MACHIAVELLI\'S VIEW OF HUMAN NATURE



In The Prince Niccolo Machiavelli presents a view of
governing a state that is drastically different from that of
humanists of his time. Machiavelli believes the ruling Prince
should be the sole authority determining 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.1 His understanding of
human nature was a complete contradiction of what humanists
believed and taught. Machiavelli strongly promoted a secular
society and felt morality was not necessary but in fact stood in
the way of an effectively governed principality.2 Though in come
cases Machiavelli\'s suggestions seem harsh and immoral one must
remember that these views were derived out of concern Italy\'s
unstable political condition.3

Though humanists of Machiavelli\'s time believed that an
individual had much to offer to the well being of the state,
Machiavelli was quick to mock human nature. Humanists believed
that "An individual only \'grows to maturity- both intellectually
and morally- through participation\' in the life of the state."4
Machiavelli generally distrusted citizens, stating that "...in
time of adversity, when the state is in need of it\'s citizens
there are few to be found."5 Machiavelli further goes on to
question the loyalty of the citizens and advises the Prince that
"...because men a wretched creatures who would not keep their
word to you, you need keep your word to them."6 However,
Machiavelli did not feel that a Prince should mistreat the
citizens. This suggestion once again 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 bey the
citizens within his own principality. He makes the
generalization that men are, "...ungrateful, fickle, liars, and
deceivers, they shun danger and are greedy for profit; while you
treat them well they are yours."7 He characterizes men as being
self centered and not willing to act in the best interest of the
state,"[and when the prince] is in danger they turn against
[him]."8 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 feared. The bond of love is
one which men, wretched creatures 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.9

In order to win honor, Machaivelli suggests that 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...so that they can
go peaceably about their business."10 By encouraging citizens to
excel at their professions he would also be encouraging them to
"...increase the prosperity of the their state."11 These
measures, though carried out in deception, would bring the prince
honor and trust amongst the citizens, especially those who were
in the best positions to oppose him.

Machiavelli postulates that a prince must also deceive those
who attempt to flatter him. [In] choosing wise men for his
government and allowing those the freedom to speak the truth to
him, and then only concerning matters on which he asks their
opinion, and nothing else. But he should also question them
toughly and listen to what they say; then he should make
up his own mind.12

Since each person will only advice the prince in accord to
his own interests, the prince must act on his own accord.
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 for humankinds 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