Was Machiavelli's "The Prince" a Satire?

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skeptacles
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Was Machiavelli's "The Prince" a Satire?

Post by skeptacles » Sat Jul 09, 2005 4:20 pm

I was listening to a podcast from our friends at Skepticality a while ago, and was surprised to hear that Machiavelli's The Prince is a satire.

I don't remember hearing this before. When I look at The Prince, it seems coldly logical, hardly satirical. I think this is how most people read it.

So I looked around a little bit and, sure enough, I found that some people think The Prince was, or might have been, written as satire. Most hits, though, seem to come from it's NOT being satire.

I did not find anything making the case that The Prince is not satire (though one hit did note that Machiavelli's other writings were not satire). It's not that the hits I saw don't dispute or defend against the notion of satire - it's that they appear not even to have considered whether The Prince might be satire.

Here's a persuasive lecture by someone who thinks The Prince is satire. Here's a satire about someone writing about how The Prince should be read (I just include it because I thought it was pretty good).

As usual, I'm in the fog here. For the moment, I'm thinking that the assertion that The Prince is satire may simply be the reaction of idealists who don't like the thrust of what Machiavelli wrote.

Over.

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Graculus
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Post by Graculus » Sat Jul 09, 2005 10:54 pm

Apparently someone has confused The Prince with Mandragola.

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Re: Was Machiavelli's "The Prince" a Satire?

Post by NoMan » Sun Jul 10, 2005 5:25 am

You'd have to go to Machiavelli's "Discourses", but he says that there are only two governments. A republic or a tyranny. He does not offer any moral judgment over which is better. This is a common theme in Machiavelli's writings. He does the same thing when he compares moral values. He says that there are the pagan civic virtues and the Christian internal moral values, and the two are at war. He never says which is better. If the Prince is a satire, then its shameless promotion of pagan ethics is hard to explain, and it's much harder to reconcile his "I Capitoli" with it.

If there are only two systems which a political party can be, then there must be two 'pure' forms of system. The perfect dictatorship must do X, the perfect Republic must do Y. His suggestions aren't any more ridiculous than Aristotle's suggestion that if a tyrant wants to rule, he must 'lop off' the heads of all men of virtue. For a dictatorship to be effective, it must be the only form of legitimate violence. However, people will not be loyal to a state that uses violence against them. How should it deal with that? Machiavelli is pretty straight-forward. Hire a thug to kill, torture, and push the people around, then the prince should kill this man publically and gruesomely and say that he never knew what this man was doing. I remember a British soldier wrote a book called "Scapegoats of the Empire" which was about that same tactic used in the modern day.

The person saying it's a satire says that his worship of Cesare Borgia is proof of satire. This does not make sense, Machiavelli was a social outcaset when he wrote "The Prince" and wanted to regain good favor by writing it. The whole book is filled with self-deprecating statements. His worship probably has more to do with his situation than with satire.

For all the ethics charges, it must be kept in mind that Machiavelli is speaking of pagan ethics, "arete" or "manly" ethics. Such ethics are state ethics, they want what is best for the state, not for the soul of individual. Hence, a good man must know when to do evil. Machiavelli is very clear that he is using words and phrases in a different sense than his reader may be used to seeing.

I'm tired so if this is incoherent, I apologize.

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Post by Centaur » Thu Sep 29, 2005 11:41 pm

The book was written for inclusion in his resume. He had lost his job in government and was seeking another position within a princely court.

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Post by Zenskeptic » Wed Mar 08, 2006 11:39 pm

It is a very practical book, satire or not.

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Post by Zenskeptic » Thu Mar 09, 2006 6:55 am

No your right, it is a jewish plot, the jews told me so.