The Italian Renaissance is known for its birth of many notable philosophers, including the famous Niccolo Machiavelli. He is, without a doubt, one of the greatest political thinkers to have ever existed, and his ideas and beliefs have been an inspiration and motivation for many famous leaders. Although he has known to have been a positive influence on mankind, Machiavelli has also distinguished a bad reputation that has been unfairly given to him because of a misunderstanding in his views on politics.
Since rulers like Hitler and Mussolini have followed his teachings for obtaining power, society has unfortunately looked down upon this great philosopher, despite the many things he introduced to mankind. Machiavelli was born on May 3, 1469 in Florence, Italy. Brought up in a relatively poor family, his parents could not afford to send him to school. Instead, he was educated at home by his mother, a religious poet, and his father, an attorney. Since little is known about his early life, not a lot can be found in references about his childhood and teenage years.
It is only known that his family did their best to obtain a respectable and prominent image, and Niccolo grew up to be a fine, educated, and well-known man. He attended the University of Florence and studied logic, mathematics, music, astronomy, and philosophical debate. Machiavellis political career took off in 1498 when he was offered a government position in Florence. He became the secretary and second chancellor of the Florentine Republic. During this time, he was a civil servant who had many diplomatic and administrative responsibilities.
From 1499 to 1508, he went on many missions where he met many powerful political figures including Louis XII, the Pope, and Cesar Borgia, a solider and aristocrat in central Italy. A lot of Machiavellis philosophy was highly influenced by other people; meanwhile his own ideas were created about political power and maintaining government control. One of his major contributions to the city of Florence was persuading the people to raise its own militia instead of using a mercenary. He was entirely devoted to the Florentine Republic, and the city was his object of patriotism.
In 1512, the Medici, a Florentine family, reclaimed power in Florence and the republic was thrown over. Niccolo lost his position as chancellor and was imprisoned after being accused of a participation in a secret conspiracy. He was tortured and beaten excessively in jail but then later released upon Giovanni de Medicis election to the papacy. For the next ten years of his life, he dedicated himself to writing political philosophy, history, poems, and even plays to express his beliefs about politics and power.
These expressions were all attempts to gain favor of the Medici rulers so that he could someday get his political position back, and meanwhile he was gaining popularity among people because of his new and different perspectives for not only government and politics, but in life in general as well. His most famous work, The Prince, was written in honor of the Medici family to express his ideals and suggestions for a powerful government. The Medici noticed him finally in 1525 when the rulers called him back to service.
He spent his last two years of working for them before they overthrew the system again, just before Machiavelli died on June 20, 1527. As a politician, military theorist, historian, playwright, diplomat, and philosopher, Machiavelli proved to be an incredible contribution to society. Although extremely well known around the world for his philosophy in politics, he has been seriously misinterpreted. Since he has incorrectly been viewed as an evil figure to mankind, the term Machiavellian has been developed over the years to describe a person who has no morals.
The term Machiavellian usually refers to someone who is untrustworthy, unprincipled, cunning, sly, and deceitful. Machiavelli had a harsh way of viewing things, but he had no intention to be an evil intimidation. His pessimistic attitude led him to express himself more directly and bluntly than anything expected. The fact that he grew up in the golden age of the Italian Renaissance helped him to develop most of his philosophies because so much was happening around him that he had an opinion about everything.
Although a positive humanist to the world, his demanding and pessimistic viewpoints led people to believe that he was in fact evil and therefore nothing but a threat to society. Machiavelli stressed POWER. There can be nothing without might. What most of the accepted ideals consist of today, Machiavelli would most likely strongly oppose. He was one of the first political philosophers whose political ideas were not influenced by his religious ideas. According to him, religion is only important when they were necessary in a political decision. He strongly believed that church tried to separate the world too much.
He even denies the values of life, except for pride. Machiavelli has said, men tire of evil, and of good they sicken; men like to be pictured noble, honest, idealistic; they want to be assured of receiving a reward fro their virtue not only in the hereafter, but in this life. His complete honesty has frightened people, which is another reason he may have not been popular with everybody. He was extremely supportive of war and developed many strategies on how to win, what to do, and how to totally eliminate the enemy. He believes that war is based on human nature: man is selfish and seeks what he wants.
According to Machiavelli, man is dominated by his passions. One of his beliefs is that domination is the most powerful of emotional desires. Machiavelli believed that religion is important for war because it causes a willingness to fight. If one can be promised that something good will be of reward for fighting for ones country (like going to heaven), then that will create motivation. There must be necessity for war, if not, it is a waste of time. He stressed that leadership in a battle is a creative activity and that it is the highest aspiration of man.
A leader can use any kind of psychological tricks to defeat the enemy, if he chooses to let his mind do so. The mind is capable of so much deceit, and it is a necessity to use deceit and force when on wants something. Machiavelli is famous for saying, Cunning and deceit will serve a man better than force to rise from base condition to great fortune. Again, power is the main objective, and keeping it is the ultimate goal. Machiavellis two major works are The Prince and The Discourses. These writings differ greatly from eachother, but both are about achieving power.
The Prince gives advice to a ruler on how to maintain power, and the word prince is purposely used because it represents a republican political system. The Discourses is more about political behavior, and a lot of Machiavellis ideas are written in this book. One of his most famous quotes is, As a Prince (political ruler), it is best to be both feared and loved. But if you have to choose between the two, it is better to be feared than loved. This quote is a good example of Machiavellis approach on political affairs. He emphasizes that rulers should do their best no matter what.
Before Machiavelli wrote these books in which his political ideas were expressed, writer and politics had only been concerned about how the government should work. Machiavelli was concerned about how it actually does workhe was definitely a realist. Machiavelli held human nature in the highest esteem, and based almost everything he believed in to that. Private Letters were extremely popular in the Renaissance period, and a letter was found from Machiavelli to Fracsesco Vettori talking about politics and human nature. He sets a tone in this letter, and it describes some of his feelings that he has during the time of his existance.
Anyone who might see our letters, my dear friend, and might note their diversity would be very amazed, for at one point he would think that we are very serious men, involved in weighty matters, and that we never entertained a thought which was not lofty and honest. But then, turning the page, he would discover that these same serious men are frivolous, inconstant, lustful, and occupied with trifles. This matter of ours, although to some it may be disgraceful, seems worthy of praise to me, because we imitate nature, which herself is various, and anyone who imitates nature cannot be criticizes.
Niccolo Machiavelli made a statement in history. The Italian Renaissance was an era in history that was full of change. It was full of philosophers and people exploding with new ideas and ready to revolutionize. Niccolo Machiavelli started a philiosophy that not only influenced Italy, but influenced the world and leaders everywhere. Whether people were frightened of him or not, he created a different form of political philosophy that I used today. Even tough he has been dead for over 450 years, his teachings are still around, and his name is still in todays society.