Friday 12 December 2014

Machiavelli again

A newspaper article by Luciano Canfora (Corriere della Sera, giovedì 11 dicembre 2014, p. 43) indicates a new 3 volume encyclopaedia (Enciclopedia Machiavelliana, ed. Gennaro Sasso and Giorgio Inglese, Treccani) on Machiavelli, cost 1400 euro. Vols. 1 and 2 contain different entries in the usual alphabetical order, while vol. 3 contains a collection of Machiavelli's writings with an introduction by Sasso.

One of the questions raised is about the originality of Machiavelli and other modern authors, especially given the fact that some of them explicitly seem to have said that they took everything from the ancients (see Leibniz, and Machiavelli himself). The solution is rather obvious: the founders of modernity thought out the new in dialogue with the ancients - though Hobbes, for one, very clearly takes his distance from Aristotle's axiom about the social nature of human beings: "This axiom - though accepted by many, is just false."

Another observation is that in some similar way, each one who reads the moderns does it in his own way. Thus there is the Machiavelli of Antonio Gramsci, quite different from that of Mussolini (I never knew that the Duca had a book on the topic, but it turns out that he does: Preludio al Machiavelli - and it should not be surprising, really). On the other hand, the Counter Reformation had castigated Machiavelli as the 'cattivo maestro.'

Might be interesting to read once again, in this light, what Fred Lawrence has to say about Machiavelli.

One thing is clear: Machiavelli is more alive than we might want to think. He is one of the creators of the modern Western world, and, through its influence, on the rest of the world.

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