Secrets of the Discourses

Discussion in 'Entertainment, Culture, and Sports' started by Manton, Mar 21, 2013.

  1. Manton

    Manton RINO Dubiously Honored

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    The argument of I 6 is massively unsatisfying and, I believe, meant to be.

    To summarize, the heading asks "whether a state could have been ordered in Rome that would have taken away the enmities between the people and the Senate." The answer turns out to be both yes, and no.

    Yes, in that history shows it's possible, NM himself gives the examples of Sparta and Venice, both of which not only did it but lived longer than Rome. And in I 5 he says that reason could lead one to choose either mode (i.e., an equally strong case can be made for either) whereas if we look to the end, Venice and Sparta win. Rome does not win in any mode, not via reason and not by historical example.

    No, in that he asserts that if "you" (the legislator/founder?) make such a choice, you don't really solve any problems, you just trade one set of inconveniences for another.

    The argument here goes: to remain small and quiet, you can't use the people in great things, which means no wars and no imperialism. Then if necessity compels you to expand, you won’t be able to handle it, and will be ruined. As happened to both Venice and Sparta.

    So why not just decline to expand? How often is expansion strictly necessary to survival? The cases would seem to be rather rare whereas NM presents it almost inevitable. You might say that this is the lynchpin of his entire teaching. Or rather, what comes next. He implies that this “necessity” might not be so necessary after all when he says that, if you have a choice, choose the “honorable part”. That is, the necessity to expand may always arise (doubtful, but let’s take his word for it for the moment) but how you respond to that necessity is your choice. The “honorable” choice is to choose to order your city so that it can keep what it takes. In other words, NM here defines (in effect) theft as “honorable” in his first use of that adjective in the Discourses. Now, in the deeper Machiavellian sense, theft is not honorable because it is criminal or devious but rather because to take and hold implies self-sufficiency and strength.

    But it’s still a choice. Why make that choice? And, to repeat, the choice is stark. It’s a choice between concord and longevity on the one hand and enmity and brevity on the other. (Remember than in I 2 he calls the three classical “good” regimes “bad” because of the brevity of life in them whereas now he is pushing too to choose Rome DESPITE its brevity.) We are pushed to make the seemingly obviously bad choice: tumult and an early political death. Indeed, his depiction of the opposite, of Sparta or a Sparta like state at its best is extremely attractive. He calls it “the true political way of life and the true quiet of the city.” Such a city will not oppress anyone and not be so strong that anyone fears it. But NM rejects this as a “middle way.”

    Since necessity will compel you to expand, you will have to choose. Not to choose whether to expand, that will simply happen. You have to choose whether to order your republican so that it can hold acquisitions or not. The “honorable” choice is yes. And to do it effectively, you need to use the people in war. So you have to do what Rome did and not what Sparta and Venice did. But choosing the people, you choose tumult and a short life. The very choice of the people led to the Gracchi and to Rome’s ruin!

    So, in sum, the argument is weak and I believe is meant to appear weak. Yet it can be said to be the basis on which he builds the entirety of his teaching.

    So what is really going on?

    First, this is all part of the effort to establish the authority of Rome to get the reader to keep reading. He has to overcome all these traditional objections, above all Augustine, and 1,000 years of tradition that has made Rome seem bad to everyone. He needs to refute that, to reestablish Rome as an authority. That entails some BS on his part. He can’t tell the truth early on about Rome’s defects. He will supply that information as we go and provide correctives. But we are not ready for it yet. First we need to accept Rome as the model, if only provisionally. He will explain to avoid Rome’s defects, including how to make the choice of the people not lead to ruin.

    Note two seemingly minor details. First, when going through the reasons, as noted, Venice and Sparta win on outcomes (ends) and by reason it’s a tie. Rome does not wni at all, except insofar as NM elects himself its spokesman. He says that he will make the case for Rome in his own name, whereas he leaves it to nameless “others” to make the case for Sparta. Machiavelli CHOOSES Rome.

    Second, in summing up this chapter and making his most outrageous arguments, NM says (seven times) that he merely “believes.” I.e., he is indicating that on some level his choice is NOT based on reason but on something else. Will, perhaps?

    He is choosing, and forcing us to choose, against classical political philosophy. Why? Because “To many things reason does not bring you, necessity brings you.”

    This is a very curious sentence. How could something be both necessary and unreasonable? Would not reason direct you toward the necessary? In fact, is that not the basis of pre-Socratic natural philosophy (as depicted in, e.g., The Clouds)? Phenomena which the city ascribes to the gods are in fact owing to a perhaps hidden but discoverable natural necessity? NM appears to reject that too by setting up necessity and reason as antagonists.

    Perhaps he is here merely dismissing classical or traditional reasoning. But I think it is more than that. He is rejecting the classical idea of the beneficence of nature. You can’t choose a sterile site and let natural necessity do its work because that is not enough. Nature will abandon you. TRUE necessity is the need to confront and overcome nature.

    The “true political way of life” is the classical best regime, the regime based on reason. To pick out only one detail, Aristotle says that the best regime must be small, everyone should know everyone, or close. Obviously this is not possible in a great empire. By choosing Rome, Machiavelli has silently rejected Aristotle. But more than that, he has rejected the rule of reason as the classics envisioned it, as the quiet life in accordance with nature. He has chosen, against the classics, in favor of acquisition and techne. This is the core of his choice of the people over the great or the aristocrats.

    The classical strategy failed because it was based on a mistake. NM indicates this through another one of his hidden metaphysical statements: “but since all things of men are in motion and cannot stay steady, they must either rise or fall.” Xenophon explicitly says in the Memorabilia that Socrates rejected both pre-Socratic extremes—that everything is always in motion and that nothing is ever in motion—presumably in favor of a mean. NM rejects that mean, at least for the human things.

    Based on this mistake, classical philosophy made the tactical mistake of allying itself to the great and trying to live quietly, paying only as much attention to practical politics so as to protect itself. This failed and it was conquered by the people through Christianity. A revived philosophy needs to choose the people and get out there into the world, make a case for the people, be their true friend and ally, and help them.
     


  2. Manton

    Manton RINO Dubiously Honored

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    One must also keep in mind that Machiavelli has two targets, classical philosophy and the Bible. I have focused mostly on the former but the critique of the latter is always present.

    And sometimes they converge. E.g., Machiavelli's account of "the origins" in I 1&2 is an attack on both. The denial of a perfect beginning is of course a dismissal of Genesis. And it is also a dismissal, as noted above, of the classical notion of the beneficence of nature. This comes through in Nick's changes to Polybius VI, which perhaps I will detail later.
     


  3. Manton

    Manton RINO Dubiously Honored

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    A cute, and very small, example of esoteric writing:

    In Harvey Mansfield's masterful study of the Discourses, Machiavelli's New Modes and Orders, he says the following (p.32):

    "The mention of Alexander for the third time in this chapter makes us think of the builder (as opposed to the architect) who was Machiavelli’s chief rival.”

    “Alexander” here is Alexander the Great. There is a footnote to two pages in Strauss, one to the text, the other to a footnote. The textual reference is a paragraph culminating in Strauss’ suggestion that Machiavelli is a builder who constructs a new philosophical edifice. In other words, Mansfield is citing Strauss for support and, likely, to acknowledge that he learned the argument of “Machiavelli-as-builder” from someone else.

    Strauss’s footnote makes the same point as Mansfield’s text but makes a puzzling reference to Solomon. Strauss notes that Alexander later appears in two chapters in the Discourse paired with Solomon, another great builder, but NM is silent on Solomon here.

    So was it “Solomon” whom Mansfield has in mind as “Machiavelli’s chief rival”? I had not thought so. My conclusion was that he meant Aristotle. Aristotle was not only another “philosophic builder” but also a teacher of princes, in fact, the teacher of Alexander the Great (who is here mentioned three times). But Aristotle is not mentioned here.

    Lo, however, look up Aristotle in Mansfield's index and a reference is given to page 32.
     
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2013


  4. flirtkakat

    flirtkakat Senior member

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    You guys are genuinely weird and wonderful.
     


  5. FLMountainMan

    FLMountainMan White Hispanic

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    Inspiring thread. Seriously.
     


  6. Manton

    Manton RINO Dubiously Honored

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    There is in I 2 a famous discussion of the “cycle of regimes”. This is a classical notion that requires some explanation.

    The foundational presuppositions are 1) that the world is eternal; and 2) that human nature never changes, i.e., there is no “History” in the sense of a progression that changes the nature of life or politics or society or thought. History is instead, in its original meaning, a record of what happened but what has happened before will happen again because at root nothing ever changes.

    Hence kingship devolves into tyranny, which is overthrown by aristocrats, who devolve into oligarchy, which is overthrown by the many (democracy), which devolves into license, until the cycle starts over, revolving in this way forever. This is by the way the origin of our word “revolution.”

    This comes up in a lot of ancient sources, the most famous being Republic Book VIII. But Machiavelli chooses to use the version presented by the historian Polybius (Mansfield suggests because Plato and Aristotle do not discuss Rome and Livy does not discuss the cycle).

    As an aside, I will note that Polybius wrote in Greek and was not translated into Latin or Italian in Machiavelli’s time. This gives rise to a scholarly controversy because most assume that Nick could not read Greek because he shows no sign of such knowledge anywhere in his writings. Whereas evidence of his Latin is everywhere. Yet the passage follows Polybius almost word for word, so how could he have done that? Mansfield says (and I agree) that Nick must have known Greek (for instance, his understanding of Xenophon is profound) but suppressed that knowledge in order to make his readers forgetful of Socratic philosophy.

    Be this as it may, the important thing here is how Machiavelli changes Polybius in his near-word-for-word summary. I count 15 major changes and numerous other small ones. One should not take my list as exhaustive nor do I claim that I am citing all the important ones, though I do claim that all the ones I cite are important.

    1. Polybius says that the observable variations of governments among men arise by nature, Nick says by chance.
    2. P says that before there was government, men lived “together” like beasts while N says “dispersed” like beasts
    3. P says that government arose when men looked to one who “exceeds in bodily strength and daring of soul” whereas N says “more robust and of greater heart
    4. P says that the first government derived from natural weakness and fear while Nick says it was calculated for self-defense
    5. Both find the origin of justice in the recognition of ingratitude but NM omits Polybius’s mention of the natural disgust at seeing the ingratitude of children to parents; he also omits how the recognition of the noble arises from seeing some men defend others from wild beasts
    6. NM omits Polybius’s statement about the distinctiveness of human reason
    7. P speaks of a “first notion” of justice which points to a higher understanding; NM stops at the first notion as if that is all there is
    8. P says that monarchy descends into tyranny when the first king’s success and wealth corrupt his successors, who act badly; NM says that the degeneration begins as soon as succession becomes hereditary, ignoring P’s discussion of corrupting influence of wealth
    9. NM adds “feared” to the point that princes who act badly become “hated”
    10. NM adds “wealth” to the traits that enable the few rebel against the prince (in addition to their inherent nobility)
    11. NM adds that the prince is “destroyed” by the revolution
    12. According to Nick, the aristocrats hate the merely “name” rather than the “form” of king
    13. NM changes “violating women” to “usurping women” and omits “raping boys” when describing the bad behavior of the oligarchs
    14. Polybius says that the leader of the democrats has the “daring to oppose” the oligarchs whereas NM says that he “designs to harm them”
    15. NM again omits mention of corrupting influence of wealth on the democrats and ascribes their licentiousness to the absence of fear

    What all the changes mean is another question.
     
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2013


  7. Manton

    Manton RINO Dubiously Honored

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    I want to flesh out what I said above about popular assemblies. This comes up in in 1 3, 4, 5 and 7.

    In 1 3, NM overstates--at least going by Livy--the Senate's reaction to the death of the Tarquins. He says that once the Tarquins were dead, the hidden cause of comity between the senate and the plebs was removed and the senate began to vent its poison. Livy merely says that the senate rejoiced and that, when the people became restless, a certain Menenius got up before the people and talked them out of following the rash course proposed by the popular leader Sicinius.

    In I 4, NM says that popular assemblies are a remedy for the ignorance of the people, who are capable of truth when told the truth by some good man. He misquotes the philosopher Cicero in support. This would even be a better place to tell the Menenius story because in the beginning of this chapter NM promises to speak about the tumults that led to the creation of the tribunes but does not in fact relate that story. In fact, this very Menenius was the one who, with the speech against Sicinius, ended the tumult and paved the way for the creation of the tribunes. So that's twice now that the Menenius story would have been very apt to Machiavelli's stated purpose but it has been left out.

    In I 5, in answer to the question which men are more harmful in a republic, those who desire to acquire or those who fear to lose what they have, he tells the following story, also from Livy. Two plebians (though Livy does not so identify them) were appointed dictator and master of the horse to look into potential conspiracies arising in Capua. The dictator, Machiavelli misnames as Menenius--i.e., the same man whose story he should have told in the prior two chapters. (I noted also that Agrippa Menenius appears in Shakespeare's Coriolanus, where he is not a pleb but a senator.) In response to this investigation or power, the nobles circulated the story that not they but the plebs were seeking undue honors. Menenius resigned his office, appealed to a popular assembly, and was acquitted.

    In I 7, Machiavelli gives a modern example, Piero Soderini (his own employer in the Florentine Republic, as a matter of fact). NM says that there was no ordinary (or lawful) mode to accuse Soderini (he does not say of what) so that the ruin of the republic followed. Then he immediately takes that back by admitting that in fact Soderini was put before the Otto di Guardia, or Guard of Eight, but they were not enough, for the few always behave like the few and the many like the many. This reminds one of Madison's quip in Federalist 55 that "Had every Athenian citizen been a Socrates, every Athenian assembly would still have been a mob." Numbers matter and large assemblies are always unruly and unreliable. Madison and Machiavelli are not on the same side here, despite them both nominally being "moderns."

    What to make of all this? NM makes great hay in 1 7 about the number. 8 is too few. More is better. This is in keeping with his praise in the other passages of popular assemblies generally. It is also in keeping with his overall teaching in favor of the people over and against the great. The most striking consequence, I believe, is that this is an implicit endorsement of the popular condemnation of both Socrates and Jesus. The tradition has it that Socrates' jury--which according to Diogenes Laertius was 501 men--and the mob to which Pilate appealed were both wrong. Machiavelli seems to suggest that they were both right.

    There is more but that's all for now.
     
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2013


  8. Manton

    Manton RINO Dubiously Honored

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    Regarding the dedicatory letter, I've never quite understood why NM says he does not know who is less obligated if his friends do not like the book. That is, I understand why he himself would not feel obligated to them; after all they forced him to write what he never would have written for himself. But why would not they be obligated to him? Mansfield (p. 21) says that if they are satisfied, they are obligated. But if they don't, they are not? Why not? Either way, he did the work. A small question but one I’ve never been able to resolve.

    ###

    Mansfield has an interesting sentence on p. 22: “Machiavelli’s friends forced him to write but he chose his friends; by choosing them, he chose the necessity they would imposed on him arising from the need to be grateful for their benefits; his choice was prior to his necessity but in accord with it.”

    I take this to mean that Machiavelli somehow stands outside the necessity that, in the text, will insist governs the world. To have an enterprise and be capable of implementing it, this must be true. Machiavelli cannot himself simply be a creature or tool of necessity. Not that his heroes necessarily are, but in his thought the human race sometimes seems to be. Is NM claiming for himself a special status? A unique status? But wouldn’t his successors also require such a status in order to carry forward his enterprise? In any case this brings to mind Strauss’ remark (p. 294) that Machiavelli is “unable to give a clear account of his own doing. What is greatest in him cannot be properly appreciated on the basis of his own narrow view of the nature of man.” I take this to mean that when NM changes philosophy to make it an active participant in politics and the ally of the demos but he does not realize that he has created a paradox. There is no place for the philosopher in his world, but then what is he? How does he know what he knows? Surely he cannot do what he wants to do without knowledge, which points back to all those ancient metaphysical-epistemological issues that his new philosophy does away with. Perhaps Machiavelli thought it was a one-way street, that is, his enterprise to change philosophy was possible, but only once, making him unique in the history of philosophy. But this would seem to lead to the difficulty that his successors could not come to know what he knew and rule as he ruled.

    This is a long winded way of saying that all reductionist accounts of the whole fail by failing to account for the one who takes it into account. That is, for example, if all thought is historical, how does the historicist know it? Strauss says two ways 1) he either posits a culmination, of which he is it; or 2) he posits a never ending process predicated on the truth that all historical thought is false because there is no truth. The first solution suffers from the problem that no satisfactory proof can be adduced—that in fact the claim looks rather suspiciously like a secularization of Christianity—and hence is ultimately wishful thinking and/or an act of will. The problem with the second is, if the only truth is that there is no truth, how can that A) actually be true, and B) known to be true? This is in keeping with Strauss’s remark in Natural Right and History (p. 24) that historicism “exempts itself from its own verdict.” Simplifying here of course.

    So, Machiavelli’s reductionist account—classical metaphysics is wrong, there is no unmixed good; classical political philosophy is wrong, there is no best regime; classical epistemology is wrong, we can know, if not the good (which does not exist), various temporal goods and how to achieve them—fails to account for Machiavelli himself as the thinker who is able (so he claims) to articulate the whole and what is best for man. By CHOOSING to create modernity, Machiavelli must have stood outside the world he wanted to create, he must have had a broader perspective than that narrow world. “His choice” is prior to the necessity which he claims rules all. Hence it can’t truly rule all. Hence what Strauss calls Machiavelli’s “stupendous contraction of the horizon” (p. 295).
     
    Last edited: May 2, 2013


  9. Manton

    Manton RINO Dubiously Honored

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    Going back for a moment to D I proem, Mansfield adds a note (p. 26, n. 2) to Machiavelli’s’ famous reference to “unknown waters and lands” that cites Dante, Paradisio II 1-6. The text of which is as follows:

    “O ye who are in a little bark, eager to listen, have followed behind my ship that singing makes her way, turn back to see your shores again; do not put forth on the deep, for, perhaps, losing me, you would be left bewildered.”

    Interestingly, the very next line is “The waters I take were never sailed before.” But Mansfield’s note does not include that.

    So, what does that cite mean? Well, actually Mansfield does not place the note on Machiavelli’s reference to the waters but at his desire to bring common benefit to everyone. So we have a contrast. Dante goes on into Paradise alone. He benefits no one but himself. Not, it would appear, out of selfishness or parsimony but because he believes the reader would get lost trying to follow him. I take it the implication is that for Dante, philosophy is still the preserve of the few, whereas Machiavelli intends to make it serve everyone?

    Another puzzling sentence in Mansfield (p. 26): referring to Machiavelli’s reference to the honor accorded to antiquity in his time, Mansfield says that “Such honoring could be interpreted as an instance of human envy, since men do honor to themselves when they honor their ancestors.”

    Now, I understand how men honor themselves by honoring their ancestors. But in what way is this attributable to envy? If any sin is relevant here, wouldn’t pride be the more obvious one? I am scratching my head trying to think of a provisional answer to this one and I can’t.

    I note here also the first appearance in the book of the word “marvel” (it or a variant will appear 26 times overall). Machiavelli “marvels” (and grieves) that no one in his time imitates ancient political men in their deeds. This is an important word for Nick, which I trace in part to Xenophon’s use of it at the beginning of the Cyropaediea (I 1.6), where Xenophon says that Cyrus’ successful rule elicits “wonder” (thaumazō). Contrast that with the beginning of Prince 4, which discusses the same kingdom (the kingdom of Darius, i.e., Persia), but Machiavelli in effect commands the reader not to marvel. What Xenophon finds wondrous Machiavelli finds perfectly explicable. At any rate, as we shall see, Machiavelli will be commanding us alternatively to marvel, and not to marvel, and we will need to pay attention to that.

    We also have here the first instance of Machiavelli saying that he “believes” something. This must always be compared and contrasted to the other ways in which he speaks in his own name, in particular the phrase “I say.” We shall have to pay attention to this but as a provisional statement we may say that whatever Machiavelli “believes” is merely provisional, in accordance with contemporary prejudice and likely to be superseded later. This is connected to what Strauss says about Livy being “Machiavelli’s Bible” (pp. 30, 93, 115, 133, among others). The analysis of Livy is meant to stand for the analysis of the Bible. What Machiavelli does to Livy could be done to the Bible. He wants the reader to do the same to the Bible. That is to say, Machiavelli first adopts the pose of a pious and uncritical believer in “this text” and then gradually moves “from reverence to acceptance to departure to disagreement to rejection (Mansfield and Tarcov, introduction to their Discourses translation, p. xli).

    The other meaning of his “belief” (I believe) represents his act of will, his stepping outside established modes and orders to make a free choice where clear reason cannot decide, or perhaps in the past, in other thinkers, has decided wrongly. We shall see a decisive instance of this in I 6.

    In this case, what Machiavelli “believes” is a famous sentence that both Strauss (pp. 176-177) and Mansfield (p. 27) explain fully. I can only add that I find this to be an instance of both kinds of his “belief.” That is, it is provisional in that, in the final analysis, he does not believe that the cause of not imitating the ancients is owing to lack of true knowledge of the histories. It is an act of free will—of rebellion even—in that his believe is precisely based on the two reasons he gives as secondary or dependent but which in fact are primary. Nick is telling almost the whole truth here.

    I note as well the first appearance of “leisure” or “idleness” (ozio). This will appear ten times as a noun and five as an adjective or adverb. We all know that the “ambitious leisure” which NM attacks is a reference is to philosophy or a certain kind of religious devotion. The important contrast here is to Aristotle (in particular Nicomachean Ethics X 7), for whom leisure is, or should be, man at his best, the that-which-for-the-sake-of we do everything else. Here is a major disagreement between Machiavelli and the classics.
     
    Last edited: May 3, 2013


  10. Manton

    Manton RINO Dubiously Honored

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    Here is the meaning of the Deinocrates story in I 1.

    To recap: In I 1, NM gives seven reasons why cities are built, the fourth (and central) being by a prince, not for himself to inhabit, but for his own glory. This of course echoes the reason that the prophet Isaiah gives for God's creating the world (a phrase that occurs frequently in the Bible). We must keep in mind that Machiavelli considers himself a kind of prince, and a kind of builder as well, one who builds in part for his own glory (but mostly "for the common benefit of everyone"; I proem).

    The example of a prince building for his glory is Alexander's building of Alexandria. Then NM repeats the following story from Vitruvius. Alexander wanted to build a new city for his glory. His architect, Deinocrates, suggested building the city into the side of a mountain where it could take human form, which would be something rare and marvelous and worthy of his (whose?) greatness. Alexander then asked what the people would live on and Deinocrates replied that he had not thought of it. Alexander laughed and instead built the city in the plain where the fatness of the country and the convenience to the Nile and sea would make the people willingly stay because of its obvious advantages.

    Deinocrates’ city in human form is Plato’s “city in speech” in the Republic, which is “the soul writ large,” i.e., the city in human form. That is, not physical human form, as Deinocrates’ proposed city in the mountainside would have been, but the city as a representation of the three parts of the soul: reasoning (guardians), spirited (auxiliaries) and appetitive (the producers or the people), with reason ruling. Deinocrates builds on high but builds too high: the people will have nothing to live on. This reminds us of Plato’s “city of pigs” (or “sows” in the Bloom translation) in which only the barest physical needs of the people are met, but which Socrates calls “the true city,” which is part means the city not in need of untruth: the noble lie comes after the introduction of greater wealth. The people having nothing to live on represents classical austerity, the recommendation of poverty over luxury.

    Alexander is Machiavelli, the wise builder (as opposed to architect) who laughs at classical foolishness. To build in the plain means to build on “low but solid ground” (Churchill). It means to give up pretense and build for security, plenty, and necessity, for human needs rather than in accord with the human form. It is to satisfy, in other words, primarily the appetitive part of the soul, not perhaps to the exclusion of the others but certainly in preference to the others.

    Note also that the people in Alexandria will “stay willingly” because of that city’s advantages, whereas in the Republic they have to be lied to. In Machiavelli’s scheme, the people can recognize utility and make rational calculations as to their own advantage. In the classical scheme, the people must be guided at all times. That’s because the goal is the perfect rule of reason, or the city in human form, which means that the highest part should rule. We are to abandon this conception and come down from on high.

    In addition, this is connected to the founding of Florence, whose inhabitants came down out of the mountains above Fiesole to live in the plain “during the long peace that was born in the world under Octavian.”
     
    Last edited: May 7, 2013


  11. Manton

    Manton RINO Dubiously Honored

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    I believe I have found an important source for Machiavelli's numerology--perhaps THE key source.

    Stepping back a moment, as we all know, 13 is his number, his signifier. He uses 13 in myriad--or, as he would say, "infinite"--ways. I won't list them all but, e.g., the Prince has 26 chapters (2x13), or if you count the dedication, 27 chapters of which Ch. 13 is the central chapter. A multiple of 13 is nearly always the central chapter of a section in the Discourses (e.g., I 11-15 or 25-27). Multiples of 13 are also always important simply because of the subject matter--AND you must count from the beginning of the book as a whole (e.g., II 5, the 65th chapter) but also from the beginning of the individual books (e.g., III 39).

    In addition, he is very careful about his word usage. So, for instance, 13 chapter titles in the Prince begin with "of" (de). He uses the word "acquire" or a variant 52 times in that book and "state" (stato) 104 times. 13 chapters in the Discourses begin with the personal pronoun (io). And so on. There are infinite examples of this and I have found a fraction of them. Every time I look I find more. Just a few weeks ago I counted the instances of "marvel" in the Discourses and it turned out to be ... 26. ("Marvel" is an important term because it is the word that begins Xenophon's Cyropaedeia and several times in his own works Machiavelli tells his readers not to marvel, e.g., P 4 and 6.)

    Now, what does this mean? Strauss in his essay on Nick for the HPP says that the sacred name of God in ancient Hebrew has a "numerical value" of 26. Interesting. But Nick seems to associate 13 primarily with himself, with his enterprise. At root, that enterprise is the conquest of fortune or chance, but it is also the replacement of God with fortune, that is, the imposition of a new metaphysics that supersedes the old. To the Romans Fortuna was a god, but to Nick it is simply ineluctable chance, the natural workings of necessity.

    So, there is a famous passage in Livy, Book IX (17-19) in which Livy goes on a long counterfactual digression about Alexander the Great. Livy pauses at 319 BC in the Roman narrative, apparently misjudging Alexander’s death by a few years (he died in 323 BC). The point of the digression is to ask, what if Alexander had lived longer and had ventured west, into Italy? And of course Livy’s answer is, we Romans would have kicked his ass.

    This is not really central to my point here but the whole passage reeks of hurt feelings. That is, Livy is whining about Alexander’s towering reputation and Rome’s relative lack of respect. He makes a case for why Rome deserves as much as if not more glory than Alexander.

    One of his points is about time and longevity. Alexander had a career of 13 (!) years whereas Rome at that point had been around for more than 400. So, it’s no fair to say that Alexander was great because he was not defeated in his career whereas Rome suffered many defeats. Of course in 435 years Rome was going to suffer some defeats, but it nonetheless still had some undefeated generals, why not compare them with Alexander?

    But what interested me was the numbers. Livy specifies 13 as the length of Alexander’s career, from when his father Phillip was assassinated when Alexander was 20, to his death just shy of 33. (We now know that Alexander died about a month from his 33rd birthday but in the ancient world it was common to refer to his lifespan as 33 years. Now, who else lived for 33 years, hmmmm? I note that Nick often uses 33 himself, e.g., Book II of the Discourses has 33 chapters. Some variant of “lord” appears 33 times in Prince 4—a chapter whose title states Alexander’s name not once but twice. Alexander is often Nick’s stand-in for Christ, and Alexander and Philip together are often used metaphorically to mean God the Father and Christ His Son; see D I 20, “Two Virtuous Princes in Succession Produce Great Effects …”)

    Livy explicitly links “13” to “fortune”: it should surprise no one that fortune varied more over Rome’s (at that point) 435 years than in Alexander’s 13 year career. Moreover, he says that the number of “generations” (saecula) on one side (the Roman) are “more than” the number years in Alexander’s career.

    Now, traditionally, a “saeculum” was not really a generation but a lifespan. Or, more precisely, a number of years by which time all the cohort born in year one would be dead. So it was reckoned at around 90 years. 90x13=1,170, so Livy cannot mean a saeculum in the traditional sense here. For there to be “more” saecula than 13, he must be using the term more like “generation” (which is in fact how most translators translate “saecula” in this instance). So, to make the math work, a “generation” turns out to be … 33 years. 13x33=429, so 435 years “from the founding of the city” (incidentally, the title of Livy’s book) would be just slightly “more” generations than the years of Alexander’s career.
     


  12. Manton

    Manton RINO Dubiously Honored

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    Oh, and while I can't claim to have discovered this--there's always the possibility of a cryptic reference in one of Strauss' footnotes that I can't remember--I do believe that I am the first to explicate it. I don't recall this being pointed out, much less explained, by anyone else.

    Mansfield once made a pointed reference to the discoveries that Strauss "found and left to be found" and I believe this is at the very least a case of the latter.
     


  13. Manton

    Manton RINO Dubiously Honored

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    For Machiavelli, "11" is the number of religion. He chose this in order to be cheeky because Augustine (City of God, XV 20) says that eleven is the number of sin. Eleven transgresses ten, the Ten Commandments, the moral law, hence it signifies "sin." Machiavelli makes it stand for religion simply. Hence Prince 11 is the chapter on religion, and the first section on religion in the Discourses begins at I 11. Etc.

    "33" is the number of Christianity specifically. Christ of course died at age 33. Alexander the Great, who is often used a stand-in for Christ, died about a month short of his 33rd birthday, so close enough. "Two virtuous princes in succession"--i.e., Philip and Alexander--are often the stand-ins for God the Father and God the Son. Titus Quinctius Flamininus was 33 when he defeated Philip V of Macedon at Cynoscephalae. This is sometimes used (P 24, which calls back both in title and content to P 4) as a metaphor for the reduction of the west. The "Romans" are the new hegemon (the "Roman" church) while "Greece" is the orders of ancient liberty and philosophy.

    One of my proudest discoveries was the use of "33" in a hidden way in Prince 4. That chapter is the most important metaphor in the book, I believe, and is meant to present in a very compact way the argument of D II 1-5 ("the reduction of the West to eastern servility"). Well, it turns out that if you count up all the times Nick uses a word for "leader"--prince, king, baron, "lord", and so on--PLUS all the proper names of actual princes--Darius, Alexander, etc.--you get 33 uses. In that same chapter, he also uses nine different terms for a "geographical thing that is governed," i.e., a "state." Together those nine terms occur 33 times. I.e., Prince 4 is THE chapter about Christianity.

    Well, I found something new yesterday. Thoughts has, of course, a very carefully constructed outline based on the paragraph breaks. Strauss does not indicate what his plan is, or even that he has a plan, and in this (as in many other things) he imitates Nick. But the plan is discernible. There are at least five sections to Thoughts, Ch 3, though one can also break up the last section into two; it's a hard call, IMO. In any event, clearly the fourth section consists of paragraphs 33-50. In this section Strauss treats ten of eleven (!) passages "in which Machiavelli refers to the problem caused by the difference between the words of Livy and the words of Livy's characters," or, "the problem of authority."

    The treatment of Livy in the Discourses is meant to mirror the "proper" Machiavellian treatment of the Bible. Livy the writer is shown to be manipulative of history by making his characters say and do what he wants them to do. We readers are meant to apply this line of thought to the Bible: the authors or prophets make God speak, God does not speak through them but vice versa. God is their character.

    In that section (Thoughts, Ch. 3, section 4), Strauss uses the word "authority" 33 times. (Out of 104 total uses, or 8x13.)

    Oh, yes, and also note that the section in question (Thoughts, Ch 3, Sec. 4) begins at paragraph 33. D II--THE book on spiritual warfare and propaganda--has 33 chapters. The 9th section of the Discourses (I 33-45) begins with chapter 33. Etc.
     


  14. patrickBOOTH

    patrickBOOTH Senior member Dubiously Honored

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  15. Manton

    Manton RINO Dubiously Honored

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