Morality In Machiavelli's The Prince As An Amoralist

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The analysis of Machiavelli as an amoralist – someone who disregards common views of what is right and wrong, unconcerned with morality as a whole (as compared to being immoral, and going against them) – is complicated. A traditional view of morality advocates for not doing wrong or harm to others, for altruism, and kindness. Nowhere in his philosophical work The Prince, first published in 1532, does Machiavelli show any regard for this kind of morality. The Prince is a guidebook for the maintenance of power by a prince (the name he gives to any sovereign); Machiavelli’s sole concern is how to stay in power and best exert it to prolong your rule and prosperity. However, this argument can only be made with a traditional, standard view of morality …show more content…
In chapter 15, he argues that a prince “must be prepared not to be virtuous”, driven by the belief that “the conditions of the world” make traditional virtue (and morality) impossible, and far more of a hindrance to good rule than an aid. Generosity, to Machiavelli, isn’t worth it; it is good, but the price of altruism is too high. He doesn’t hold much regard for honesty, asserting that the prince would do better to “learn from the fox and the lion”, to be cunning and opportunistic as well as forceful and fierce. To Machiavelli, virtue is relative, where it may not be so to someone advocating traditional morality; he writes that one should “appear” to possess a number of moral, virtuous qualities, to safeguard against contempt, but that it is this appearance, rather than the actual presence, of these qualities, that is important. Machiavelli believes that “men are wretched creatures”, and that the prince must be able to navigate a cruel world full of people who would deceive and plot and scheme and manipulate. Abiding by a strict moral code, in the world that Machiavelli envisioned, would only bring ruin. And ruin isn’t effective, ruin doesn’t bring stability. Machiavelli’s amorality works towards a moral end, still. The prince must be cunning and miserly and not pay too much attention to virtue so that he can maintain power, because a failure to do so brings about instability and …show more content…
On the one hand, he shows a total lack of concern for a traditional sense of morality, for goodness and altruism and virtue, favouring instead cunning and ruthlessness. On the other, he favours these things to the result of a stable, effective rule that benefits the people who live under it. Of course, this doesn’t make Machiavelli infallible. Though Machiavelli is pragmatic, the cruelty and self-interest that he promotes to his reader may easily provoke resentment and contempt, despite the chapters in which he provides attempted safeguards against this. Machiavelli’s amorality doesn’t make his contention defective. Instead, it provides a kind of protection against the “wretched” men and world that he believes we live in; morality in an amoral world, however ideal or preferable, is far less effective than adapting and being amoral yourself. His claim that being amoral and ruthless are far more effective means of grasping and maintaining power, therefore ensuring stability and effective rule which benefits the people, is not unfounded. It is too idealistic to claim that Machiavelli’s amoralism makes his arguments defective; especially within the context of 16th century Florentine politics, his assertion that one must be ruthless and “play the game” of politics hold steady

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