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Machiavelli’s Means to and End

Today’s daily writing challenge concerns the end and the means and the possibility of justification for said means before, during or after the fact. The Stick of Justification swings both ways, depending upon who is in charge, and it can look pretty mean at times.

Whenever I hear this phrase, “the ends justify the means,” there always since very young has been the idea of Machiavelli along with that. And with Machiavelli comes the pallor of evil. Where did I get these impressions? They came from just about everybody’s reaction to his name. There was a certain grimace of discomfort, and I always had the distinct feeling, that though one might mention his name in hushed tones, saying it out loud, or asking as I was wont, what the big deal was (I was quite young, and no one would ever tell me), was Frowned Upon and a Bad Deal all round.

It was not until college, and my junior year, that I sat down and read the beast. All the years of mystery surrounding this man and his work “The Prince” came to an end. Actually it was quite a good read, and interesting. Now, I’m not saying these impressions that had been inlaid into my psyche were baseless. There are a number of, shall we say, dicey moral decisions he is advocating. But there are two points that stood out in stark contrast to all that I had heard about “The Prince.”

The first is its hypotheticality. The second is the specificity of the situation discussed and the generally overlooked good council as regards the subjects of a prince and his interactions with the military. Plus, Machiavelli’s recommendations are backed by illustrations from classical battles as well as internal fights of the organized gang leaders. Organized crime in 15th Century Europe! Great stuff and written, unlike much history, not to bore but to involve. More specific points are in order, but it is late. Till then.

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