Niccolò Machiavelli

Authored by: Mary G. Dietz , Ilya Winham

Early Modern Philosophy of Religion

Print publication date:  July  2013
Online publication date:  September  2014

Print ISBN: 9781844652228
eBook ISBN: 9781315729619
Adobe ISBN: 9781317546450


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Some seventy-five years after the death of Niccolò Machiavelli (1469–1527), Francis Bacon lauded the author of The Prince and The Discourses for having the confidence to charge “in almost plain terms” that the Christian faith had left “good men” to the predations of those that are “tyrannical and unjust” (Bacon 2002: 363). That Machiavelli deserved credit for his writings on the political failures of Christianity was a view that other thinkers of Bacon’s time and stature did not share; nor would it be the verdict of commentators for many centuries to come. In fact, on issues concerning religion, Christianity, morality and politics, Machiavelli was and “to some extent remains”, as Najemy (1999: 659) observes, “a convenient scapegoat often blamed for the decline of religion in the modern world”. Within Machiavelli studies, however, the question of the Florentine’s view of religion is by no means settled, much less reducible to a version of paganism or devilish immorality. Rather, the religion question in Machiavelli remains a multifaceted problem eliciting among scholars a wide range of arguments, interpretations and debates. In what follows, we shall turn to Machiavelli’s two most significant works of political theory, The Prince (1532) and, more extensively, Discourses on the First Ten Books of Titus Livy (1531), to assess the continuing scholarly interest and political significance of Machiavelli’s treatment of religion. 1 1.

Translations from The Prince are taken from Machiavelli (1988), while translations from the Discourses are taken from Machiavelli (1970).

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