December 9, 2013

"On December 10, 1513, Niccolò Machiavelli wrote a letter—called the most celebrated in all Italian literature..."

"... to his friend Francesco Vettori announcing that he has just completed 'a little work, On Principalities.'  It later acquired the title The Prince, under which it became the most famous, and infamous, book on politics ever written."

500 years ago tomorrow. How should we celebrate?

28 comments:

Michael K said...

Short of impeaching Obama, which is impossible, I don't see how we can. Maybe buy copies for LIVs, like garage.

YoungHegelian said...

God save us all from Straussian readings of the classical moderns!

I'd have a lot more sympathy with Straussian readings of the early moderns is they ever showed a clue as the philosophical complexities of the Christian Middle Ages that comes between the Ancients & the Moderns (notice there are NO Medieval authors referenced in the article).

Don't ever look to a Straussian to ever tell you (e.g. the role that early Descartes is an attempt to refute Nominalism), because that would involve referencing that Medieval shit they don't know anything about. Philosophy just moves, magically, from Ancient to Modern.

Ron said...

Many shots of grappa?

Invade a foreign nation?

What the hell....both!

Luke Lea said...

By reading it probably. It's not exactly what most people think it is.

Archie said...

We should raise a glass to the Lying Sack of America, President Obama, while it is still legal to do so.

EDH said...

A Prince concert at the White House?

Party like it's 1513.

Jay Patrick said...

One and many ways

FullMoon said...

Y.H. took the words right out of my mouth, again.

Abe Dan said...

YoungHegelian, I think you are being unfair. Muhsin Mahdi was a great Medieval scholar, a Strauss disciple, and many others too. Strauss too. His work on Maimonides was seminal. Philosophy does not move "magically" from ancient to modern, rather, Hobbes and Machiavelli make a decisive break from from both ancient and medieval philosophy.

Howard said...

Luke: Exactly... a must read.

All of the popular quotes are taken out of context. Machiavelli just re-purposed Zen as a survival and success practical guide for powerful men living in chaotic times of fratricide. Very anti-macho.

William said...

Throw a party, poison every third guest, and make every second guest think that the early arrivals did it.

traditionalguy said...

Machiavelli was a Moby of his time. He was suggesting the Northern Italian Godfathers do more of what they were doing. His book was written as an expose of their methods of ruling.

Carl Pham said...

Stopped reading right here:

Technology derives from engineering, which is applied natural science, which achieved its current rigor thanks to a foundation built by Descartes and Bacon, who in turn learned the core argument from Machiavelli.

The purest liberal arts major comfort-food bullshit. This viewpoint would've made Plato smile, and has learned exactly nothing from 600 years of subsequent empiricism. If marooned on desert island covered in breadfruit trees, magnetite, a disassembled ultralight plane and a rusty 55 gallon drum of aviation gasoline, it would start to death in a week after eating its shoes and using the gasoline to set fire to the trees in an attempt to scare the fruit down.

Wry Mouth said...

Google Doodle. I'll lay you even odds.

Dr Weevil said...

Stab a friend in the back, either literally or metaphorically?

Rich Rostrom said...

"I can add colors to the chameleon,
Change shapes with Proteus for advantages,
And set the murderous Machiavel to school."

Shakespeare, Henry VI part III. (Do I need to identify the speaker?)

Think about it. Written in Italian, for an elite audience, and yet in a relatively short time, it became an English pop culture trope.

Illuninati said...

We should celebrate Niccolo Machiavelli as a man who tore aside the curtain which hides the evil inherent in every totalitarian system and shattered the righteous myths. By doing that he did humanity a great service. That triumph is enough for anyone. Are Descartes and Bacon indebted to Machiavelli for their ideas? Probably not. That is a bridge too far.

The modern myth that "Here also is the beginning of the break with ancient metaphysics and teleology that has, after centuries of working through the implications, left the West morally bereft. If what cannot be felt or seen cannot be real, how can it guide our actions? Attempts to find the answers through “science”—the latest being brain chemistry—only further radicalize the Machiavellian premise" is nothing but a myth. Science is the natural outgrowth of those ancient metaphysics and teleology not a break from them. That is ridiculous. Just because no one has actually seen or felt a quark doesn't mean we can't believe they are real. If we refuse to believe they exist they do not cease to be real. God is the same way, he exists whether we believe in him or not.

Rusty said...

How should we celebrate?

Let's depose a dictator.

Toby said...

Act to ensure that we are feared more than loved.

Toby said...

Act to ensure we are feared more than loved.

Gabriel Hanna said...

I second Luke Lea: read The Prince. It's only about a hundred pages.

Tarrou said...

Celebrate by dealing with people as they are, rather than how we wish they were. Machiavelli's greatest achievement was popularizing the notion that practicality trumped sentimentality. Truth, beauty, honor and love are nice words, but money and power are what moves people. And you should get people to think of you as honest, god-looking, honorable and loving while you're at it.

Clyde said...

Maybe Obama will celebrate with a selfie of him holding the book.

Alexander said...

I shall celebrate by moving my palace to the most recently acquired lands in all my demesne, marrying the daughter of a local and influential nobleman, and scattering my enemies before me with such ruthlessness that they can never regroup to pose a threat to my continued rule.

tim in vermont said...

The Prince is a quick read and worth it.

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/1232/1232-h/1232-h.htm

Biff said...

What? No google doodle?? An outrage!

Frank said...

Celebrate by taking the enemy of your enemy to lunch.

Mitch H. said...

Celebrate by remembering the man wrote the republican Discourses on Livy before re-phrasing the basic concepts for tyrants in the Prince.