Article

Niccolò Machiavelli

Cary J. Nederman

in Philosophy

ISBN: 9780195396577
Published online June 2015 | | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0268
Niccolò Machiavelli

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Niccolò Machiavelli (1469–1527) was a civil servant in the 1498 Florentine Republic who, after he lost his position in the Medici coup of 1512, wrote two of the most influential works of Renaissance Italian political theory, The Prince (1513/1514) and the Discourses on the Ten Books of Titus Livy (1514/1515–1518/1519). Both works were published only posthumously—in 1532 and 1531, respectively—but they appear to have circulated widely prior to their printing. Although Machiavelli wrote numerous other works, including poetry and plays as well as history and a treatise on warfare, his reputation as an important author rests primarily upon the two major political compositions just mentioned. The Prince is a short tract that proposes to teach rulers the “actual” precepts that will lead them to govern effectively. The Discourses, by contrast, is a far lengthier tome that defends the superiority of republican government, especially that of Rome. Machiavelli’s thought engendered controversy almost immediately upon its dissemination, and it continues to do so today. He has been condemned, for instance, for founding the doctrine of Realpolitik and for teaching the political necessity of doing “evil.” He has also been venerated for his contributions to the origins of political science and to the formulation of modern republican theory. The scholarly literature on Machiavelli is enormous. A useful guide to 20th-century interpretations is Niccolò Machiavelli: An Annotated Bibliography of Modern Criticism and Scholarship, compiled by Silvia Ruffo Fiore (New York: Greenwood, 1990), which covers research from 1935 to 1988 in all major languages. Also valuable is The Cambridge Companion to Machiavelli, edited by John M. Najemy (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2010), which reviews the current state of scholarship on Machiavelli. There have been a host of online efforts to survey recent literature on Machiavelli, but they have proven ephemeral; it may be best to conduct a web search for currently available bibliographies.

Article.  7066 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art ; Epistemology ; Feminist Philosophy ; History of Western Philosophy ; Metaphysics ; Moral Philosophy ; Non-Western Philosophy ; Philosophy of Language ; Philosophy of Law ; Philosophy of Mathematics and Logic ; Philosophy of Mind ; Philosophy of Religion ; Philosophy of Science ; Social and Political Philosophy

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