Aristotle's Politics

Finding Machiavelli: An Examination of Motive and Intention Through a Modern Political Lens


Niccolo Machiavelli’s seminal work of political science, The Prince, directed at a prince of the then-powerful Medici family of Florence, has been the subject of much debate over the centuries since it was published. Decried as a shameless and unapologetic map of despotism by many, it has also been read as a careful treatise on the ultimate responsibilities of a government to its citizens. It is impossible, of course, to know Machiavelli’s true intentions when writing this tract—whether his intentions were consciously nefarious and the work was meant only to ingratiate himself to Lorenzo de Medici, or if he truly saw a better method of obtaining and exercising power and the right to do so. The only thing by which a determination of this intention can be made is the text itself.

Fortunately, the text has survived intact during the nearly five centuries since its first publication, so this determination can be made with the assuredness that Machiavelli’s intentions have not been bastardized through editorial intervention of textual degradation. Unfortunately, this does not diminish the degree of ambiguity in the text, or the subjective necessities of an interpretation thereof. Using modern examples of political motives...

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