How Machiavelli Was Misunderstood

According to Isaiah Berlin, it is not Machiavelli’s supposed immorality that has made him a perennially scandalous thinker: “There is evidently something peculiarly disturbing about what Machiavelli said or implied,” Berlin wrote, “something that has caused profound and lasting uneasiness.” The Renaissance Italian diplomat and historian did not prize power for its own sake, as has been so often claimed. The conflict Machiavelli has never been forgiven for exposing was not between ethics and politics but two irreconcilably antagonistic moralities, one inherited from Christianity and the other from the ancient pagan world.

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