Academic journal article Polish Sociological Review

In Praise for Monstrosities. the Case of Niccolò Machiavelli

Academic journal article Polish Sociological Review

In Praise for Monstrosities. the Case of Niccolò Machiavelli

Article excerpt

Abstract: In the paper author refers to the passage from The Prince of Niccolò Machiavelli, in which the famous Florentine says that there are two kinds of combat: one with laws, the other with force. Author defend the claim that by writing this, Machiavelli opened up a new and still unused way of thinking about nature-culture relationship. A follower of this way of thinking withdraws from saying that nature is surpassed by culture, or that nature is nothing else but a subject of an on-going human speculation, and rebuts the sole hypothesis that what there is, is nothing but nature. Modern Western culture entrusted its key opposition to the nature-culture relationship. By and large, political philosophy is a story about surpassing the nature in order to establish a state under the rule of law. According to Machiavelli, the juxtaposition of nature and culture, the narrative on surpassing by politics the laws of nature, just as well as the narrative on us being stuck in it, are all utterly wrong. Accepting the ambiguity of the opposition between nature and culture and assuming that the social contract is indeed fictitious, author would like to question Machiavelli about his vision of subjectivity and politics in a world where "natural objects" appear to be socialized, and "cultural subjects" appear to be dissocial. In the way author puts the question: does Machiavelli recommend monstrosity by writing stories in praise of monstrosity as it may well seem?

Keywords: armed citizen, continuity of nature, diplomat, monsters, necessity of the monster, situation, prince, virtù

We must, therefore, I think, in order to be pardoned for our faults, commit new ones; redoubling the mischief, and multiplying fires and robberies; and in doing this, endeavor to have as many companions as we can; for when many are in fault, few are punished; small crimes are chastised, but great and serious ones rewarded.

Niccolò Machiavelli (2007)

Concepts are really monsters that are reborn from their fragments.

Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari (1994)

No facility, but no impossibility in principle. No transcendence, but no prison of immanence either. Nothing but the ordinary work of politics.

Bruno Latour (2004)

We live in an age of monsters and of the body-panics they excite.

David McNally (2011)

A Lamb with a Pig's Head

François Jacob, in his famous 1970 (1993) work entitled La logique du vivant, une histoire de l'hérédit, states that a sixteenth-century description of the animate world is filled with various, colorful, more or less fabulous monsters. There are authors who, like Ulysses Aldrovandi and Ambroise Paré, devote their whole books to them (Jacob 1993). According to Jacob, the Renaissance monsters always reflect the properties of the visible world; there is no monster that would not resemble something and would not be a combination of body parts of other animals. Monsters always reflect and reproduce similarities, but similarities which violated the rules and ceased to match the ordinary, monotone workings of nature. The combinations and signs, which can be read from them, do not reveal the order existing in the world, but show errors, which can slip into this world. François Jacob writes about it thus:

Each monster is the result of iniquity and bears witness to a certain disorder: an act (or even an intention) not in conformity with the order of the world. Physical or moral, each divergence from nature produces an unnatural fruit. Nature, top, has its morality (Jacob 1993: 46).

According to Jacob, the Renaissance knowledge of monstrosity constitutes a whole and complete system, in which everything has its place. Therefore, generation was only one of the methods, which God used to maintain the world within the particular limits and creating likeness. Here is a world in which nature is endowed with morality. Yet, a question arises: is a world in which morality exists in nature not a world without morality, a world so to speak beyond good and evil, a world beyond the division into facts and values, or rather a world, in which values exist only as much as they are facts, and the facts are taken into consideration only when they aspire to being values? …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.