prince and the Discourses Machiavelli discusses the role of ‘Fortuna’ in human life: this involves the problem of whether humans can control their fate in a world not of their own making. Fortua is a very old idea but Machiavelli is inventing a Modern philosophy and in doing so transforms this old idea in a very new way. His ideas instigate a the Modern discussion on free will.
  • Machiavelli’s Psychology. That all realistic politics must begin with a psychology of human desires and motivations is one of Machiavelli’s fundamental insights: Thomas Hobbes and all Modern political theory is based on it. We will discuss whether you think he has understood as we realistically are.
  • Liberty and the People. Machiavelli is a Republican, and in the Discourses it is the people not the prince who will maintain a stable society: “A people that commands and is well organized will be just as stable and prudent as a prince……if there is any superiority it is with the people”.
  • Machiavelli in Love. Machiavelli overturned both Classical and Christian ideas of love; as in his politics he is a Modern thinker. We will use his plays, poems and letters to examine his philosophy of love and sex, and his advice to the young on love matters.
  • Machiavelli the writer. We will look at his use of allegory and rhetoric. His preface to The Prince claims that he will “not fill this volume with pompous rhetoric, with bombast and magnificent words” and yet one of the pleasures of reading The Prince is exactly its rhetorical force. Of course one must keep in mind that in The Prince he does advice the Prince to use rhetoric as part of his armory; is Machiavelli following his own advice?
  • Radical Machiavelli for Contemporary Business Theory. We will survey some of the new uses which Machiavelli’s ideas have been put to in contemporary business theory: Are his ideas a manual for ruthless CEOs?
  • The Machiavellian Intelligence: Is it productive or destructive? We will consider the broader issues of Machiavelli’s way of thinking on social life.


PLANNED LEARNING OUTCOMES
By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  1. Gain an in-depth knowledge of Machiavelli’s works The Prince; the Discourses; as well as his poetry and plays. Achieve an ability to recognize and discuss many of Machiavelli’s views in both philosophical history and contemporary literature..
  2. Be ability to apply Machiavelli’s ideas to other social issue, such as personal relationships and the dynamics of the workplace.
  3. Have developed a better understanding of politics in general.
  4. Know how to research the topic further.