Machiavelli's Political Philosophy

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Niccol di Bernardo dei Machiavelli (May 3, 1469 - June 21, 1527) was an Italian diplomat, political philosopher, musician, poet, and playwright. He is a figure of the Italian Renaissance and a central figure of its political component, most widely known for his treatises on realist political theory (The Prince) on the one hand and republicanism (Discourses on Livy) on the other.


Machiavelli died in San Casciano, a few miles outside of Florence, in 1527. His resting place is unknown; however a cenotaph in his honor was placed at the Church of Santa Croce in Florence. The Latin sentence on the tomb means 'For such a great name, no line fits'.
It has been a common view among political philosophers that there exists a special relationship between moral goodness and legitimate authority. Many authors believed that the use of political power was only rightful if it was exercised by a ruler whose personal moral character was strictly virtuous. In a sense, it was thought that rulers did well when they did good; they earned the right to be obeyed and respected inasmuch as they showed themselves to be virtuous and morally upright.
It is precisely this moralistic view of authority that Machiavelli criticizes at length in his best-known treatise, The Prince. For Machiavelli, there is no moral basis on which to judge the difference between legitimate and illegitimate uses of power. Rather, authority and power are essentially coequal: whoever has power has the right to command; but goodness does not ensure power and the good person has no more authority by virtue of being good. ...
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