Talk:Niccolò Machiavelli

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Total misunderstanding of Machiavelli[edit]

This entire article discusses Machiavelli with an acceptance of "The Prince" as his most important work and most influential work. However, the work was not the most important to Machiavelli himself, and in it he says nothing about what is actually "good" (this word is avoided completely, last I checked), only what is necessary and favorable to keep a principality working. The Prince itself was never meant to be published (it was published 4 years after he died); rather, he created and distributed it to some higher-ups in Florence while he was exiled as a sort of plea to be able to return.

Machiavelli should be remembered more for his "Discourses on the First Ten Books of Levy", where he states things such as "The Masses are Wiser and More Constant Than a Prince" (Capitalised because it's a chapter title), and that the ideal republic is actually a combination of an aristocracy, a democracy, and a principality; this is likely where Adams gained his admiration for the Italian. In this work, by the way, he also said that principalities are actually all temporary and cannot last permanently due to the fickle nature of individual man - countries require some form of democracy in order to create a lasting, stable nation, in Machiavelli's mind. And, given that this was completed in 1518, long before the advent of Montesquieu, Rousseau, Locke, or Hobbes, and only one year after Luther's "Theses", is very significant.

Thus, it is in my strong opinion that this article is confused and unfair in its judgment of Machiavelli as either "evil" or purely a "political realist". If one erases everything else he wrote and did to the Prince and perhaps the "Art of War", then perhaps that is true, but otherwise it cannot be. Tancrisism (talk) 07:50, 12 March 2010 (UTC)

WP:NPOV means that we cannot present the "true" Machiavelli, as scholars dispute this. Your points about the Discourses are present, as are the reasons why not everyone finds them persuasive. Some people see a different significance to the fact that Machiavelli speaks of what is necessary rather than good, just as he never speaks of the soul. Machiavelli himself states (regarding Livy, and in the Discourses) that when someone omits something commonly thought to be important, it is a sign that he thinks it unimportant. We can't very well ignore the Prince (and the less republican statements of the Discourses) because it contradicts (some of) what is said in the Discourses. RJC TalkContribs 14:47, 12 March 2010 (UTC)
Naturally, and I wouldn't suggest omitting "The Prince", or the less republican statements of the Discourses, as they are important and necessary to understand Machiavelli. What I am saying is that "The Prince" gets much more focus than it should in drawing a conclusion about the nature of the man, given that he merely wrote it for a select few to read and it was never published in his lifetime as he never meant it to be. In the "Discourses", on the other hand, he does mention what is "good", rather than simply using the vague "virtù", and he writes with more ideology. Besides, I am curious as to what he says in "The Prince" that contradicts "The Discourses", as "The Prince" is not much more than a guidebook to govern a principality effectively and a plea to unify Italy (one of the very few moments where his human side appears in the otherwise mechanical book). Tancrisism (talk) 07:09, 31 March 2010 (UTC)
I would suggest you take it up in an academic journal and convince the field. You are likely to meet stiff opposition, given the number of scholars who've studied the Discourses in great detail and come to the opposite conclusion. Until there is scholarly consensus, molding the article about what you feel is the correct interpretation would run afoul of WP:OR and WP:NPOV. As WP:V says, verifiability, not truth. RJC TalkContribs 14:12, 31 March 2010 (UTC)
Yes, I see what you are saying. I suppose I will have to do just that, then. Thanks for the suggestion. Tancrisism (talk) 00:18, 3 April 2010 (UTC)

Layout revision[edit]

The article is in need of a few minor layout changes. as i am unfamiliar with the coding, perhaps someone would like to apply these. Zarzhu (talk) 01:40, 12 March 2009 (UTC)

Also, why "is" he a philosopher? I'm pretty sure he's dead. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:13, 29 March 2009 (UTC)

Changed to "was" (by somebody else). Re: layout change. Perhaps In popular culture heading is in order? Move some stuff there to simplify. E.g.: the 'Modern Video Gaming' entry seems rather stub-ish, and/or inconsequential. ~Eric F (talk) 21:16, 12 March 2012 (UTC)

Yes, I think that popular culture is an issue that will not go away on this article, even though pop cultures references to NM are so far in spirit from the reality of the main subject. So a properly made section might be better than just having an eternal series of drive-by edits and reversions which we have had for some years.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 09:26, 7 May 2012 (UTC)

And the painting in the middle of the page with Cesare Borgia and Machiavelli is NOT a painting of Cesare Borgia and Machiavelli. It's another group of men entirely. Honestly, do you think a man who is a duke, warlord, and son of a pope is going to allow himself to be painted off in the wings while an office worker of common birth takes center stage? (talk) 05:35, 15 March 2014 (UTC)Monlette

was he gay[edit]

on Showtime that appear to make him gay, I never heard this before. what is your view on this please?

== == ( monkish)

He was not gay. He was married with many children, and many mistresses on the side. He was, however, teased about being gay by his coworkers. This was just horseplay. The sort of thing that still goes on in office environments. (talk) 05:27, 15 March 2014 (UTC)Monlette


Do we need the article to say "The Prince's contribution to the history of political thought is the fundamental break between political Realism and political Idealism." twice within a couple lines?MephYazata (talk) 01:12, 5 April 2009 (UTC)

From the two lines I think the best one to leave in is the second instance. The first line "The Prince's contribution to the history of political thought is the fundamental break between political Realism and political Idealism. Niccolò Machiavelli’s best-known book" could be changed to "The Prince, Niccolò Machiavelli’s best-known book, ...". This leaves the second sentence of the paragraph mostly intact and in the point about realism and idealism is not lost, simply a few lines later.MephYazata (talk) 01:18, 5 April 2009 (UTC)

The Prince's contribution to the history of political thought is the fundamental break between political Realism and political Idealism. Niccolò Machiavelli’s best-known book exposits and describes the arts with which a ruling prince can maintain control of his realm. It concentrates on the "new prince", under the presumption that a hereditary prince has an easier task in ruling, since the people are accustomed to him. To retain power, the hereditary prince must carefully maintain the socio-political institutions to which the people are accustomed; whereas a new prince has the more difficult task in ruling, since he must first stabilize his new-found power in order to build an enduring political structure. That requires the prince being a public figure above reproach, whilst privately acting amorally to achieve State goals. The examples are those princes who most successfully obtain and maintain power, drawn from his observations as a Florentine diplomat, and his ancient history readings; thus, the Latin phrases and Classic examples.

The Prince does not dismiss morality, instead, it politically defines “Morality”—as in the criteria for acceptable cruel action—it must be decisive: swift, effective, and short-lived. Machiavelli is aware of the irony of good results coming from evil actions; notwithstanding some mitigating themes, the Catholic Church proscribed The Prince, registering it to the Index Librorum Prohibitorum, moreover, the Humanists also viewed the book negatively, among them, Erasmus of Rotterdam. As a treatise, its primary intellectual contribution to the history of political thought is the fundamental break between political Realism and political Idealism—thus, The Prince is a manual to acquiring and keeping political power. In contrast with Plato and Aristotle, a Classical ideal society is not the aim of the prince’s will to power. As a political scientist, Machiavelli emphasises necessary, methodical exercise of brute force punishment-and-reward (patronage, clientelism, et cetera) to preserve the status quo.

Frankly, the above paragraphs are tendentious and only true if you ignore large parts of "The Prince" and/or decide arbitrarily that Machiavelli was lying in some parts of the Prince and telling the truth in others (the method used by Leo Strauss and his followers, who disdain to supply supporting evidence for their conclusions, since they do not believe in empiricism). Scholars have very differing interpretations of what Machiavelli meant and the article would be more acceptable if informed readers of the range of these differing interpretations instead of supplying its own. It is true that Machiavelli does claim to be describing "la verita' effettuale delle cose" the actual truth of things, but he himself did not identify himself as a "realist" writing against the "idealists". This is presentism -- the application of nineteenth and twentieth century terms to the past. In fact, Machiavelli makes it clear in a long prelude at the beginning that his advice in The Prince only applies to leaders of new principalities that have been seized illegally by strongmen who possess neither the "virtu" necessary to have a what we might call a strong public mandate (and the political skill to keep it) nor the legitimacy conferred by hereditary succession. The leader or prince that Machiavelli is addressing (a weak and illegitimate i.e., non-hereditary one) must rely on fortune, but fortune will betray him in the end, as it did Cesare Borgia and as it does everyone. In the last chapter of the Prince, Machiavelli calls out for a leader (such as Moses) who does possess virtu (an actual constituency and the support of God) to unite Italy. Machiavelli wrote I Discorsi at the same time as The Prince and there is no necessary contradiction between the two works.
The article's identification of "realism" with willingness to resort to cruel and evil actions is overdrawn. Aristotle had made clear in his Politics that a different set of ethics applies to leaders than to ordinary citizens; for example, the advice for Princes to appear to be liberal (generous) while in reality taking care that public resources are not endangered occurs in "Mirrors for Princes" written before Machiavelli.Mballen (talk) 19:46, 13 January 2010 (UTC) (talk)
One more thing, when I checked there are no wiki cross references for "political realism" and "idealism" so it would be best to either define/and or contextualize these terms (with citations) or leave them out. (talk) 23:33, 13 January 2010 (UTC)My error -- there is a link to political realism in wiki173.56.200.209 (talk) 04:03, 14 January 2010 (UTC) Actually, I see that Political Realism redirects to Realism in International relations an article that calls Machiavelli, along with Sun Tzu and Tacitus an antecedent of Power Politics because in the Prince he allegedly "held that the sole aim of a prince (politician) [sic] was to seek power, regardless of religious or ethical considerations". Machiavelli does write about how a prince can maintain power in a new state, but he does not really address international power relations. IMO he could more accurately be called one of the founders of systematic political science along with Jean Bodin, the French theorist of absolute monarchy who was roughly contemporaneous with Machiavelli, who is credited with inventing the term. (talk) 05:31, 14 January 2010 (UTC)
It is not a question of any good result -- it must be a good result for very large numbers of people over a long period of time, and not for the short-term private good of the prince and his associates. The best known example is Machiavelli's treatment of the myth of the foundation of Rome during which Romulus murdered his brother Remus in order not to have to share power (The Discourses I:ix); as Edwin Curley writes:

The question of Machiavelli's amoralism is often framed in terms of the question whether the end justifies the means. We might better ask, I think, whether there are certain ends (such as the establishment or preservation of a political community) so good that they justify the use of any means whatever. The most instructive passage I find on this occurs in Machiavelli's discussion of Romulus's murder of Remus, where his consequentialism falls somewhere in between the extreme individualism of the egoist and the extreme universalism of the utilitarian:

A prudent founder of a republic, one whose intention is to govern for the common good, and not in his own interest, not for his heirs, but for the sake of the fatherland, should try to have the authority all to himself; nor will a wise mind ever reproach anyone for some extraordinary action performed in order to found a kingdom or institute a republic. It is, indeed, fitting that while the action accuses him, the result excuses him; and when the result is good, as it was with Romulus, it will always excuse him; for one should reproach a man who is violent in order to destroy, not one who is violent in order to mend things. (The Discourses I.ix in Machiavelli 1979: 200—1)

In this passage Machiavelli does concede that in some sense an act like that of Romulus is reprehensible; the fact that it leads to a good result does not justify the action, it excuses it. .... [And] It is not just any good result which will "excuse" an action of this character. It takes a very significant result, affecting a large number of people, not merely the agent and those who are close to him. As [Peter] Bondanella and [Mark] Musa point out, the result in this case was "the establishment of the most durable and powerful republican government in human history" (Machiavelli 1979: 22, editors' introduction). It may be that "patriotism, as Machiavelli understood it, is collective selfishness,"35 but Machiavelli's "patriotic consequentialism," as I am inclined to call it, falls short of saying that what-ever you can do, you may do. What it does hold is that a ruler is to be praised, not blamed, even though he does things which might other-wise be highly reprehensible, provided he acts with a prudent regard for the well-being of the community he is ruling. Edwin Curley, "Kissinger, Spinoza, and Genghis Khan" in the Cambridge Companion to Spinoza.Mballen (talk) 05:01, 14 January 2010 (UTC)

Nav box[edit]

Could someone help and translate the names of Machiavelli's works into English for this navigation box? It's a bit of an ugly nav box at the moment... Francium12 (talk) 21:14, 12 July 2009 (UTC)


I took the liberty of removing 2pac from the "influenced" list. I don't think I should have to explain why, as it seems pretty obvious that he doesn't belong. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:39, 16 October 2009 (UTC)

actually, tupac took his name makaveli from him. Machiavelli also faked his death at 25 or some shit, came back 18 years later, as some say tupac will.
aswell as machiavelli suggest that faking ones death own death was a legitimate political tactic. makaveli's letters can also be re-arranged as "i am alive."
In my opinion, Tupac should be referenced as a modern-day cultural reference of Machiavelli's works. I would put it in myself but I would like some discussion on the issue.—Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs)
I'd be against re-adding it, since he is not a philosopher. If we added everyone who was influenced in some way by a philosopher or another, the "influenced" list would become unmanageable. I think it is best to keep it to philosophic influences. Also, more than a passing reference to Machiavelli is necessary to say that someone was decisively influenced by him. RJC TalkContribs 18:38, 30 April 2010 (UTC)

tupac could be considered a philosopher — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 03:35, 29 January 2013 (UTC)

"And An Assassin"?[edit]

Quite obviously a reference to Assassin's Creed II.--CombustionMan1 (talk) 07:44, 19 December 2009 (UTC)


I recently read an article explaining the theory that 'The Prince' may have been intended as satire. Just wondered if anybody had any more information on this? —Preceding unsigned comment added by Davu.leon (talkcontribs) 12:28, 3 February 2010 (UTC)

never mind, just found paragraph about it in the article.Davu.leon (talk) 12:31, 3 February 2010 (UTC)
Considering the life history of NM it looks like a flytrap, and thus an extremely elaborate practical joke. Some important readers falling in the trap were Christian II of Denmark and Eric XIV of Sweden, both ending their life under miserable conditions. Rursus dixit. (mbork3!) 21:45, 10 February 2010 (UTC)

Ledeen issue[edit]

When a scholarly article in a major academic journal focuses on how Machiavelli is used today by a prominent intellectual, that is worthy of attention in this article. The article reports that Ledeen was working to promote unity in the conservative coalition of Republicans (George Bush reelection in 2004), neoconservatives (around Cheney), and the religious right, and Ledeen argued that following Machiavelli guidelines would get the coalition to work. Nothing was secret--Ledeen was a regular columnist at National Review explaining the goals. It is POV to erase this section.Rjensen (talk) 15:32, 2 March 2010 (UTC)

That might all be interesting regarding an article on Ledeen. One of the components of NPOV, however, is that we not give undue weight to particular facts. People have also been called frauds in print: they do not warrant individual mention in the article Fraud. Does everyone whose politics might be described as Machiavellian warrant a paragraph in the article? How about when the association, as is clearly the case with the Urban article, is meant to draw the people into disrepute by using Machiavellian in its vernacular sense of unprincipled opportunism? So now everyone whom someone has called manipulative shows up in the article on Machiavelli? This is an article on Machiavelli, not about someone whom Urban admits most people have never heard of. RJC TalkContribs 00:07, 3 March 2010 (UTC)


I think it is correct to use either the ousting of or the ouster of...Modernist (talk) 19:23, 2 March 2010 (UTC)


EDIT: There are 2 different photos of Macchiavelli in Wiki: one (better quality) is already linked to this article (, and another one is I suspect from Italian article, and it's blurred. I guess it would be good to link the non-blurred photo also to the Italian article or to all the places that are currently connected to the blurred photo ( Hope that my comment is useful! —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:09, 5 May 2010 (UTC)

but foremost, he was a civil servant[edit]

The above words appear right at the top. I have sympathy for them, but really I wonder if this is how NM himself would say it. And also I wonder if there is really a source for such a description? --Andrew Lancaster (talk) 19:56, 30 October 2010 (UTC)

"As a writer, Machiavelli identified the unifying theme in The Prince and the Discorsi"[edit]

The above words appear in the "Life" section followed by an extended quote. But there is no citation given for an secondary commentator source which actually identifies these words as "the unifying theme" and I am confident Machiavelli himself never says anything so clear? If we are picking our own unifying themes, here on Wikipedia, then maybe we should discuss it a bit to make sure we get it right. Anyone have any other proposals? Ideally, does anyone have a secondary source which gives us a unifying theme? I suspect that to do Machiavelli credit it is going to have to be more than one theme. BTW, I've been working on The Prince and there is some discussion of what you could call unifying themes there also now, but with more sourcing. --Andrew Lancaster (talk) 15:37, 8 November 2010 (UTC)

That seems a) original research and b) wrong. The Prince and the Discourses are united in that they are the only works that Machiavelli prefaces by saying that they contain everything he knows, but to say that the main point of them is to teach that the key to success is force prudently applied is high-school Machiavelli. RJC TalkContribs 15:51, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
Thanks for your answer. I tend to agree this can be improved. You have started the ball rolling by making a suggestion for a counter proposal: the two similar sentences in the prefaces. I think this approach would need more than just an extended quote, and needs to be considered. Nothing wrong with that of course. But I think just quoting the similar lines from two prefaces, about "everything he knows" or even adding some secondary sourced commentary about that, could be a bit esoteric for a WP article that should be comprehensible to a general readership? It does not quite get to the point quickly. What is it he knows? It also strikes me this is probably not the only possible approach because there are more ways than one to describe that common theme. I was going to think of proposals when I have more time, but I was thinking in the direction of "realism versus idealism" or versus teleology. This would maybe require more reliance on secondary sourcing, less on direct quoting, but I am not confident we need to stick to the idea of using a direct quote to define the common theme.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 16:08, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
Well, in the Prince he says he has "knowledge of the actions of great men." In the Discourses he says that what he has learned (the sum total of his knowledge, whatever it is) has been acquired from long practice and the continual reading "in worldly things." Mansfield takes that to mean "not otherworldly," or "all human things or all things from a human point of view," but certainly "more than political things as they first appear to us" (Machiavelli's New Modes and Orders, 21). Later, he (following Strauss) suggests that this must include a justification for why Machiavelli can neglect what can be known about things of human concern from a reading of divine things. But this interpretation is contested, and to present it without further ado would almost certainly violate WP:NPOV. I don't know that we can say what you want to say about a unifying theme while preserving neutrality, beyond quoting the relevant passages from the dedicatory letters. RJC TalkContribs 17:05, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
I think it is easier to talk in terms of concrete proposals because maybe our ideas are actually quite similar. I just haven't had time. But I do not think it is contested that Machiavelli makes a big point out of wanting to write about the effectual truth and not about imaginary things. The reason for having more than a bare quote is... think about this from the viewpoint of a reader who does not know Machiavelli at all: knowledge of human things and great people is not saying much. He wrote about politics so of course it is about those things, so what is special about Machiavelli? Machiavelli says he will discover new continents and so on. He says he will explain based on facts and not castles in the sky. He does say these things in many places. BTW no reason to only quote from the prefaces.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 17:10, 8 November 2010 (UTC)

BTW, concerning making concrete proposals, if you are happy with your own ideas I see no reason not to be bold and just put your version in. If others do not like it we can say so of course. What you describe above certainly does not sound like it would worsen the article. If you think it will be more controversial then you could also just put a draft here on the talk page? Sorry I have not had time to do so myself right now.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 17:14, 8 November 2010 (UTC)

Have been flicking through various commentaries. The wordings of the Prefaces look similar but that they mean the same thing is apparently something only Strauss and those who to some extent follow him accept as being critically important. It is especially difficult to accept his assertion that Machiavelli is claiming that the books are both about everything. It requires quite a few assumptions which are not in the text. It is in any case not un-controversial. A relatively recent book which tries to be sympathetic to many different commentators is Markus Fischer "Well-ordered License". It makes various cases of its own but also reviews the literature and makes the point that there is very little agreement on the common theme of the Prince and the Discourses. Some fairly well known commentators even seem to disagree that there is a consistency.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 18:46, 8 November 2010 (UTC)

Update. Have replaced the quote with something more secondary but hope to do better. I am thinking that this remark should be replaced by a section especially concerning Machiavelli's common themes, influences, and innovations. I can see that the "Niccolò Machiavelli#Contributions to political philosophy section might eventually have been aimed at something like this but to me it seems to be in an un-finished state and so in order to only do edits which improve the article I'll try to develop a new section and then slowly merge in good material from that older one.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 08:30, 9 November 2010 (UTC)

Update. Have start with the above and am starting to see that it will make sense to change that last section but not remove it. I think it can eventually be more focused upon the aftermathe of Machiavelli, while discussion about his common themes can be moved up to the section I have now created above the "Works" section. I can see this last section needs a fair bit of improvement.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 10:35, 9 November 2010 (UTC)

Machiavelli's republicanism[edit]

I added a {{dubious}} tag to the statement in the Machiavellianism section that it is generally agreed that Machiavelli favored a democratic or republican form of government. While some scholars have said this, I do not think we can say that it was generally agreed. The statement suggests that Machiavelli would approve of governments that are republican and disapprove of those that are not, which is very different from the judgment that republics are nice when you can have them but non-republican forms have their use and can be justified just the same. There is not generally agreement on this point. RJC TalkContribs 13:57, 2 December 2010 (UTC)

I was thinking the same when I added this but I was also trying to avoid weasel words. Re-wording proposals welcome as far as I am concerned.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 15:55, 2 December 2010 (UTC)
Perhaps I should explain the main aim was just to provide a link to the rest of the article saying that Machiavelli was more than Machiavellian, so that the Machiavellian section would not be read in isolation and give the wrong impression.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 22:14, 2 December 2010 (UTC)
How about, "Nevertheless while Machiavellianism is notable in the works of Machiavelli, Machiavelli's works are complex and he is generally agreed to have been a more subtle thinker than the term "Machiavellian" would seem to suggest. J.G.A. Pocock saw in him a support for republicanism that spread throughout England and North America (Machiavellian Moment). Leo Strauss argued that the conventional view that Machiavelli was a teacher of evil needed to be modified by a recognition of the nobility of spirit that led him to advocate ignoble actions (Thoughts on Machiavelli)." This could be augmented with further examples such that the weasel-wordiness and lack of specific citation in the first sentence could be overlooked. RJC TalkContribs 01:16, 3 December 2010 (UTC)
Thanks. Will try something like this.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 05:24, 3 December 2010 (UTC)

Old Nick as the Devil[edit]

I don't know that the sources are in agreement that "Old Nick" as a name for the Devil refers to Machiavelli. Markus Fischer is a political scientist, and so not the best source for etymology. I don't have access to the OED from home, but this site says that it denies that a convincing explanation can be had, although it notes the theory about Machiavelli. The Catholic Encyclopedia also notes the theory, but doesn't state it with certainty or in its own name: "it has been even said that "Old Nick"" comes from Machiavelli. This site also says that no convincing explanation has been given, although again mentioning the Machiavelli theory. Oddly enough, I haven't found any good source that derived it from the German practice of calling the Devil "Nickel," short for "Nicolaus;" this wouldn't really tie it to Machiavelli, since they also call the Devil "Hans," "Kunz" and other nicknames (Grimms Deutsches Wörterbuch, Nickel 1c). In any event, I don't think the sources reliable for etymology are in agreement that Machiavelli gave us a name for the Devil. RJC TalkContribs 16:30, 11 December 2010 (UTC)

RJC, I think there are doubts about it, but the "theory", even if it is "folk etymology" is clearly widespread even amongst intelligent and well educated people. I'd contend that it is notable. Therefore, I'd say that we can/should note that there is doubt about the theory, but I am not sure removing all reference to it is justified. The fact that there is such a theory is kind of interesting in its own right?--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 18:36, 11 December 2010 (UTC)
Certainly. At the very least, it shows what people think Machiavelli's legacy might have been, which does form a part of his legacy. We might want to be careful about presenting it as fact, however. RJC TalkContribs 18:41, 11 December 2010 (UTC)
Yes. Have made an adjustment. Hopefully good enough. I thought about making it even more suggestive of doubt but then we need a source for the doubt!--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 20:23, 11 December 2010 (UTC)


People should nuance this section more. THe part that says the end justifies the means mentions a debate/discussion about whether Machiavelli meant precisely that. Only Strauss is given (from 1958!), please give some more recent authors on this subject. Personally, I think Machiavelli only meant that a ruler should adapt to the situation, never losing his goals out of sight. So a ruler should/could be amoral, not necessarily immoral. The phrase the end justifies the means implies immorality nowadays, especially in this wikipedia section. (talk) 08:38, 1 March 2011 (UTC)

  • I don't think 1958 is an old citation for this field. Strauss is still widely quoted. For better or worse, most of the "big names" in this field who get cited every day are still the same names from the mid 20th century (Baron, Pocock, etc). On Wikipedia we follow what the published field does.
  • Second, Mansfield and others with this opinion are still publishing (and citing Strauss, Baron, Pocock, and even older sources, etc).
  • Third, one finesse I would accept, if you think the article is really saying otherwise, is that no one including Strauss is arguing Machiavelli himself is simply immoral. But is this what you are seeing. Concerning the way he advices leaders to behave, which seems to be your subject, I do not think finesse is appropriate unless you accept the even older and less popular theory that Machiavelli was only being sarcastic. The actions of Cesare Borgia which he recommends can not be described as merely amoral?--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 10:20, 1 March 2011 (UTC)
It was not my subject. It was my personal opinion. I have not published any work. I do wish that articles/work of recent authors are mentioned in the section. Regardless their view in comparison to mine. (talk) 13:07, 1 March 2011 (UTC)
But the article has a large number of sources which are more recent?--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 16:05, 1 March 2011 (UTC)

Well, the section only mentions Strauss. I reckon you have read a lot into authors on this subject, couldn't you provide some of the articles that support or not Strauss (what is the English for not supporting?)? Putting in some opinions of others (whether they support Strauss or not) may take away the impression in that section that the writer of this section has read only one vision and is not supported by others. Or not? I believe you when you say it is not necessary, but to me earlier today it seemed like the opinion of one person and as a consequence of the person who wrote the section. (talk) 18:15, 1 March 2011 (UTC)

You mean more citations for that section? That is not a bad idea, but just a matter of time I think. Strauss' opinion is fairly famous on this particular point. I can not think of any more recent author who argues that Machiavelli's advice was amoral rather than immoral. Maybe back in Strauss' time there were a few? Anyway I have nothing against your idea, just no notable source for the particular point you are making comes to mind. Maybe Isaiah Berlin? --Andrew Lancaster (talk) 18:57, 1 March 2011 (UTC)
PS "that support or not Strauss" would be better as "that support and don't support Strauss".--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 18:57, 1 March 2011 (UTC)


the article lists Moses, Romulus, Cyrus the Great, and Theseus as prophets. only Moses was a prophet, what they all have in common is that they are founders. (talk) 22:49, 13 May 2011 (UTC)

You're right to be confused. Machiavelli lists them as armed prophets. Why he calls the others prophets is a problem, but since he does, we do, at least when describing his thought. RJC TalkContribs 22:57, 13 May 2011 (UTC)
Yes, what would be a problem would be if in the name of Wikipedia we have stated or implied that he is either wrong or correct in any simple and uncontroversial sense: Obviously he was being controversial, but on the other hand he said what he said in a straightforward way, for his own reasons. (It has been said quite seriously that Machiavelli was amongst other things trying to be funny in these passages.)--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 09:38, 14 May 2011 (UTC)

a crazy inclusionist idea for discussion[edit]

I note the almost daily attempts to add jarring sentences about Tupac and Assassins Creed, and so I wonder if it is advisable to add something like a paragraph of the type "Machiavelli's name an reputation continue to be a theme found in popular culture, for example...". In other words, a properly constructed comment, written in a way which does not overstate the importance of modern pop culture, that might at least be worth keeping, thus hopefully avoiding the constant need to revert. Comments welcome.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 08:32, 24 May 2011 (UTC)

So long as it was just a list of names, rather than a section of paragraph-long testimonials to how Machiavelli changed someone's life, and each name was sourced, I could see such a statement working. RJC TalkContribs 23:39, 24 May 2011 (UTC)
Yes those are the types of conditions I thought most regular editors of this article would have including myself.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 12:27, 27 May 2011 (UTC)
It seems to me that the section is highly questionable and problematic. It may be possible to write something intelligent about the influence of Machiavelli on popular culture through time. One might begin with Shakespeare's most Machiavellian characters (e.g., Richard the III, Iago, Edmund and Claudius [1]). But that would be a different thing entirely--quite possibly a subarticle. And it would be hard to write such section/subarticle in an NPOV manner.
The section, in its present form, has little to do with Machiavelli, who is after all, the subject. How about we remove it entirely? Let me be bold, do that, and see how it looks. Sunray (talk) 16:48, 21 July 2011 (UTC)
On further thought, the "Influence" section addresses Machiavelli's importance through history. The "In contemporary popular culture" subsection almost looks like a parody of the rest of the section. Awful. Sunray (talk) 16:53, 21 July 2011 (UTC)
But can it be avoided? There is no WP policy which tells us to exclude such material. Machiavelli gives us a dilemma because his modern pop image is nothing to do with his reality. The idea of seperate article is maybe logical but who is going to make it? Not the people who keep inserting the stuff here.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 09:28, 7 May 2012 (UTC)


The portrait, which pretty much everyone accepts as accurate, could not have been painted during Machiavelli's lifetime because the artist, Santi di Tito, was born 9 years after Machiavelli's death. Should there be some mention of this and why the portrait may be an accurate depiction? Does anyone know of any additional source material which di Tito might have worked from?

The same situation is applicable to the statue by Lorenzo Bartolini, who was born 250 years after Machiavelli died. BenM (talk) 15:50, 10 January 2012 (UTC)

It is a pretty famous painting, so I at least would not object to a compressed comment within the picture frame about it, as long as you can source it. Not sure what others think. It depends how brief you can be I think.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 19:39, 10 January 2012 (UTC)

Someone has edited the page as a joke...[edit]

I'm not very good with Wikipedia, but the beginning of the description of Machiavelli's life has clearly been edited as a joke... Unless he was really born in Florence, America! Anyway, if someone more wiki-savvy than I could fix this, it would be greatly appreciated. (talk) 19:36, 30 May 2012 (UTC)

Yes check.svg Done RJC TalkContribs 20:26, 30 May 2012 (UTC)

Query on quote from Tim Burton's 'Alice in Wonderland'[edit]

There's a an excerpt from The Prince: "It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both." that I heard sampled in twice in dialogue between the Red Queen and the Knave of Hearts in Tim Burton's rendition of 'Alice in Wonderland' [1]. If the author cares to look into it or reference to it in either this page or 'The Prince' page [2]; I just saw Messr Machiavelli's excerpt for the first time in passing. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 07:00, 15 October 2013 (UTC)

Is this OR or editorializing?[edit]

See this reverted revert by User:Jodon1971. Do editors familiar with Machiavelli believe that it is OR or editorializing to refer to Machiavelli's use of Cesare Borgia as an exemplary prince as notorious? Or is this just the type of thing that sources on this particular subject say? (I note this is a text for a picture, so normally one should look at the article body for the sourcing. And I believe the matter is discussed there.)--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 21:03, 12 November 2013 (UTC)

Regardless of whether its considered editorializing or not, its still bad English. "Notoriously" as an adverb usually precedes an adjective, e.g. "he was notoriously cruel", rather than a verb, unless you're using it to describe something that "used to happen", rather than how it was "used". The meaning is not clear from the context and should be re-phrased with better English, or not at all. For example you could say "he used Cesare Borgia notoriously as an exemplary prince", or something like that. Verb first, then adverb, then adjective, then noun. -- Jodon | Talk 21:56, 12 November 2013 (UTC)
I find your proposed restructuring odd and I see nothing unclear or incorrect with the original.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 06:52, 13 November 2013 (UTC)

Phonetic transcription[edit]

Takin into account syntactic gemination in Standard Italian, the IPA transcription of Machiavelli's name really should be [nikkoˈlɔ mmakjaˈvɛlli] ([nik.ko.ˈlɔˈvɛ] if you want the syllables). Also, there's no need for the square brackets, as the phonemic description is identical to the phonetic, so perhaps dashes would be more appropriate. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:41, 11 January 2014 (UTC)

Jokester, first paragraph under FORTUNE header[edit]

If someone more savvy than I would like to fix it, the last sentence reads "He was a pimp, player, and swagga dawg." Tupac Shakur, your legacy is intact.

good eyes! I fixed it. Rjensen (talk) 17:57, 24 August 2014 (UTC) (talk) 17:27, 24 August 2014 (UTC)

his occupation?[edit]

Header says he was historian, politician, diplomat, philosopher, humanist, and writer
Should it not be made clear that he is (nowadays) mainly known as a philosopher? Most likely, all philosophians are also writers, how else their philosophical ideas would've been known? (talk) 17:26, 1 September 2015 (UTC)

He is very often discussed as a philosopher in modern publications, even sometimes one of the most important in history, specifically modern history. To the extent that this is debated, it is a very notable and somewhat complex debate at the heart of discussions about what philosophy is, and what modern means, so more something to be discussed in the body of an article not an opening line.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 07:58, 2 September 2015 (UTC)

Potential Minor Grammar Fix-Up[edit]

I'm not entirely sure what the etiquette is regarding making edits before discussing them here or whatever, but I did think it was worthwhile to note that (in my personal opinion, at least) the first sentence under 'The Prince' is extremely hard to understand upon first reading and I highly doubt it is grammatically correct. Mostly due to the arrangement of the different clauses and the use of commas. Again, I don't know if there's proper editing etiquette or authority but someone should probably take a look at that. --Vamanospests (talk) 03:14, 30 October 2015 (UTC)

OK I tried to rephrase the opening in simpler terms. Rjensen (talk) 03:17, 30 October 2015 (UTC)

Is the term 'target audience' appropriate? That would suggest that a hereditary prince is whom he intended to book to be read by.--Vamanospests (talk) 20:10, 30 October 2015 (UTC)


audience response[edit]

Concerning this edit, the edit summary is:

  • "Reader responses a very important feature in the M's biography. We can assume that an author that smart knew what he was doing".

That was a partial revert of my prior edit, which had this edit summary:

  • "I think oversimplifies in many way and would need to be expanded much more in order to avoid that; so shortening. BUT NOTE: is already discussed in detail in body. Also see our Prince article".

The text which has been re-added is:

  • "The book itself gained enormous notoriety because most readers assumed the author was teaching and endorsing evil and immoral behavior."

My concern is as follows:

  • First, is there a clear consensus in the best sources not only that (1) people made this assumption and (2) that this was the reason the book was popular?

I do not think this reflects a broad reading of the wide variety of opinions on this subject. As mentioned, our article body, and better still our Prince article, go into this better. Clearly Machiavelli was criticized this way by people who were opposed to his readership. His readership did not say much about why they read him, but by the time we reach the Enlightenment we see them coming into public and quite consistently describing him as a republican and as a realistic historian not enslaved to old traditions. This raises another issue. The paragraph I adjusted places a lot of importance upon the question of whether he was a Republican, which is indeed notable and interesting to our readership here in Wikipedia in the 21st century, as it was to the 18th century Enlightenment folk we cite. But if we are talking about how Machiavelli was read in the first 2 centuries after the publication of the Prince, then this interesting fact (for modern readers) should not be mixed in too quickly and easily with comments about his "readership" generally. Obviously it was Machiavelli's approach to realism, his criticism of idealism, that was one of the most important things about him for his readership in all centuries. The debate about democracies was not yet on everyone's mind, at least outside of Italy, for some centuries. It arguably also was not at the core of Machiavelli's own priorities. --Andrew Lancaster (talk) 15:25, 16 November 2015 (UTC)

the statement in question has strong support in the RS: 1) "The book itself gained enormous notoriety and wide readership because the author seemed to be endorsing behavior often deemed as evil and immoral." blurb; 2) Hager (2009) " outraged nearly all its readers ....In his own time and for many years after, Machiavelli was despised because readers felt he was advocating immoral behavior." 3) Najemy (2010) "Machiavelli was read and misunderstood as the evil 'Machiavel'"; 4) Dooley (2014) "Frederick the Great in 1739 referred to him as a 'criminal, a monster, and an enemy of humanity.'" Rjensen (talk) 13:33, 19 November 2015 (UTC)
Thanks. If I understand correctly then perhaps you will consider me as be concerned about only a "fine point" then. To explain: apart from the first quote, which is from a blurb, supports the aspect of the current wording which concerns me. Only that one makes a strong statement about why people read Machiavelli. I am sympathetic to adjusting our wording more in the direction of the second and third quotes, which rightly say that Machiavelli, whatever his motives, has often been criticized as a "teacher of evil". But concerning the question of why people read the Prince, although Machiavelli's readers have always been accused of using him as a text book for evil doing, serious scholarship disputes that. We have a specialized section which touches on the criticism Prince readers in our article on that book, and it gives sourcing for what I think you are wanting WP to say. But I do not think our current wording is quite right. Clearly the readers themselves are difficult to generalize about but many, I suppose, had a humanistic, and later enlightenment, type of interest in what Machiavelli was doing. I see no serious sources disputing that? --Andrew Lancaster (talk) 09:23, 20 November 2015 (UTC)
Our job is not to understand the readers, it is to understand the RS -- and they make the point. (Blurbs by the book's editor are approved by the author as a summary of the book and so yes they count as RS.) If you disagree with RS then you need to quote some RS that reject the point--if you can find any. Rjensen (talk) 10:15, 20 November 2015 (UTC)
No I do not think blurbs are accepted as RS on WP, at least not for a fine point like this. You can ask on WP:RSN if you want, but it comes up reasonably often there. In any case even the book you cite is not a strong source compared to more specialized literature on this specific subject, so consider WP:DUE. (We are not supposed to be picking one source over another. WP:NEUTRAL) And especially in the lead we should be sticking to things most sources would agree about. It is clear that while there is a long history of criticism of Machiavelli and his readers, those critics are not for the most part Machiavelli specialists as per our RS policy. The Prince is presented as an instruction book, but clearly every serious commentary makes it clear that thinking of it simply as an instruction book would be a gross distortion. Making such a statement in our lead, or even making a statement which could lead our readers to think this, seems problematic to me.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 10:37, 21 November 2015 (UTC)