Chapter 17 Notes from The Prince

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The Prince Chapter 17

Concerning cruelty: whether it is better to be loved than to be feared, or the reverse

Like liberality, it is good for a prince to be considered kind rather than cruel, but it is more often the case that cruelty serves as a better weapon. For Machiavelli, a prince who brings peace and stability through his cruelty should be considered kinder than a leader who brings destruction upon his state because of his misplaced kindness. A prince must be willing to take cruel measures if it benefits the state. Executions harm only a few individuals, but it can be healthy for the wellbeing of the entire state. In answering the question of whether it is better to be loved than feared, Machiavelli writes,

"The answer is, of course, that it would be best to be both loved and feared. But since the two rarely come together, anyone compelled to choose will find greater security in being feared than in being loved." Chapter 17, pg. 60

In general, men are unreliable when hardships arise. Thus, fear is a stronger bond of loyalty than friendship because men are fickle in relationships, but fear is constant. It is good for a prince to be feared; but he must avoid being hated. This is possible as long as the prince refrains from the citizens' properties and women. For a prince who leads his own army, it is imperative for him to practice cruelty because that is the only way he can command his soldiers' absolute respect. Machiavelli compares two great military leaders: Hannibal and Scipio. Although Hannibal's army consisted of men of various races, they were never rebellious because they feared their leader. Scipio's men, on the other hand, were known for their mutiny and dissension. Machiavelli states, "I conclude that since men love as they themselves determine but fear as their ruler determines, a wise prince must rely upon what he and not others can control." Chapter 17, pg. 61

Topic Tracking: Virtue 12
Topic Tracking: Power Politics 10

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