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Machiavelli’s Claims on Good Leadership in The Prince

In the book The Prince, Machiavelli presented the readers with opinions that were opposed to humanism philosophy. He encouraged rulers to kill some of their subjects to obtain what they wanted. The author discusses the criminal ways that rulers can use to attain what they want. He outlines how rulers can apply cruelty to restore peace. Machiavelli’s assertions about a good leader are contrary to humanism philosophical arguments, and to him, the end does not justify the process.

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Machiavelli also presented controversial claims in Chapter 17 of The Prince, arguing about mercy and cruelty. He argues no prince should be named cruel for keeping his subjects loyal and restoring peace. The author Machiavelli insisted a prince must be cautious not to practice compassion unwisely. The writer praises Cesare Borgia for restoring peace through cruelty. “Cesare Borgia was considered cruel; notwithstanding, his cruelty reconciled the Romagna, unified it, and restored” (Machiavelli and Bondanella 87). Machiavelli claims that cruelty, which hurts few people, can prevent widespread violence. He states that a leader should consider being more feared than loved if he cannot attain both virtues.

Machiavelli commented that a prince should be careful in his actions to avoid being hated by individuals even if he is feared. “Nevertheless a prince ought to inspire fear… if he does not win love, he avoids hatred” (Machiavelli and Bondanella 88). The author controversially argues that humans easily forget the death of their loved ones compared to the inheritance, and thus the prince must avoid touching his subject’s women and property. Machiavelli’s perception is that generosity is just a virtue just because human beings can praise it. The author builds the necessity of some leaders committing crimes to gain what they desire. He was more concerned about the end of action, but not the means. These were the attributes that Machiavelli considered a good leader should have.

The controversy of Machiavelli’s arguments is evidenced in Chapter 8 of The Prince when he talks about the two ways leaders can rise to power: by illegal means or by being chosen with private citizens. Machiavelli does not promote criminal leadership acts, nor does the contrary, but he says it is okay if the rulers achieve their desired goal. He refers to this stance as amoral and not immoral, and it is not linked to the moral value of the action. This argument seems in line with the end that does not justify the means, which has faced much criticism.

Machiavelli admires people’s abilities like that of Agathocles, but he is cautious about qualifying his approval. Agathocles became a military commander and wickedly used the authority to kill the whole senator to be the leader. “Agathocles in entering into and extricating himself from dangers be considered…it cannot be seen why he should be esteemed less than the most notable captain” (Machiavelli and Bondanella 55). In this way, a person gets the power, but not the glory from people. In another instance, Oliverotto became a military leader, plotted with some citizens to coup the city. He killed soldiers and guests to take over the power and forced the entire city to obey him.

Machiavelli’s discussions on who is a good leader are contrary to the humanism philosophy. Humanism philosophy is about doing good as a leader for the benefit of many. In chapters 8 and 18 of The Prince, Machiavelli advocates for rulers to commit crimes against individuals to attain what they want. Humanistic leaders are ethical, compassionate, and treat their people with dignity. In some arguments from Machiavelli, the people were not being handled with the respect they deserve; the rulers killed people for power.

In conclusion, Machiavelli justified to the readers that the end does not justify means. Agathocles and Oliverotto killed subjects for them to rise to power. Cesare Borgia used cruelty to restore peace among his subjects. The author’s arguments are contrary to the humanism philosophical assertions. The humanism argument is that the leader does well for his people, and Machiavelli’s opinions differ from the humanism philosophy of a good leader.

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Work Cited

Machiavelli, Niccolò, and Peter Bondanella. The Prince. Oxford. 7th ed., Oxford University Press, 2005. Print.

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