Ideas from 'The Prince' by Niccolo Machiavelli [1513], by Theme Structure

[found in 'The Prince, selections from Discourses' by Machiavelli,Niccolo (ed/tr Plamenatz,J) [Fontana 1972,-]].

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23. Ethics / B. Contract Ethics / 3. Promise Keeping
If men are good you should keep promises, but they aren't, so you needn't
                        Full Idea: If all men were good, promising-breaking would not be good, but because they are bad and do not keep their promises to you, you likewise do not have to keep yours to them.
                        From: Niccolo Machiavelli (The Prince [1513], Ch.18)
                        A reaction: A rather depressing proposal to get your promise-breaking in first, based on the pessimistic view that people cannot be improved. The subsequent history of ethics in Europe showed Machiavelli to be wrong. Gentlemen began to keep their word.
24. Political Theory / B. Nature of a State / 3. Constitutions
The principle foundations of all states are good laws and good armies
                        Full Idea: The principle foundations of all states are good laws and good armies.
                        From: Niccolo Machiavelli (The Prince [1513], Ch.11)
                        A reaction: We may be wondering, since 1945, whether a good army is any longer essential, but it would be a foolish modern state which didn't at least form a strong alliance with a state which had a strong army. Fertile land is a huge benefit to a state.
24. Political Theory / C. Ruling a State / 2. Leaders / c. Despotism
People are vengeful, so be generous to them, or destroy them
                        Full Idea: Men should be either treated generously or destroyed, because they take revenge for slight injuries.
                        From: Niccolo Machiavelli (The Prince [1513], Ch.3)
                        A reaction: This sounds like good advice, and works quite well in school teaching too. It seems like advice drawn from the growth of the Roman Empire, rather than from dealing with sophisticated and educated people.
To retain a conquered state, wipe out the ruling family, and preserve everything else
                        Full Idea: If a ruler acquires a state and is determined to keep it, he observes two cautions: he wipes out the family of their long-established princes; and he does not change either their laws or their taxes; in a short time they will unite with his old princedom.
                        From: Niccolo Machiavelli (The Prince [1513], Ch.3)
                        A reaction: This nicely illustrates the firmness of purpose for which Machiavelli has become a byword. The question is whether Machiavelli had enough empirical evidence to support this induction. The British in India seem to have been successful without it.
A sensible conqueror does all his harmful deeds immediately, because people soon forget
                        Full Idea: A prudent conqueror makes a list of all the harmful deeds he must do, and does them all at once, so that he need not repeat them every day, which then makes men feel secure, and gains their support by treating them well.
                        From: Niccolo Machiavelli (The Prince [1513], Ch.8)
                        A reaction: This might work for a new government in a democracy, or a new boss in a business. It sounds horribly true; dreadful deeds done a long time ago can be completely forgotten, as when reformed criminals become celebrities.
25. Social Practice / E. Policies / 1. War
A desire to conquer, and men who do it, are always praised, or not blamed
                        Full Idea: It is very natural and normal to wish to conquer, and when men do it who can, they always will be praised, or not blamed.
                        From: Niccolo Machiavelli (The Prince [1513], Ch.3)
                        A reaction: This view seems shocking to us, but it seems to me that this was a widely held view up until the time of Nietzsche, but came to a swift end with the invention of the machine gun in about 1885, followed by the heavy bomber and atomic bomb.
25. Social Practice / E. Policies / 2. Religion in Society
Machiavelli emancipated politics from religion
                        Full Idea: Machiavelli emancipated politics from religion.
                        From: report of Niccolo Machiavelli (The Prince [1513]) by Peter Watson - Ideas Ch.24
                        A reaction: Interestingly, he seems to have done it by saying that ideals are irrelevant to politics, but gradually secular ideals crept back in (sometimes disastrously). A balance needs to be struck on idealism.