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Machiavelli's God

Machiavelli's God

Translated by ANTONY SHUGAAR
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    Machiavelli's God
    Book Description:

    To many readers ofThe Prince, Machiavelli appears to be deeply un-Christian or even anti-Christian, a cynic who thinks rulers should use religion only to keep their subjects in check. But inMachiavelli's God, Maurizio Viroli, one of the world's leading authorities on Machiavelli, argues that Machiavelli, far from opposing Christianity, thought it was crucial to republican social and political renewal--but that first it needed to be renewed itself. And without understanding this, Viroli contends, it is impossible to comprehend Machiavelli's thought.

    Viroli places Machiavelli in the context of Florence's republican Christianity, which was founded on the idea that the true Christian is a citizen who serves the common good. In this tradition, God participates in human affairs, supports and rewards those who govern justly, and desires men to make the earthly city similar to the divine one. Building on this tradition, Machiavelli advocated a religion of virtue, and he believed that, without this faith, free republics could not be established, defend themselves against corruption, or survive. Viroli makes a powerful case that Machiavelli, far from being a pagan or atheist, was a prophet of a true religion of liberty, a way of moral and political living that would rediscover and pursue charity and justice.

    The translation of this work has been funded by SEPS - Segretariato Europeo per le Pubblicazioni Scientifiche.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3503-4
    Subjects: Philosophy, Religion, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)

    The idea of seeking out Machiavelli’s God came to me as I read the writings of the political philosophers, the historians, and the poets who have reflected on the weakness of the civil and moral conscience of the Italians. Nearly all of them pointed to a bad religious education as the chief culprit and expressed their appreciation of Machiavelli as a supporter of a different religion, a full-fledged religion of liberty, capable of assisting in the rebirth of a republican fatherland.

    I therefore set out to identify Machiavelli’s God, convinced that it is in that God that lies the secret,...

    (pp. xi-xxii)
    (pp. 1-26)

    Fifteen years ago, the late, lamented Sebastian de Grazia gave me hisMachiavelli in Hell, which had just won the Pulitzer Prize. He inscribed my copy of the book “to a fellow worker in the same vineyard.” Since then, I have continued to labor in Machiavelli’s vineyard, and the more I labor, the more I realize that de Grazia was right when he pointed out that, scattered throughout the works of Machiavelli, “like poppies in a field of chick peas, are many references to God.” Niccolò’s God is “the creator, the master deity, providential, real, universal, one of many names,...

    (pp. 27-88)

    Not a single word written by Niccolò Machiavelli has survived to show he had the slightest concern for the salvation of his immortal soul. He scoffed at the idea of hell: “But then on the other hand, the worst that can happen to you is to die and go off to Hell! How many others have died! And how many excellent men have gone to Hell! Why should you be ashamed to go there, too?” he has Ligurio say inThe Mandrake(La Mandragola).¹ On his deathbed, apparently, he even said that he would prefer to go to hell, to...

    (pp. 89-153)

    In Machiavelli’s Florence, the power of words pervaded both political and religious life. With public orations magistrates educated the populace to love the republic; preachers taught the love of Christ with their sermons. Both magistrates and preachers were well aware that words were capable of educating the people to a love of liberty and justice, encouraging faith, stirring them to devotion, and most of all, that words could impress in the hearts of men and women a love of virtue and a hatred of vice. In terms of the themes they treated, the arguments that they used, and the authorities...

    (pp. 154-207)

    In Machiavelli’s view, a republic is a political constitution based on the rule of law and the common good, as well as a way of life that adheres to those principles: a “free way of life,” as he frequently wrote. In a republic the people are sovereign, even though in the republics of his own time, including the Florentine Republic, many were excluded from political rights, and governing was a privilege accorded only to a tiny minority. The people had the power to approve laws and to select the magistrates who would govern. A republic is created through the extraordinary...

    (pp. 208-294)

    Francesco De Sanctis writes in theHistory of Italian Literaturethat during the years in which Martin Luther gave the world a new theology, religious reform was no longer possible in Italy. A country that had too much culture, accustomed to laughing at the corruption that had aroused the indignation of the entire German world, Italy had already progressed beyond “the age of theology,” believed only in science, and considered both Luther and Calvin as “new latter-day scholastics.” For that reason, De Sanctis concludes, “the Reformation could not flourish in Italy; it never affected Latin culture, which was developing on...

  10. INDEX
    (pp. 295-310)