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Thoughts on Machiavelli First Paperback Edition Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0226777023
ISBN-10: 0226777022
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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

Leo Strauss argued that the most visible fact about Machiavelli's doctrine is also the most useful one: Machiavelli seems to be a teacher of wickedness. Strauss sought to incorporate this idea in his interpretation without permitting it to overwhelm or exhaust his exegesis of The Prince and the Discourses on the First Ten Books of Livy. "We are in sympathy", he writes, "with the simple opinion about Machiavelli (namely the wickedness of his teaching), not only because it is wholesome, but above all because a failure to take that opinion seriously prevents one from doing justice to what is truly admirable in Machiavelli: the intrepidity of his thought, the grandeur of his vision, and the graceful subtlety of his speech". Strauss himself was sensitive to that "subtlety of speech", and responded to it in kind even as he labored to put the message it carried before the reader. Thoughts on Machiavelli is not a Machiavellian book, but it respects the genius of the Florentine author, and pays him the respect of using his artfulness with grace and restraint. This critique of the founder of modern political philosophy by this prominent twentieth-century scholar is an essential text for students of both authors.

About the Author

Leo Strauss (1899–1973) was one of the preeminent political philosophers of the twentieth century. He is the author of many books, among them The Political Philosophy of Hobbes, Natural Right and History,and Spinoza’s Critique of Religion, all published by the University of Chicago Press.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 348 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; First Paperback Edition edition (October 15, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226777022
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226777023
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #519,830 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Strauss is such a careful reader that he can be very convincing in an almost unconscious way, but we should remember that Strauss has his own agenda and that his Machiavelli is quite unique. I almost think this book should be read more to understand Strauss than to understand Machiavelli.

He carefully guides the reader toward his theses, though just as often he seems to guide the reader toward some thesis without explicitly stating it. It is surprising that the most bold elements of his interpretation seem to be wholly original. That originality should raise suspicion--did Machiavelli hide his intention so well that it took five centuries to be discovered? Strauss is careful to justify his moves, but it is possible that his interpretation reads too much into the texts or even that Strauss intentionally uses Machiavelli as he claims Machiavelli used Livy.

In the humanist-republican reading, Machiavelli's teaching that the end excuses the deed is excused through his patriotism. Strauss, on the other hand, argues that Machiavelli uses patriotism to veil his true aim which is to question the status of morality itself. For Strauss, Machiavelli marks the birth of modern philosophy because he reasons about everything rather than relying on authority. Further, in Machiavelli's writings, the meaning of philosophy undergoes a change: the city, not the soul, becomes the ultimate end. Philosophy takes as its standard the low but solid foundation of how men live. Since it is based on how men live rather than how they should live it is more likely to be actualized, but forgoes excellence.
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Format: Paperback
Yes, Leo Strauss has the guts to say that Machiavelli is evil, and through a scintillating display of close reading, Strauss silently points, and nods, in the direction of the solution to why Machiavelli is evil. The other reviewers accurately convey the sense of mystery and sophistication about this text, but by reading Strauss's book "Persecution and the Art of Writing", the reader of "Thoughts on Machiavelli" may be able to arrive at the solution to the mystery.
A brilliant book.
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Format: Paperback
One of the best and most important books of the 20th Century. I know that sounds ridiculous (shouldn't it be famous then?) but it's true. Strauss traces the beginnings of modernity to a concious design of Machiavelli's to overthrow all previous authority in favor of "new modes and orders." In other words, according to Strauss, the world we live in is not only not the result of imperonsal, inevitable "progress," it was made possible by one man who knew exactly what he was doing.
Through a detailed analysis of Machiavelli's books, Strauss shows how every important feature of modern thought is either directly traceable to Machiavelli, or else depends on a foundation he built. More importantly, Strauss outlines the differences between Machiavellism and what Machiavelli sought to replace--thereby making possible a (qualified) return to the superior understanding of pre-Machiavellian philosophy.
Such a return becomes more necessary every day, as the contradictions and prodigious errors of modern thought continue to erode civilization. Strauss alone has shown that return is possible--and this book is an indespenible guide for how to get there.
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The centrality of Thoughts on Machiavelli within Strauss' work cannot be overemphasized. During his lifetime (by my count), Leo Strauss published some 14 or 15 books (depending on whether you count The History of Political Philosophy). Thoughts on Machiavelli was published in 1958. It had been preceeded by Persecution and the Art of Writing (1952) and Natural Right and History (1953) and was followed by What is Political Philosophy (1959) and The City and Man (1964). This five books form the central period of Strauss' work wherein he came to his mature philosophical outlook. The four books prior to PAW can be seen as the ground work for his mature work. The books that follow the central five can be seen as Strauss' return to classical political philosophy to try to reveal the grounding experiences that led to the development of classical political philosophy and what he saw as its version of natural right.
Thoughts on Machiavelli (hereafter ToM) is central in another sense. Strauss saw the history of philosophy as the struggle between the Ancients and the Moderns. This was the historical theme that he used to frame his main theme which was the fundamental alternative of Reason versus Revelation. Strauss saw the conflict between reason and revelation as playing out differently in classical political philosophy and in modern political philosophy. Machiavelli (hereafter, M.) is THE turning point.
ToM is divided into four chapters. The first delves into the relationship between Machiavelli's Prince and his Discourses. The second chapter explores what M.is trying to do in the Prince and the third chapter explores M.'s intention in The Discourses on Livy.
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