Machiavelli's view of human nature. Machiavelli has long been required reading for everyone interested in politics and power. In The Prince Niccolo Machiavelli presents a unique view on governing a state. Machiavelli believes the ruling Prince should be the only authority that should determine every aspect of the state and put in effect a policy which would serve his best interests. These interests were gaining, maintaining, and expanding his political power. (Machiavelli, 5).
His understanding of human nature was a complete contradiction of what everyone believed and taught. Machiavelli strongly promoted a physical society and felt morality was not necessary but in fact stood in the way of an effectively governed principality. (Machiavelli, 5). Although in some cases Machiavelli's suggestions seem harsh and immoral one must remember that these views were derived from his concern for the welfare of his country. At Machiavelli's time everyone believed that an individual had much to offer to the well being of the state, Machiavelli was quick to mock human nature. He truly believed that humans are not ready to serve their country unless there is a special benefit to them as individuals.
Machiavelli further goes on to question the loyalty of the citizens and advises the Prince that men never keep their word to you so you should never keep youre word to them. (Machiavelli, 6). However, Machiavelli did not feel that a Prince should mistreat the citizens. This suggestion is only to serve the Prince's best interests.
If a prince can not be both feared and loved, Machiavelli suggests, it would be better for him to be feared by the citizens within his own principality. He makes the generalization that men are, 'ungrateful, fickle, liars, and deceivers they shun danger and greedy for profit." (Machiavelli, 54). He characterizes men as being self centered and not willing to act in the best interest of the state. When the ruler is in danger they turn against him. Machiavelli reinforces the prince's need to be feared by stating: "Men worry less about doing an injury to one who makes himself loved than to one who makes himself fear.
For love is secured by a bond of gratitude which men, wretched creatures that they are, break when it is to their advantage to do so; but fear is strengthened by a dread of punishment which is always effective." Thanks to his great experience in life, Machiavelli understood many aspects of human behavior. He suggests that in order to win honor a prince must be readily willing to deceive the citizens. One way is to 'show his esteem for talent actively encouraging the able and honouring those who excel in their professions", this is because he thinks that by encouraging citizens to excel at their professions he would also be encouraging them to work better in order to ameliorate the welfare of the country. (Machiavelli, 56). These measures, although they are carried out in deception, they would bring the prince honor and trust amongst the citizens, especially those who were in a position where they could be his enemy's. In addition, Machiavelli assumes that a prince must also deceive those who attempt to flatter him.
When choosing wise men for his government and allowing them the freedom to speak the truth to him only in the things which they are s ked about. But he should also question them toughly and listen to what they say; then he should makeup his own mind. (Machiavelli, 76). Since each person will only advice the prince in accord to his own interests, the prince must act on his own consent. Machiavelli discourages action to taken otherwise '... since men will always do badly by [the prince] unless they are forced to be virtuous.' 13 Machiavelli actively promoted a secular form of politics.
He laid aside the Medieval conception 'of the state as a necessary creation spiritual, material, and social well-being.' 14 In such a state,' [a] ruler was justified in his exercise of political power only if it contributed to the common good of the people he served, [and] the ethical side of a princes activity... ought to [be] based on Christian moral principles... .' 15 Machiavelli believed a secular form of government to be a more realistic type. His views were to the benefit of the prince, in helping him maintain power rather than to serve to the well being of the citizens. Machiavelli promoted his belief by stating: The fact is that a man who wants to act virtuously in every way necessarily comes to grief among those who are not virtuous. Therefore, if a prince wants to maintain his rule he must learn not to be so virtuous, and to make use of this or not according to need.
16 Machiavelli's was that, 'God does not want to do everything Himself, and take away from us our free will and our share of glory which belongs us.' 17 Having studied and experienced Italy's political situation, Machiavelli derived these views. He felt that his suggestions would provide a frame work for a future prince of Italy to bring about political stability. Machiavelli writes: Italy is waiting to see who can be the one to heal her wounds, put and end to the sacking of Lombardy, to extortion in the Kingdom and in Tuscany, and cleanse those sores which have been festering so long. See how Italy beseeches God to send someone to save her from those barbarous cruelties and outrages; see how eager and willing the country is to follow a banner, if someone will raise it. 18 Although Italy had become the center of intellectual, artistic and cultural development, Machiavelli did not feel these qualities would help in securing Italy's political future. His opinion was that Italy required a leader who could have complete control over Italy's citizens and institutions.
One way of maintaining control of was to institute a secular form of government. This would allow the prince to govern without being morally bound. Machiavelli's view of human nature was not in accord to that of humanists who felt that an individual could greatly contribute to the well being of the society. Machiavelli, however felt that people generally tended to work for their own best interests and gave little obligation to the well being of the state. Although Machiavelli doubted that this form of government could ever be established it did appear several years after he wrote The Prince. Machiavelli has become to be regarded as 'the founder of modern day, secular politics.'.