Machiavelli's Moral Theory: Moral Christianity versus Civic Virtue

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Robisheaux, Thomas W

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Nicolas Machiavelli is deemed to be the representative par excellence of the lack of morality and ethics in politics. The theory that “the end justifies the means” encapsulates his political and moral thought. The adjective Machiavellian means a total lack of scruples. The popular conception is that Machiavelli’s political methods are amoral, evil, rational and pragmatic. But the reality is that what Machiavelli said was not new. Before Machiavelli there were politicians that used murder, lying, treachery, malice, deceit, conspiracy and disloyalty to achieve their political goals – some of them very noble ones, like the preservation of the republic, the peace of the empire or the security of the city – and, in doing so, saved millions of lives and sometimes silenced millions of others. Was then Machiavelli a Machiavellian? Was he, alternatively, a thinker and philosopher with structured moral principles in the tradition of other moral philosophers for whom there was an objective right and wrong, good and bad, that apply both to private and public life? Or was he a relativist for whom there is no good or bad in politics and for whom every action is valid and justified for the sake of accomplish political results? In this paper, I will explore the ethical and moral foundations of Machiavelli, seeking to answer the following question: What is for Machiavelli the relationship between politics and morality, means and ends, tactics and results? I conclude that Machiavelli was not an amoral thinker but defended a different morality, one based on civic virtue, in contraposition to Christian morality.





Lamus, Felipe (2017). Machiavelli's Moral Theory: Moral Christianity versus Civic Virtue. Master's thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from

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