Critique On Machiavelli’s Notion On Human Nature



1.1  Background of the Study

Philosophers are both effects and causes: effects of their social circumstances and of politics and institutions of their time, causes (if they are fortunate) of belief which would mould(s) the politics and institutions of later ages. In most histories of philosophy, each philosopher does not appear in a vacuum; his opinions are not set forth unrelated. Thus, each philosopher is an outcome of a cultural milieu, a man in whom was crystallized and consent rated thoughts and feelings, which in vague and diffused form, was common to the age of which he was a part (Russeel, 491).

The above assertion from Russell represents a good description of Machiavelli, a man who came up at a time when Italy was at the point of total political collapse. He was a man who had a thorough grasp of the social and political situation of his time and deemed it fit to dole out antidotes for the social and political ills of the Italian states. Machiavelli was one of the most important figures of the Renaissance period. In support of their view and with reference to him, Russell submits that, the Renaissance, though it produced no important theoretical philosophers, produced one man of supreme eminence in political philosophy. (501)



This assertion is true because, Machiavelli’s works dealt with subjects of lasting and vital interest to all ages. This view is buttressed by the fact that people of every generation must ask themselves socio-political question similar to that raised by Machiavelli. Such questions borders on how to attain power, retain power, and expand it. Further, such question include whether the end really justifies the means? What is the nature of humans and role of the state? How can liberty and order be maintained in a state?

According to Esikot (2002), Machiavelli, is much discussed because of his attitude of indifference towards the morality or immorality of the means used by the ruler to accomplish his set political objectives. He aims at establishing means to assigned ends regardless of the question whether the means are to be considered good or bad. Machiavelli’s position is that any ruler who wants to survive in power and achieve his desires must have in him the quality of being as cunning as a fox and as fierce as a lion (23). He acknowledge keeping of faith and showing integrity as virtues, but insists that a ruler need not necessarily have these qualities. All that is required is that he should appear to have them. It is a good thing to appear to be faithful, merciful, humane, religious and upright, but the prince ought to act in a contrary way when circumstances require (105). Critique On Machiavelli’s Notion On Human Nature

Machiavelli believes it is futile to pursue political purposes by methods that are bound to fail. Power can only be achieved out of ruthlessness, not out of moral or ethical considerations. Machiavelli maintains that if men were good, then his precept would not be good and so would be unnecessary. But because men are wretched creatures who would deceive you at the slightest opportunity and so would not honour their words, the prince need not keep his word to them. For if he is able to establish and maintain his authority, the means he employs will be deemed honourable (32).

Machiavelli had a pessimistic view of human nature. To him, man is baseless, corrupt and mindless (Esikot, 43). Hence, Machiavelli for the Catholics, he is an evil counselor of the prince (leaders). For the protestants, Machiavelli is the tutor of the catholic kings, whose teaching has helped them to release excruciating pains upon humanity. To the humanists, Machiavelli is “the devilish advocate” because he has no compassion for human life. Throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth-centuries, Machiavelli’s name was synonymous with deviousness, cruelty and willful destructive rationality. It should also be said that no thinker is so demonized or misunderstood as Machiavelli (Elijah John, 304).



1.2  Statement of Problem

Machiavelli’s political theory is a complete deviation from the trend of western and Chinese philosophers, which had lead many leaders to be ruthless, because of his unconcern habit with morality and means employed by the ruler(s) in the pursuits of his political goal. Anthony Grafton in the “Introduction” to the 1999 edition of The Prince posits that the book teaches effective tactics for the absolute ruler and which many readers have seen as preaching ruthlessness and even glorifying in bloodshed: (xiii).

It must be added at once, first manuscript copies began to circulate in 1516, has greatly intoxicated many men like Benito Mussolini, Ceausescu of Romania and pol pot of Cambodia, who were responsible for the deaths of thousands of their citizens, (decades of) torture, and civil rights abuses, as a result of Machiavelli’s teaching of human nature being baseless, corrupt and mindless. And hence advocating for a strong ruler who can tame or curb these weaknesses, therefore, this work is concerned on investigating or affirming the critique of Machiavelli’s notion on human nature.

Originally posted on May 3, 2021 @ 1:15 am

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Peter Hezekiah Lawson (Sir Pee). The CEO of A reputable researcher, Web Developer, ICT Instructor and a publisher of many research works in Education.

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