Chapter 18 of Machiavelli’s The Prince, continues with the author’s version of what constitutes a Prince. Machiavelli ascribed to ancient writers’ teachings and advocate for sets of principles of his own and it is often the case that the teaching of the ancient writers and Machiavelli’s teaching contradict each other. The following essay is interested in exploring the author’s teachings and the distinctions as well as the similarities of his teachings to that of ancient writers. Chapter 18 begins with the praise of an ideal Prince who is honest.
Immediately, there was a contradiction. Those praiseworthy Princes of the past have been those who manipulate a man’s brain. His story goes on to a combat, which he puts into two categories 1. Laws and 2. Force. Laws are proper for man while force is for beasts. A Prince must know both as knowing only one is not sufficient to last for a very long time. He credits ancient writers for teaching Princes. Chiron the centaur was the protector of the Princes as children. Chiron the centaur was chosen to be the protector of the Princes because Chiron the centaur was half man and half beast.
To know how to use the beast, the Prince shall pick a fox and as well as a lion. That is because although lions cannot protect themselves from the snares and the fox is not capable of protecting itself from wolves, foxes can scare off traps just like the lions can do the same thing to the wolves. The author further stated that simply having faith is not sufficient, just like a wise lord would not and should not depend on faith when things get tougher. This advice only works because men are not good. If they were good, this advice would not have been needed, to begin with.
Men do not observe faith and as a result, neither should the Prince. A Prince is within his rights to come up with a reason as to why he lost faith. Machiavelli stated that there are so many examples in modern times where a deal was not completed all the way through because the Princes involved are not loyal to the deal made by all the parties involved. The one who will be better off in the negotiations is the one who knows the fox the best. Deceivers are lucky as it is easy to get someone who will let oneself be deceived.
Machiavelli does not appear to suggest that people are foolish and can be fooled so easily. The suggestion here appears to be that people will willingly act as if they were fooled for the Prince due to his authority. Machiavelli went back to his assertion that there are so many example in which a deal between parties did not go through by providing such an example. He accused Alexander VI of being a deceiver who “never did anything, nor ever thought of anything, but how to deceive men, and he always found a subject to whom he could do it. (Machiavelli, 70).
Machiavelli praised Alexander VI’s ability to deceive others. It is important to note here that it is disappointing for Machiavelli to suggest that there are a lot of examples that proves his point of view, but he was only able to provide one example that backs up his point of view. Given the magnitude of his allegations, it is probably justified that Machiavelli provided more evidence that backs up his point of view. This is not in any way to suggest that there is no merit to his suggestion. It is quite to the contrary.
That said, though, although, he does not need to further establish credibility given his stature in the subject matter, it probably would have been a safer bet for him to provide more than one example to prove his point of view here. Perhaps in a not so surprising way, Machiavelli suggested that his prior observations are not necessary for a Prince to possess. The important thing is the appearance of possessing those qualities. As a matter of fact, he declares that having these qualities and implementing them is very dangerous, but appearing to have them is helpful because it comes with characteristics such as being “merciful, faithful, umane, honest, and religious” (Machiavelli, 70).
Furthermore, merely appearing to possess these characteristics helps a Prince switch to different characteristics when it is time to be contrary to those characteristics listed above. A Prince, especially a new one will have a hard time to possess characteristics that can be associated with a good man mainly because of the need to stay in power. The Prince shall need to change his characteristics based on the circumstances. The Prince shall appear merciful, faithful, honest, humane, and most important of them all religious.
Machiavelli said of men, that they use their eyes to decide something instead of their hands as everyone can see but few are able to touch. It is also in the nature of men not to challenge the opinion of the many, who could rule over the jurisdiction. Machiavelli advocated for a Prince to win as that will be “honored and praised by everyone. ” (Machiavelli, 71). Machiavelli called everyone in the world “vulgar. ” The vulgar belief in appearances and results and not necessarily the means. He concluded Chapter 18 by accusing an unnamed Prince, who allegedly advocates for peace and faith but is hostile to both.
Machiavelli credits the reason as to why that the unnamed Prince retained his power is because the Prince does not observe both peace and faith. One major difference between the teaching Machiavelli ascribes to the ancient writers in The Prince, Chapter 18, and his own teaching in that chapter is Machiavelli’s suggestion that a Prince shall be deceptive if necessary. He did praise those honest Princes but he immediately indicated that it is very important for a Prince to have the know-how of deception.
Another very crucial difference between ancient writers and Machiavelli’s The Prince is regarding religion. In ancient writings, religion seems to be the forefront of their writings. Machiavelli believes that religion is the most important thing for a prince too, but he does not focus on it as much as his colleagues did during their time. It is shockingly alarming how a novel titled the Prince is not as involved in the political matter as one may expect it to be given the title of the novel.
There is little to no mention of war, except a mention of the need for a Prince to protect his land. Ancient writers give a lot more power to the royalty. Machiavelli believes in the rights of the govern to do what they please. As a matter of fact, Machiavelli’s ideal Prince is probably slightly more powerful than Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and of Her Other Realms and Territories. This is something unheard of at the time he wrote The Prince.
Plato, in Plato’s Republic, said a ruler must do as he ought to while Machiavelli believes a prince must do what he wishes to do to successfully preserve his jurisd sdiction. There is also a similarity between Machiavelli’s The Prince and other writers’ work in the same era. One of the main similarities between Machiavelli’s work and other writer’s work is regards to their distinct emphasis on religion. It is a given that Machiavelli does not focus on religion as much as other writers of his era per a suggestion made above, but nevertheless, he does believe that religion is very important for a Prince to have.
Machiavelli’s Prince is less authoritative in comparison to other writer’s characters, but it is more authoritative than a typical leader in the Democratic Republic. Ironically, the ideal Prince that Machiavelli is advocating for his less authoritative than the leaders that are portrayed in Plato’s Republic although the latter is supposedly a republic and ergo there probably are no Princes in the said jurisdiction and Machiavelli is discussing a Prince and a royal family are presumably the heads of states, if not necessarily the heads of government of their respective jurisdiction.
In conclusion, the following can be observed in The Prince Machiavelli’s justification for deceit is that others will deceit you; and so, can you. He seems to indicate that a mere prediction that one will deceive you is a justifiable reason for your own deception of the suspect. It is a reverse proposition to the bible verse that says, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you. ” Presumably, the bible is not talking about deception or anything negative. In Chapter 18, there seems to be a special attention to imagery versus in the previous chapters.
As noted above, the chapter introduced to us the characteristics a prince needs to appear to have. Ironically, there also appears to be a “do not judge a book by its cover,” moment as Machiavelli suggests that Princes are judged by the outcome of their accomplishments not by how they achieved their accomplishments. Machiavelli has a lot of distinction in comparison to his other colleagues of the era as noted above. He also has similarities to his colleagues as it is also noted above.