Chapter 18 Notes from The Prince

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The Prince Chapter 18

In what way princes should keep their word

Although candor is praised over craftiness, history shows that leaders who practiced deceit overcame those that lived by their pledges. Machiavelli identifies two ways of fighting: by law, which is proper for men and by force, which is proper for animals. A prince must know how to fight both ways in order to be successful. To support his point, Machiavelli turns to the writers of ancient Greece and to the story of how Achilles, the Greek mythological hero, was trained by Chiron, the centaur (half man and half beast). According to Machiavelli, this is to show that a warrior needs to be trained in the fighting ways of both men and animals.

A prince must have the qualities of both the fox and the lion; one is useless without the other. A fox can recognize snares but cannot drive away wolves; a lion can drive off wolves but cannot recognize snares. Like a cunning fox, a wise prince should be willing to break his pledge if it serves his interests. Machiavelli acknowledges that this would be bad advice if men were honest, but since they are not, it is advantageous for a prince to practice the art of deception. Pope Alexander VI is a leader who is said to have been a master at this craft. For Machiavelli, a prince should strive to be only as good as circumstances allow him to be. He must also be willing to resort to evil to accomplish his agenda as fortune dictates. He writes,

"Therefore a prince will not actually need to have all the qualities previously mentioned, but he must surely seem to have them. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that having them all and always conforming to them would be harmful, while appearing to have them would be useful." Chapter 18, pg. 63

Topic Tracking: Fortune 7

A prince must put on the appearance of such qualities as clemency, faithfulness, frankness, humanity, and religion-the last being the most important. Men judge by appearances and as long as the prince is able to produce results, the methods he utilizes will be deemed necessary and even praiseworthy. Machiavelli mentions an unnamed ruler, presumably King Ferdinand of Spain, as an example of one who swears by peace and faith and does the opposite of both. Yet, that is the way he has kept his power and reputation.

Topic Tracking: Virtue 13
Topic Tracking: Power Politics 11

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