"Has been a lifesaver so many times!"
- Catherine Rampell, student @ University of Washington
"Exactly the help I needed."
- Jennifer Hawes, student @ San Jose State
"The best place for brainstorming ideas."
- Michael Majchrowicz, student @ University of Kentucky
By Any Means Necessary
Part 15 of Machiavelli’s The Prince, entitled Of the Things
for Which Men, and Especially Princes, Are Praised or
Blamed, states that, in order for a man to maintain control
of a government and better that territory, he must engage
in certain actions that may be deemed immoral by the
public he serves. Machiavelli argues a valid point, that the
nature of man is twofold, encompassing good and evil, right
and wrong. The effectiveness of his argument, however,
relies on the fact that the person reading his essay is an
objective observer of human nature. Not leaving this to
chance, Machiavelli plays a psychological game with the
reader in order to convince them of his argument.
Machiavelli prefaces his thesis with commentary that
attempts to place the reader in a subordinate state-of-mind.
He confesses to the reader that he fears sounding
presumptuous for writing about a subject covered many
times before by others and differing from their opinion in
the matter. This statement places the author at the mercy of
the reader and prepares them to hear an idea that may not
be popular. Having been asked forgiveness for the pride of
the author, the reader drops barriers that he may have
against arguments driven by ego and opens his mind to
Machiavelli on a personal, sincere level. By placing himself
at the feet of the reader, Machiavelli puts himself and his
argument in a position of power. He wastes no time in using
this power to gain more control over the reader. In the next
sentence he states that his intention is to create an outline
for behavior in public office “ of use to those who
understand”. This statement compels the reader to agree
with the points that the trustworthy, forthright Machiavelli
argues, or be relegated the ranks of those ignorant dullards
that do not understand. Machiavelli then presents his
thesis, that a ruler must use both good and evil in order to
maintain his power over the state. The reader has almost no
choice but to accept this idea before any proof has been
given. With the reader in the palm of his hand, Machiavelli
needs only to make a very general argument of his point to
convince the reader of its validity.
The author states that there are actions for which a prince
is either praised or blamed. He lists many examples of good
qualities and their opposing attitudes. Instead of labeling
them good and evil, however, Machiavelli titles them
imaginary and real. By calling the good traits and the leader
who possesses them imaginary, he removes the bite that the
mention of evil doing may have on the reader. Removing this
emotional punch makes his thesis, that evil behavior is
necessary to properly rule, obvious.
Machiavelli applies the rules he sets out for successful
management of a nation to his own writing. He is cautious
not to offend the reader with a statement that is too specific.
He manipulates the mind of the reader in order to quell his
emotions and make him more accepting of his opinion. He
seems weak when he is most powerful and seems powerful
when he has no legs to stand on. He is cautious and polite
when his foe’s defenses are up and attacks with all of his
resources at his foe’s weaknesses. Machiavelli writes a
strongly convincing essay. The proof for his opinion lies not
only in the words he speaks but in the flow and believability
of the work itself through the utilization of the very
techniques he exhorts.
View Full Essay