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Human Nature: “The Prince” by Niccolo Machiavelli Analytical Essay

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Updated: May 7th, 2019


In the observation of human behaviours examined in Machiavelli book, “The Prince”, he offers advice to the leaders especially politicians regarding how to gain and remain in power. People regard a prince as someone destined to inherit controlled leadership. The prince as illustrated in this text was someone with no secure measures to gain and retain the power.

If carefully considerations are made, some of the earlier tactics implemented in the Prince case are applicable for today’s leadership as they were way before in the sixteenth century. In his illustrations, Machiavelli exemplifies ideas over leadership styles as harsh and brutal. These might be the presentation pointing to the science in the political world. This paper is forms an analytical perspective of the Machiavelli’s book with regards to Human Nature.

Relevant aspects of ‘The Prince’


According to Machiavelli, presentation of the laws of rule occurred through “Republics or Principalities”. The basis of the rule of principality is hereditary or established through the family lines. How are the rules of principalities supposed to be preserved?

As opposed to the freelance style of leadership, one of the difficulties over the heredity or one family customized leadership style that reflects to a hierarchical prince is the ability to contravene the ancestral background to be in a position of prudently control the outcome of circumstances as they arise in the modern world. (16)

Accurate and clear presentation of relevant aspects of ‘The Prince’


According to Machiavelli, good laws emerge from good governance probably by utilizing the military style; he wrote that the military forces are the indication for safe law enforcement. An illustrated war is as a necessity for leadership but not definitive element of development in various states. Logically all states may have been build through violence and ‘The Prince’ indicates the possibilities of conducting a good and productive war.

Much productiveness provided on this text shows efficiency in “diplomacy, domestic politics, tactical strategies, geographical mastery and historical analysis”. War entails more than just physical encounter by military forces. From ‘The Prince’ context, “all armed prophets have succeeded and all unarmed ones have failed; in addition to what has already been said, people are by nature changeable.” (Machiavelli, 27)


Love from followers is not a requirement for a prince to remain in power but it is crucial for him to avoid hate by all possible ways. Fear is much better as opposed to hatred since the latter can cause easy downfall from power. In his advocacy on utility of cruelty in leadership, Machiavelli did not compromise people’s special long-term goodwill. He illustrated goodwill as the best defensive mechanism over domestic rebellion and foreign hostility.


According to Machiavelli (86), properly achieved power is through competence and affluence is termed as “Fortune”, which is just by chance while competence is, “Prowess” which is more connected to talent. Determined power is therefore by a person’s freewill and the nature of the environment.

People have the power of shaping the destiny through confidence but this confidence is never absolute, therefore people can be able to shield against “fortune’s vicissitudes” through foresight. According to Machiavelli, (86) earlier leadership style compared fortune to a woman who, in order to be mastered needed to be jogged and beaten.


As Machiavelli puts it, virtue is the quality of a leadership praised by others. These may include but not limited to “generosity, compassion, and piety”. A good leader tries to appear confident and virtuous but this is not always supportive of principality. There are aspects pursued for the advantage of the state and not personal benefit. For instance, a prince should not employ cruelty or dishonesty if it benefits the state. It is important to conceive such measures with the measure of its impact to the state and not “its intrinsic moral values”.

Machiavelli’s guidelines over human nature

In line with Machiavelli’s writing, “Love endures by a bond which men, being scoundrels, may break whenever it serves as an advantage to do so; but fear is supported by the dread of pain, which is ever present.” (90)

This translates that human nature unsurprisingly builds some traits such as self-interest, and dynamic human affections. As long as someone is not subject to a bad act then happiness prevails. People feel obliged to response when they receive a favour or service. According to Machiavelli, achieving loyalty is possible but when friendliness is never complete, it is lost.

An average powered prince should well established along the authority commanded and should have little or no cause for offending. The relationship with people will be strong and such leaders experience love unless unexpected misdemeanours cause hatred. It also translates that the subjects of such a leader are “naturally disposed towards him”. One change creates memories or intentions marshalled towards such a leader’s style or connected to her/his style of leadership and it recurs with commencing problems for another idea.

The reasons to investigate human nature business wise or professionally

Machiavelli does not portray how leadership would be like within a civil government setting. Winning and losing people’s affection is common and they remain happy if there is no suffering or oppression due to failure. During the dissimilar or stressful times the same characteristics of trustworthiness portrayed during prosperous times changes to selfishness, deceitfulness, and profit-driven traits.

Business wise people admire respect, liberality, courage and faithfulness but the virtue of trust among them is left bearing in mind their ambitious nature just as if leaders are over-ambitious.

With regard to the ways that a leader can come into power as indicated in “The Prince” (53), prowess means ability to have personal skills and aptitude. This is a much more demanding way of obtaining status than concentrating on mare good luck. Good luck means dependence on charity or goodwill from friends. Also referred to as fortune, luck is quite unpredictable and may lead to a deposition as it had brought the prosperity.

Compared to prowess it is advisable for one to use personal skills to maintain the rules. Use of crime is also common phenomenon in leadership but a good manager should maintain leadership rules. “Crimes, coup, conspiracy or assassination” poses a great risk to the leader, they may lead to cruelty over the main subject matter affecting the business due to hatred or bitterness among the general population in this case employees. (54).

A good leader does not work to gain power but respect, which is a combination of both power and glory. “The answer is, of course, that it would be best to be both loved and feared. But since the two rarely come together, anyone compelled to choose will find greater security in being feared than in being loved.” (Machiavelli, 60)

The mixed principalities over human nature

Any new principal in leadership encounters natural difficulties. People change rulers willingly as they seek better results and this makes them to become incoherent and against the ruler. Naturally, considering this as a deception, such reactions normally lead from bad to worse scenarios. The burden befalls those who stand submitted and in solidarity of new acquisitions. Such a leader must therefore have goodwill for the people to prosper. According to Machiavelli (5), “the prince, with little reluctance, takes the opportunity of the rebellion to punish the delinquents, to clear out the suspects, and to

Success and failures of Machiavelli’s Theory of human nature

Some of the evident successes of the theories include the in-depth analysis of human nature in order to formulate recommendations for rulers. Some of the evident points included the personality, which portrays leaders as interested in themselves. They continuously have the mindset of “What’s in it for me”.

During their tenure, the focus is on honour or property as opposed to people’s needs. Evidently, to date, financial greed motivates leaders but forces them to stay put satisfied with the general states of affairs. Nevertheless, they still aim at achieving more powers by aspiring diligently unless compromised to react otherwise by external forces.

Machiavelli noted, “When neither their property nor honour is touched, the majority of men live content lives”. In this scenario, it is evidently true that they react in a trustworthy manner in good times or when they have different motives that will enable them to achieve some personal gain and at time of distress, they react dishonestly.

Today there is continuous buying of leadership but the leaders forget that bought friends are not true and are prone to radical changes. If the lack of accrued friendship by magnitude or through dignity of mind occurs, then it is not secure or reliable because it is prone to radical change within no time.

On the perspective of the same theories, Machiavelli acknowledges other virtues such as skills, wisdom, strength, high-quality decision-making ability, cunning, freewill and prowess. There are also fortune aspects such as luck/chance, probabilities, variations and external forces, which are basis for a leader’s control.

In his argument, they play an important role in controlling human behaviour and proceedings and carry nearly similar significance and control as the outcomes. “Therefore a prince will not actually need to have all the qualities previously mentioned, but he must surely seem to have them. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that having them all and always conforming to them would be harmful, while appearing to have them would be useful.” (Machiavelli, 63)

The failure of these assumptions is time since freewill was not common then as it is today. Other writes based their theories and thought to be beyond human control. Today as opposed to earlier times, people do not base event procedures to religions and believes but reality and logic.

They believe exclusively on divine destiny. It is barely impossible to base leadership on imitation of others as suggested by Machiavelli. It is equally ridiculous to learn traits of leadership from observing animal’s behaviours as he relates some virtues of leaderships such as strength and ferocity to the loin and slyness, cunning, understanding, and ability to manoeuvre through enemies to the fox.

One major question is whether a leader should be loved, feared or hated. Most leaders would choose love and fear at the same time but they rarely rhyme. It is therefore safer fearing a leader than loving.

The aspect that men would love according to personal will and fear out of will my be a personal opinion based upon the theory that they react in a dishonest manner while this do not go well, while break even when it is advantageous to them. “I conclude that since men love as they themselves determine but fear as their ruler determines a wise prince must rely upon what he and not others can control.” (Machiavelli, 61) The anxiety for punishment preserves fear and this generally never fail.


Writing of “The prince” does not advocate for cruelty or other vices for leadership, but vices are for the reason that they safeguard prosperity of the state. Since a virtue should not take precedence over the state’s affairs, although admirable, avoiding generosity during leadership tenure is important because it may be a detrimental factor over future prosperity of the state. According to the cases portrayed by Machiavelli (57), a leader acts generously to produce the best consequences and that is the nature for utilitarianism

The Virtue of human nature in relation to “The Prince”

According to Machiavelli, the basis of the ruler who in the office has the capability vary the personal conduct from good to evil and vice versa as the fortune or circumstances dictates. (66) Incidentally, virtue has a close connection to Machiavelli notion regarding power. Through virtue, a ruler is bund to competence in situations concerning application of power in politics as a touchstone for political success.

Thru understanding of virtues such, as right or wrong both ancient and modern ideas propose a theory of human nature. From the classical sense of the term virtue, Machiavelli interpretation of human nature shows a completely different angle and assumption compared to the modern definition and classical interpretation of the same.

For instance, the modern definition of human nature indicates non-existence of a connection between politics and moral virtue. The classical view on the other hand indicates them as connected.

Kantian theory

The Kantian account of human nature indicates the biological nature of human beings with the complexity of the human mental abilities. Description of various predispositions is in terms of the purposes served. They provide the grounds for casual regulations, which determine human cognition, desires and feelings in relation to the environment. The argument taken by this study indicates existence of good empirical anthropology as the basis for an argument about moral claims of human beings.

The argument placed by Machiavelli indicates that free republics are pacifistic and certainly, the best for royal expansion and a guarantee for state survival. This is a classical and not democratic style of leadership .Machiavelli thought was that it would degenerate to tyranny founded on the modern style of liberal overview of elementary human rights. According to him, the powerful people threatened tyranny because they wanted to dominate while the mass reaction was against such dominance.

He believes in liberal imperialism, whereby people love glorifications and seeks to rule or avoid oppression. This is an indication that people want more for their personal and state’s gain as opposed to just the material interests. The historical records on post war periods of United States support Machiavelli argument but modern records conflicts since over liberty indicate questionable insights over control thus outweighing aggressiveness.

The pragmatic theory of human nature

The philosophical definition of truth is the opinion ultimately agreed upon by those concerns. It is an agreement with reality over decisions and it works towards the human satisfaction. The theory attempts to outlay the consequences of emotions in relation to nature of concept and methods involved in governance.

Machiavelli adopted the position of pragmatic and principals through the experience. His writing of “the prince” he references the greatly on France because of his vast experience as a diplomat and secretary in the government. His writing contains no overenthusiastic praise of the monarchy system of hereditary governance, which supposedly was to promote superiority of the republicans.

His aim was to praise the republican style of governance over the monarchy system. Even the most excellent monarchy system of governance lacks the salient quantities. His work however praise the France monarchy system because of their excellence in dedication to the law compared to other kingdoms. “The kingdom of France is moderated more by laws than any other kingdom of which at our time we have knowledge,” Machiavelli declares (314)

Works Cited

Machiavelli, Niccolao, 1469-1527. “The prince”. New York, NY: Penguin Classics Press 2003

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