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The Fox and the Lion: Machiavelli replies to Cicero

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The parallels between Machiavelli's The Prince and Cicero's -- De Officiis have been frequently noted but seldom studied. An examination of the parallels suggests that Machiavelli intended The Prince to offer an improvement on Cicero's defence of the active life. He thus completes Cicero's intention in De Officiis to treat political life on its own terms, independent of philosophy. In so doing, he uncovers inconsistencies and tensions in the Ciceronian account of the ‘intermediate’ virtues of the statesman, tensions that are the product of the classical framework within which Cicero is working. The statesman's activity secures the good of the polity, but to achieve the good one must know what is good. Ultimately for Cicero the statesman must depend on knowledge of the good that is the province of philosophy. In The Prince, Machiavelli shows how these tensions may be resolved.

Keywords: Cicero; Machiavelli; Prince; de Officiis; philosophy; public life; rationality; sociability; sociality; statesmanship; virtu; virtue

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Dept. of Politics, Juniata College, Huntingdon, PA 16652, USA.

Publication date: April 1, 1999


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