Title: Machiavelli's passions
Author: FAINI, Matteo
Citation: The intellectual history review, 2017, Vol. 27, No. 2, pp. 203-221
ISSN: 1749-6977; 1749-6985
In his years as Florentine Secretary, Machiavelli repeatedly faced the problem of interpreting the gestures and words of statesmen that were masters of deception. The strategy he developed to uncover these statesmen’s intentions was based on the analysis of human passions, on uncovering the fundamental trait that defined a man’s character. I apply Machiavelli’s strategy of interpretation to Machiavelli himself and uncover the irreconcilable disconnect which shaped his personal tragedy. On one hand, he related to his objects of desire by entirely abandoning himself to them, regardless of how unachievable they were. On the other, to obtain these objects of desire his analytical mind developed strategies which took pride in their adherence to what he called the “effectual truth of the matter.” His incapacity to reconsider his objectives in light of the means at his disposal and his tendency to transfer all of himself into his objectives determined Machiavelli’s successes and failures. He repeatedly failed when he had to set his own goals, or when he approached a problem with empathy. He succeeded when he was given precise and limited objectives and when he understood that he did not share the goals of those he was studying.
Published online: 27 Mar 2017
Type of Access: openAccess
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