Machiavelli

Machiavelli

Machiavelli

Machiavelli

Synopsis

Founders of Modern Political and Social Thought Series Editor: Dr Mark Philp, Oriel College, University of Oxford Founders of Modern Political and Social Thought present critical examinations of the work of major political philosophers and social theorists, assessing both their initial contribution and continuing relevance to politics and society. Each volume provides a clear, accessible, historically-informed account of each thinker's work, focusing on a re-assessment of their central ideas and arguments. Founders encourage scholars and students to link their study of classic texts to current debates in political philosophy and social theory. This launch volume in the Founders of Modern Political and Social Thought series presents a critical examination of Machiavelli's thought, combining an accessible, historically-informed account of his work with a re-assessment of his central ideas and arguments. Maurizio Viroli challenges the accepted interpretations of Machiavelli's work, insisting that his republicanism was based not on a commitment to virtue, greatness, and expansion, but to the ideal of civic life protected by the shield of fair laws. His detailed study of how Machiavelli composed his famous work The Prince presents new interpretations, and he further argues that the most challengingand completely underestimatedaspect of Machiavelli's thought is his philosophy of life, in particular his conceptions of love, women, irony, God, and the human condition. Viroli demonstrates that Machiavelli composed The Prince, and all his works, according to the rules of classical rhetoric and never intended to found the 'modern science of politics', aiming rather to continue and refine the practice of political theorising as a rhetorical endeavour taught by the Roman masters of civic philosophy. Viroli's Machiavelli, a serious challenge to contemporary methods of doing political theory, will be essential for advanced students of the history of political thought.

Excerpt

The main feature of Machiavelli's thought, wrote one of his finest interpreters, is his 'spiritual narrowness'; his insensitivity 'to any spiritual movement that is not subordinate to a purely political idea': no serious religious or moral anxiety, no sincere concern for the meaning of life; only a passion for politics and for the study of political events and actions. This image of Machiavelli has induced scholars to investigate his political thought as a self- sufficient and secluded province, and to leave aside his beliefs, about the cosmos, man, death, life, and history.

I believe that this approach distorts Machiavelli's intellectual and moral identity and prevents us from appreciating his interpretation of the meaning and significance of political action. This is not to say that his conceptions of politics are founded upon his beliefs of the universe, and even less that they were determined or constrained by them. It means rather that we can attain a richer understanding of his views on the goals and the value of political action if we consider them within the broader spectrum of his beliefs. Also, to study Machiavelli as a purely political thinker deprives us of a moral philosophy of the highest value based upon a magnanimous conception of life pervaded by irony and self-irony, tolerant to the variety of the human world and human fragility, sympathetic to poetic abandonment to beauty and love . . .

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