Mortality and immortality in Machiavelli : the early modern break in political philosophy

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Gee, Evan Cree

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The question of man’s directedness towards or longing for immortality is a theme in the work of many political philosophers. Whereas the ancients and Christians identified such a directedness, early moderns like Hobbes tended to think that man possessed no such longings. This thesis investigates Machiavelli’s view of the issue through a study of The Prince and the Discourses on Livy. Machiavelli initiates a break from the classical conception and opens the door to later thinkers like Hobbes, but his own position on immortality is at first enigmatic. Through studying his view of man’s innate longings alongside his teaching on the effectual truth, I piece together Machiavelli’s pivot on immortality within the history of political philosophy. In short, by encouraging men to gain strength in this life rather than focus attention on the next, Machiavelli reveals his effectual truth of a summum bonum or greatest good for human beings.



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