by Niccolò Machiavelli
The Prince Morality and Ethics Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Chapter.Paragraph)
[I]n this case let me refer the reader to what I'll be saying later about when rulers should, or then again shouldn't, keep their promises. (3.16)
In case you didn't know, we'll tell you what he's going to say later: Don't keep your promises, ever.
What's more, you can't in good faith give the nobles what they want without doing harm to others; but you can with the people. Because the people's aspirations are more honourable than those of the nobles: the nobles want to oppress the people, while the people want to be free from oppression. (9.3)
This is a pretty surprising statement from Machiavelli, considering that he spends the rest of the book talking about how pathetic the people are. Okay, but at least they're honorable?
Many writers have dreamed up republics and kingdoms that bear no resemblance to experience and never existed in reality; there is such a gap between how people actually live and how they ought to live that anyone who declines to behave as people do, in order to behave as they should, is schooling himself for catastrophe and had better forget personal security: if you always want to play the good man in a world where most people are not good, you'll end up badly. Hence, if a ruler wants to survive, he'll have to learn to stop being good, at least when the occasion demands. (15.1)
Here, Machiavelli is talking about other writers who tried to say that rulers should act in a morally ideal way. Is he right in his critique? Does this approach only lead to failure?