Philosophy Index

Niccolò Machiavelli

Niccolò Machiavelli (1469–1527) was an Italian philosopher and diplomat during the Italian Renaissance. His contributions to political theory continue to play a role in the philosophy of politics.

Machiavelli is best known for The Prince, a guide to obtaining and maintaining political power. Machiavelli was one to believe the phrase "the ends justify the means", and as such The Prince outlined instances in which evil action may be neccessary for the greater good. Although the book does not turn away from morals, it outlines criteria in which brief, cruel actions may be acceptable.

The term Machiavellian is still used today, although it has become something of a misnomer. The term generally refers to a ruthless or manipulative move meant for personal gain. Machiavelli's actual political theory centers on maintaining power through a more balanced system of brute force and rewards.

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Name: Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli
Born: May 3, 1469, Florence, Italy
Died: June 21, 1527