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Machiavelli and moral character: principality, republic and the psychology of virtu

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Little attempt has been made to explore Machiavelli's attitude towards the psychological dimension of virtue. Yet such an exploration bears surprising fruit. Machiavelli proves to rely very heavily upon the psychological premises of his predecessors. In particular, he upholds the view that human action arises out of a set of personal characteristics which are firmly rooted and relatively insusceptible to variation or erasure. Thus, Machiavelli believes that how one behaves reflects the sort of psychological attributes with which one is endowed. This position echoes the view maintained by the classical and Christian moralists of whom he is regarded as an implacable foe. To the extent that Machiavelli steps away from previous psychological teachings, he does so only in the political implications which he draws from the psychology of moral character. He concludes that psychology tends to favour republics over principalities: a republican regime is better prepared than a monarchy to cope with the limitations imposed by the fixed character traits of human beings.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Dept of Political Science, University of Arizona, Tucson AZ 85721, USA.

Publication date: 2000-03-01

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