In The Prince, Machiavelli writes his analysis of how to acquire and sustain political power under a principality. It is his understanding of human nature and the ability to maintain control over people that make up the base for all of the other theories he puts forth. Machiavelli is able to recognize what it takes to balance the citizens somewhere between happy and scared, so to keep them from revolting while appearing united and strong discouraging others form invading. Thucydides shares a similar view of human nature, as he sees all people as being motivated by fear, honor, and self interest. Machiavelli and Thucydides both demonstrate how a ruler can use many aspects of human nature to their advantage when ruling a state.
The common thread that ties together all of Machiavelli's beliefs is his basic view of human nature. Machiavelli believes that humans are greedy, dishonest, and are looking out for themselves above all else. The majority of what Machiavelli dictates to his audience is based on the fact that the prince has to be very careful in how he deals with his citizens, as well as those in other states. The prince has to keep them all satisfied, to avoid any attempts to dethrone him. Machiavelli even suggests that there are times in which the prince will be required to act immorally in order to keep the people of the state on his side. Machiavelli states "Any man who tries to be good all the time is bound to come to ruin among the great number who are not good" (P.42). In this statement Machiavelli acknowledges that humans are selfish and dishonest, so for a prince to keep his authority, he must learn when to not exhibit virtuous characteristics. Simply put, some actions that seem virtuous will ruin a prince, while others that seem like vices will prove to be prosperous. As Machiavelli discusses whether it is safer to be loved or hated he comes out and states, "For it is a good general rule about men, that they are ungrateful, fickle, liars and deceivers, fearful for danger and greedy for gain" (P.46). This passage provides the reasoning why leaders are safer feared than loved. When danger is close at hand, people will turn on you if they do not fear the punishment they will be handed.
Thucydides shared a very similar view of human nature using different reasoning as to why humans are of a self centered, amoral nature when faced with tragedy. Thucydides showed the similarities in human nature during the plague and during the war. He observed that in the plague and in wartime, humans become self serving individuals and give up their morality and reason. Although Thucydides and Machiavelli wrote their books two thousand years apart, the similarity in their views showed that human nature had not changed. The fact that their works are still refered to today suggests that human nature has not in fact even changed much today.
Machiavelli's first focus has to do with the changing of rulers in a state and what...