Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince, and Machiavellian Personalities

Niccolo Machiavelli

About Niccolò Machiavelli

Who was Niccolò Machiavelli?

Niccolò Machiavelli (1469 - 1527) was an Italian Renaissance diplomat, historian, humanist, philosopher, politician, and writer.

Machiavelli wrote The Prince

One of his most famous literary works is The Prince, written in 1513. The latin title for this book was De Principatibus, meaning "About Principalities." The actual book was not printed until 5 years after Machiavelli's death, in 1532, with explicit permission from the Medici pope Clement VII. What made The Prince so special was that it was considered innovative for its time, mostly because it was written in the vernacular Italian instead of in Latin. In addition to this, The Prince is also considered to be one of the first works in modern philosophy and political philosophy. There was also controversy surrounding The Prince, because it challenged Catholic and scholastic doctrines of the time involving both politics and ethics. (Source: Wikipedia entry: The_Prince)

Personality Traits Seen today from The Prince

To give a very simple explanation, Machiavelli's The Prince discussed how Princes should act, and the virtues that they should espouse.

It is important to note some ideals, or concepts, that we see in contemporary times that were seen in The Prince. Machiavelli writes that a prince should have virtues, although be willing to abandon these virtues if necessary.

Machiavelli writes, "Yet the way men live is so far removed from the way they ought to live that anyone who abandons what is for what should be pursues his downfall rather than his preservation; for a man who strives after goodness in all his acts is sure to come to ruin, since there are so many men who are not good."

Editor's note: I interpret the preceding passage as saying since there are overwhelmingly more men that do not strive to do good, those that attempt to be good all the time will be their own downfall and will come to ruin.

In Chapter 15, Machiavelli writes that "the prince must appear to be virtuous, and should be virtuous, but he should be able to be otherwise when the time calls for it; that includes being able to lie, though however much he lies he should always keep the appearance of being truthful."

In Chapter 18 of The Prince, Machiavelli talks about how a prince is revered and praised for keeping his word, and in some circumstances, given credit for keeping his word even if it is only the illusion of keeping his word. Both make a prince look reliable. Despite all this, a prince should strive to keep his word, unless a situation dictates otherwise.

In Chapter 18, Machiavelli writes: "He should appear to be compassionate, faithful to his word, guileless, and devout. And indeed he should be so. But his disposition should be such that, if he needs to be the opposite, he knows how."

Editor's note: Niccolò Machiavelli's work of The Prince seems to share his honest opinion that no one is good, and it is okay for a prince to be duplicitous, as long as no one finds out the truth.

How does Machiavelli's The Prince apply to Modern Times?

The deceptive traits for how a prince should act in Machiavelli's The Prince can be seen in many television dramas, as these types of duplicitous characters often describe the villain. But such trickery is often used by the authors of phishing scams that are seen in emails. The author of phishing emails generally describes a situation where someone has miraculously gained a large sum of money, or has received it through a lottery or inheritance. As a result the fictitious benefactor wants to share this money with the recipient of the email. What they need now is your personal contact information, and perhaps your banking information. They use this so that someone can contact you further. At this point, the con tries to then further the scam by explaining a situation that then requires the recipient to wire money to a foreign location so that the exorbitant sum of money is now available to receive.

If the unsuspecting person sends money to the foreign location, this is probably the last point of contact that you have with them. They have received your money, and you will not hear from them again. Such tactics are deceptive, and is characteristic of a Machiavellian personality.  

Machiavellian Personalities in Business

From a business standpoint, Human Resources should use questionaires through screening interviewees to weed out prospective employees with high Machiavellian type personalities.

Fact: High Machiavellian personalities are often found in these professions: Behavioral scientists, lawyers, and psychiatrists.

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