Drury, S. B. (1985). The Hidden Meaning of Strauss’s “Thoughts on Machiavelli”. History of Political Thought, 6(3), 575–590.
Background: Leo Strauss is often remembered as a critic of Machiavelli, going so far as to call him, unambiguously, a “teacher of evil”. Drury, however, presents an inconvenient and deeply counterintuitive argument: Strauss, the esoteric writer that he is, is actually not a critic of Machiavelli’s philosophy. Rather, he criticizes Machiavelli for speaking of brutal truths so plainly and under his own name. Drury’s ideas, while not conclusively proving whether Strauss is friend or foe of Machiavelli, muddies the water and forces one to re-evaluate their prior thoughts on Strauss and Machiavelli.
How I used it: Drury’s paper completely messed up my rebuttal argument. I had such a juicy one-liner refute: I was going to argue how Machiavelli was not a cartoonish “teacher of evil”. Drury’s argument, detailed and condignly argued, at least convinced me that I would need the time (and access) to more or less all of Strauss writings on Machiavelli to determine for myself where Strauss fell. This necessitated the search for a translation of Gentillet’s Anti-Machiavel to use for my rebuttal argument instead. Ultimately, it this source, while never cited in my paper, completely reshaped the structure of at least half of the paper.
Gentillet, I. (2018). Anti-Machiavel: A Discourse upon the Means of Well Governing. (S. Patericke, Trans.). Wipf and Stock Publishers.
Background: Innocent Gentillet was a French Huguenot who was exiled from France to Switzerland for his religious beliefs. He wrote a scathing critique of Machiavelli, known now as the “Anti-Machiavel”, in reaction to the St. Bartholomew’s day massacre of protestants in Paris. In the tradition of his time, Gentillet identified his enemies as being influenced by the “evil” writings of Machiavelli.
How I used it: This text forms an intellectual starting point for the arguments against Machiavelli’s character. Understanding this, I brought light to this mostly-forgotten book and used it to form the argument against Machiavelli. It felt appropriate to me to use one of, if no the earliest, source possible as my worthy opponent. Every subsequent work which decries or slanders Machiavelli owes some intellectual debt to the Anti-Machiavel, even if it is unconscious.
Lukes, T. J. (2001). Lionizing Machiavelli. The American Political Science Review, 95(3), 561–575.
Background: T.J. Lukes makes a strong claim against Machiavelli scholarship. Namely, he believes that academic study of The Prince has overemphasized the fox of Machiavelli’s famous analogy while largely ignoring the lion. “Lionizing Machiavelli”, then, sets to correct this misinterpretation and re-assert the importance of the lion alongside the fox.
How I used it: Luke’s writing is especially useful in that it also takes a rather counterintuitive stand against what he perceives as the academic consensus on Machiavelli. He is also where I first found Strauss’s description of Machiavelli as a “teacher of evil”. Luke’s example in how to make a counterintuitive argument about Machiavelli was influential on my own writing process, and his reference to Strauss helped direct my research.
Machiavelli, Niccoló. (1532). The Prince. (W. K. Marriott, Trans. 1998) Project Gutenberg.
Background: Written by Niccolò Machiavelli from exile early in the 16th century, The Prince offers cutting-edge political analysis of the early modern world from a figure who worked on the inside. This text form the bulk of the examples from which to discern Machiavelli’s opinions of politics. Many of his example have become famous tropes of their own (like that of the lion and the fox, or whether it is preferable to be loved or feared). This is, unequivocally, the core text from which arguments about Machiavelli’s thoughts on politics must derive.
How I used it: By explaining and analyzing passages from the book, I showed Machiavelli’s figure to be far less severe than a modern “Machiavellian” character would indicate to a lay person of the 21st century. I did not obfuscate his brutal opinions on political behavior, such as the use of cruelty. Instead, I demonstrated the how his view on immorality is based on what is politically necessary rather than Christian morality. The view presented by Machiavelli is more akin to a listing of tools, like hammers and nails. The actions are deplorable, but a good prince to Machiavelli should shrewdly and decisively use all tools available to secure their rule and their sovereignty. The ends justify the means.
Additionally, The Prince served as the primary inspiration for the paper. It is a seminal text of modern politic science, yet it is understood poorly, if at all, by the general public. Machiavelli’s is most commonly understood through the adjective Shakespeare helped developed: Machiavel (Machiavellian in modern english). Reading The Prince reveals Machiavelli to be a far more complex and nuanced that the “Machiavel” characters of fiction which supposedly take their cues from him. Machiavelli’s The Prince shows how immoral actions must, necessarily, be considered by a politician. However, they are not exactly desirable. Machiavelli’s political maxims focus on achieving ends by any means necessary.
Machiavelli, Niccoló. (1532). Discourses on The First Decade of Titus Livius. (Ninian Hill Thomson, Trans. 1883). Project Gutenberg.
Background: Like The Prince, The Discourses was published posthumously. It contains Machiavelli’s commentary on the work’s of Livy and offer profound insight into the writer’s perspective on politics, history, and society. In contrast to the prince, Machiavelli’s Discourses presents not as a proscriptive text for responsible governance, but as an academic examination of history. However, Machiavelli still develops and refines his ideas about government, specifically his preference for democratic republics and his idiosyncratic interpretation of the late Roman Republic.
How I used it: This book offers a clearer image of the normative opinions of Machiavelli, as he entertains many more arguments as to how a government should operate as opposed to working with what is, as in The Prince. While I ultimately did not use the book directly, some of the arguments about forms of government did indirectly find their way into
McCormick, J. P. (2001). Machiavellian Democracy: Controlling Elites with Ferocious Populism. The American Political Science Review, 95(2), 297–313.
Background: Written in 2001 for The American Political Science review, this article by scholar John P. McCormick is first published version of what eventually became his well reviewed book of the same title, Machiavellian Democracy. McCormick re-interprets the Discourses to find a Machiavelli contrary to “pioneer of modern antimoralism” that is seen (according to McCormick) by many accounts.
How I used it: The conclusion of the paper (and the book of the same title) fall outside the scope of my hypothesis. Consequently, I did not use the paper directly in essay. However, McCormick’s cogent analysis of the discourses helped me think about how to argue for my rebuttal essay. Like me, McCormick is something of a Machiavelli apologist, and his nuanced understanding of the Florentine writer contributed to my own depictions of Machiavelli. A very interesting re-interpretation of Machiavelli that better places his ideas both within his own context and a modern context. Fear of the masses seems to have been instrumental in Machiavelli’s favorite republic, Rome, and so McCormick considers how Machiavelli’s ideas reflect this — and might have something to offer for modern liberal democracies.
Colish, Marcia L. (1999). Republicanism, Religion, and Machiavelli’s Savonarolan Moment. Journal of the History of Ideas 60, no. 4: 597–616.
Background: Machiavelli’s relationship with religion has been a topic of debate almost since immediately after his death. It was no secret (after he died) that Machiavelli had substantial and excoriating criticism of the Catholic church in Italy. However, other’s have also argued (often sucessfully) that Machiavelli was a committed Christian who’s supposed “hatred” of the religion is wildly overblown. Colish synthesizes these views and present and more complete image of Machiavelli’s relationship with religion, as well as his contemporary Girolamo Savonarola.
How I used it: This article presents many of the arguments surrounding Machiavelli and religion, therefore it served as an excellent point to begin research into this aspect of his thought. As religion and morality in the early modern were so deeply intertwined, it is invaluable to have a clearer image of what Machiavelli himself thought on the subject. As many of the arguments presented by Gentillet were stepped in the religious tradition of Western Europe, this paper proved helpful. The analysis of Machiavelli’s commentary on his contemporary, Savonarola, also helps demonstrate what Machiavelli does not want to see in a ruler. Ultimately, it was used for historical research and to provide credibility to some of my claims around religion in Machiavelli’s writing.
Sil, Narasingha Prosad. POLITICAL MORALITY vs. POLITICAL NECESSITY: KAUṬILYA AND MACHIAVELLI REVISITED. Journal of Asian History 19, no. 2 (1985): 101–42.
Background: Professor Sil is an Indian-Born retired academic who spent the majority of his career in the United States. This article, interestingly, comes from his time as faculty at the University of Benin in Nigeria during the 1980s. The primary concern of the paper, Political Morality vs. Political Necessity helps draw a distinction between the morality (or lack thereof) of political actions and the necessity of doing them.
How I used it: Sil’s wealth of knowledge and insights into the figures of Machiavelli and Kautiya, an Inidan political theorist who Machiavelli is compared with, offers useful commentary on the political morality and analysis of Machiavelli. While Kautiya is not himself relevant to the hypothesis, he is nevertheless an interesting reference point for research concerning Machiavelli. The passages primarily concerning Machiavelli has a quote that proved crucial my paper. Ultimately, Sil’s paper gives a sympathetic view of Machiavelli’s personal morality that proved useful within my paper.
Soll, Jacob. (2014). “The Reception of The Prince 1513–1700, or Why We Understand Machiavelli the Way We Do.” Social Research 81, no. 1: 31–60.
Background: Soll’s paper traces, as its name suggests, the reception of The Prince from the time of its initial writing and circulation among a closed circle of Machiavelli’s associates to its distribution in every corner of Europe.
How I used it:
Rathé, C. E. (1965). INNOCENT GENTILLET AND THE FIRST “ANTI-MACHIAVEL.” Bibliothèque d’Humanisme et Renaissance, 27(1), 186–225.
Background: Rathe is a 20th century historian who served as my first significant introduction to the work of Innocent Gentillet. The details who Gentillet was and the period he was writing in, as well as identifying the year of the first edition of the anti-machiavel as from 1576. Gentillet is placed within his historical period and conditions, with great importance placed upon the Saint Bartholomew’s day Massacre.
How I used it: Rathe’s lengthy and thorough compilation of scholarship related to the Anti-Machiavel is invaluable for a modern reader attempting to pierce through the nearly 500 year barrier between the present and Gentillet. Rathe’s understands well the arguments nearly. every relevant argument made by and against Gentillet within academia. Unfortunately, the paper is approaching 60 years old, and is therefore somewhat dated. However, observations he makes about Gentillet’s confusing of Machiavelli’s “special political maxims” as “general moral maxims” are still relevant and clarifying.
Strauss, L. (1957). Machiavelli’s Intention: The Prince. The American Political Science Review, 51(1), 13–40.
Background: Leo Strauss was a prominent 20th century academic who wrote rather frequently on Machiavelli. Strauss is often see by Machiavelli scholars, like Lukes, as representing the righ flank of Machiavelli’s critics. Not itself a work directly critical of the Florentine’s morality, “Machiavelli’s intention” looks, as the title suggest, at Machiavelli’s intentions about his most famous work, The Prince. Specifically, he examines the claim that Machiavelli’s work is scientific, which he describes as “defensible, even helpful”, but insists it must be properly understood.
How I used it: “Machiavelli’s Intention” was a dense but useful read for my paper. While Strauss was mostly cut from the paper due to the scholarship presented by S.B. Drury scuttling my initial rebuttal argument, the research was still useful. Strauss, if he is a critic of Machiavelli (I am no longer sure), still has an incredibly deep knowledge of The Prince.
Curry, Andrew. (1999). Political Morality? Machiavelli Encouraged a Flexible Approach Five Centuries Ago. The Washington Post.
Background: Washington Post, 1999. This archived article presents Machiavelli’s political doctrine with some useful historical context. By no means a revolutionary piece of Machiavelli scholarship, it nevertheless serves to articulate useful arguments about his “flexible” approach to poltics.
How I used it: Curry’s decades-old article proved most useful as a simply authority to cite on some more obscure historical claims, specifically within the causal argument. A proper history book of Italian politics in the 16th century would have been preferably, but his article is well-written and informed. As the only journal-article in my references section, it serves a useful purpose for citing some basic historical arguments.
The window for feedback having already passed, I am just dropping a comment to humbly ask for a grade.
I got a good laugh out of:
Not to mention it’s a beautiful illustration of Core Value 1. When learning thwarts us “proving a hypothesis” by compelling us to “follow the evidence,” deadlines be damned. Stuff takes time! 🙂
Graded THU APR 27