The Prince The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Year: 2003
Pages: 114

When my (very) Christian philosophy professor taught this book (and I question the wisdom of teaching The Prince as a philosophical text), he talked about it in such a way that clearly imparted the following sentiment: “Boy, this Machiavelli, he sure is a crazy guy! Ha ha! Better to be feared than loved; what a maroon!” He did the same thing with Nietzsche. He couldn’t help but inject his own solid philosophical stance into every book we read (basically, “Here’s a non-Christian viewpoint, but it’s wrong.”), but rather than simply condemn men like Nietzsche or Machiavelli outright, he’d approach them in such a way that instantly relegated them to the comic and cartoonish. Übermensch indeed!

I have to admit, though, that I failed to be impressed by Machiavelli. Sure, it was a landmark work for its time, but it read to me like a Bond Villains for Dummies. The only thing lacking was a chapter about slowly dipping your enemies into shark tanks. Perhaps this is merely an instance where a book’s ideas have so integrated themselves into our cultural fabric that it banishes the tome itself to irrelevancy. I hate to think I’m the sort of colicky cultural infant that scoffs at original works because of their derivative progeny, but I was truly unable to take much away from The Prince. It’s a quick read, anyway, written to be a matter-of-fact lesson in being evil while appearing good. Certainly, I could draw comparisons to modern leaders and modern philosophies, but those would be vague and not particularly applicable anyway.

Chances are, you could read a paragraph summary of The Prince and take away the same depth of knowledge as reading the whole book. If you really want to read it, it’s very short, but I personally wouldn’t recommend doing even that.

§679 · July 11, 2005 · Tags: ·

2 Comments to “The Prince”

  1. S4R says:

    Stewie: Machiavelli you’ve told me nothing I don’t already know! Ah—Tsun Tsu’s ‘The Art of War’.

    I had a similar reaction when I first read, The Prince. However, if you compare Machiavelli to those that came before him, such as Socrates, the book takes on a new depth for his vast criticisms of some of the most respected thinkers in history at that time. For example, Socrates, if I remember was focused on the soul, and placed greater importance on achieving goals for benefit in the afterlife. Machiavelli saw religion as a dogmatic doctrine which seeks a balance between love and fear to maintain its power. This is precisely the Prince’s goal, so religion can’t be allowed too much strength.

  2. […] To any decently educated person in a nation like America, much of what Rousseau seems to preclude the necessity of explanation—like Machiavelli’s The Prince, the ideology has disseminated into our collective conscious so thoroughly that reading the book itself seems silly and redundant. […]

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