Thoughts on Machiavelli

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University of Chicago Press, 1978 - Philosophy - 348 pages
Leo Strauss argued that the most visible fact about Machiavelli's doctrine is also the most useful one: Machiavelli seems to be a teacher of wickedness. Strauss sought to incorporate this idea in his interpretation without permitting it to overwhelm or exhaust his exegesis of The Prince and the Discourses on the First Ten Books of Livy. "We are in sympathy," he writes, "with the simple opinion about Machiavelli [namely, the wickedness of his teaching], not only because it is wholesome, but above all because a failure to take that opinion seriously prevents one from doing justice to what is truly admirable in Machiavelli: the intrepidity of his thought, the grandeur of his vision, and the graceful subtlety of his speech." This critique of the founder of modern political philosophy by this prominent twentieth-century scholar is an essential text for students of both authors.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - choices7727 - LibraryThing

The most beautiful book, in my judgment, of the century's greatest philosopher. Leo Strauss provides a guide to the thoughts of his great teacher and rival, Niccolo Machiavelli, and therewith to his own thoughts. Read full review

Review: Thoughts on Machiavelli

User Review  - mwr - Goodreads

Strauss always makes good on his promise to demonstrate the folly of insisting that everything has a meaning, but you can't read this book without realizing how poorly you read Machiavelli the first time. There are a few nice observations, though. Read full review

Selected pages


The Twofold Character of Machiavellis Teaching
Machiavellis Intention The Prince
Machiavellis Intention The Discourses
Machiavellis Teaching

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Page 13 - Government founded on a moral theory, on a system of universal peace, on the indefeasible hereditary Rights of Man, is now revolving from west to east by a stronger impulse than the Government of the sword revolved from east to west. It interests not particular individuals, but Nations in its progress, and promises a new era to the human race.
Page 13 - The United States of America may be said to be the only country in the world which was founded in explicit opposition to Machiavellian principles,
Page 13 - The problem inherent in the surface of things, and only in the surface of things, is the heart of things.
Page 9 - We shall not shock anyone, we shall merely expose ourselves to good-natured or at any rate harmless ridicule, if we profess ourselves inclined to the oldfashioned and simple opinion according to which Machiavelli was a teacher of evil.

About the author (1978)

Leo Strauss (1899-1973) joined the University of Chicago as professor of political philosophy in 1949 and was later named Robert Maynard Hutchins Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in political science. His many books include Liberalism, Ancient and Modern, and The City and Man, both available from the University of Chicago Press.

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