Machiavelli Interpretive Essay on Fear Vs Love - 2273 Words



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Machiavelli Interpretive Essay on Fear Vs Love

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The Prince: Is it Better to be feared or loved?
“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. (23)” This excerpt is no less true today than when it was written five-hundred years ago in “The Prince” by Niccolo Machiavelli. He makes this comment at the beginning of his infamous political treatise because he recognized that men are stubborn creatures of habit; hence, any ideological innovation is hindered by the fear of change. Nevertheless, Machiavelli ventured boldly into uncharted waters with the intention to repudiate the ideals of his predecessors. He calls into question all previously conceived notions of morality and societal norms regarding the means by which a state should be ruled. Subsequently, “The Prince” represented a seismic shift in political thought during the Italian Renaissance, and is considered to have laid the foundations on which modern day realism was built on. As a result of Machiavelli’s departure from the ways of old he creates practical methods by which he believes a ruler should abide by to be successful in all matters concerning his ability to obtain and maintain power. Machiavelli designed “The Prince” to function like a guidebook for rulers, and suggests unequivocally that he is not concerned with appealing to the idealistic or imaginary methods of his predecessors. Therefore, he never attempts to sugar coat any of his viewpoints because “The Prince” was intended for practical application. He believed a ruler shouldn’t be burdened by the imaginary constraints society had created, and he must play by his own rules to have total authority. Above all, he wanted to portray the “effectual truths” of mankind as they are, and not how he imagines them to be. Machiavelli makes this point clear when he states, “since my intention is to say something that will prove of practical use to the listener, I have thought it proper to represent things as they are in real truth, rather than as they are imagined; the gulf between how one should live and how one does live is so wide that a man who neglects what is actually done for what should be done learns the way to self-destruction rather than self-preservation” (61).With this in mind, he emphasizes a number of concepts he believes to be quintessential for a ruler to acquire and sustain power. He stresses that by understanding the way the world actually works a ruler can exploit the corrupt and predictable nature of man. To that end, this paper aims to interpret one of Machiavelli’s most compelling and well known concepts from “The Prince” whereby he asks, “Is it is better to be feared than loved?” Firstly, he suggests that man lacks the moral fortitude to be trustworthy, loyal and obedient without fear being the key motivation behind these characteristics. This is based on the reasoning that love is established on a bond of obligation which man will break without hesitation when it is no longer to his benefit. Whereas, the fear of punishment is enduring and can become stronger at the ruler’s discretion to keep his subjects loyal. Machiavelli says that this is due to man’s is inherently corrupt nature. Therefore, a great ruler must devise a mechanism to prevent the manifestation of this corruption, which he continuously notes must be based on fear. Likewise, if his loyalties are cemented on the basis of fear rather than love then it will never appear convenient to disobey or become disloyal. “For one can say this generally of men: that they are ungrateful, fickle, pretenders and dissemblers, evaders of danger, eager for gain. While you do them good, they are yours, offering you their blood, property, lives, and children. When the need for them is far away; but, when it is close to you, they revolt. (69)” Therefore, in accordance with Machiavelli’s methods, it is vital for a ruler to... Show More

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