Chapter 8 Notes from The Prince

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The Prince Chapter 8

Concerning those who become princes by evil means

A private citizen may become a prince in two ways that cannot be characterized by ability or fortune. One is through wicked means and the other is through election by his fellow citizens. Machiavelli gives an ancient and modern example of the former kind without making morality its core issue. Agathocles of Sicily is an example of a potter who rises through the military ranks to become its commanding officer. At an opportune time, he kills off the ruling powers of Syracuse and becomes king. Thus, his rise to power was not through fortune, though it cannot be attributed to virtue either because of the extreme cruelty of his acts. "By such methods one may win dominion but not glory," Chapter 8, pg. 36 states Machiavelli, although he does acknowledge the fact that some rulers must resort to evil deeds. The modern example is Oliverotto da Fermo, who killed his uncle in order to take power. Machiavelli provides these two examples to explore the use of proper and improper cruelty. Proper cruelty is done early and at one stroke so that the deed accomplishes the desired goal without making the citizens feel constantly threatened. Improper cruelty is one that is repetitious, which makes the citizens always wary of danger. As a general rule, harm should be inflicted all at once while benefits should be given little by little. Both harm and benefits should not serve as quick solutions for desperate circumstances.

Topic Tracking: Virtue 6
Topic Tracking: Power Politics 5

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