The Prince

The Ends Justifies The Means: No Excuse

Niccolo Machiavelli advocates many cutthroat policies in The Prince in his effort to model the perfect leader, one who would place the utmost importance on preserving his power and his state rather than dealing with moral dilemmas. He presents throughout the book a philosophy of practicality, and because of this, his words may sometimes give the impression that ethics should play no role in government affairs. Still, Machiavelli attempts to reconcile religious beliefs with political actions whenever possible. Although some have interpreted his words to essentially dictate that "the ends justify the means", Machiavelli's political philosophy is far too complex and dependent on situation to reduce to this vague statement.

Machiavelli believes fortune and virtú are the two main forces guiding the success of a prince, virtú being the ability of a leader and fortune representing fate or God's influence. While "dominions...are acquired either by fortune or by ability" (Machiavelli 13), he writes, the "degree of difficulty" that a prince encounters bases itself upon "the degree of ability" he possesses (Machiavelli 25). Machiavelli's ideal leader is one with the skill to take...

Join Now to View Premium Content

GradeSaver provides access to 972 study guide PDFs and quizzes, 7757 literature essays, 2170 sample college application essays, 323 lesson plans, and ad-free surfing in this premium content, “Members Only” section of the site! Membership includes a 10% discount on all editing orders.

Join Now

Already a member? Log in