A question from Yahoo! Answers:
Is Machiavelli a teacher of evil? Why, or why not?
I am struggling with this essay question. I read the Prince but I was just wondering if someone could help me out.
Evil is a subjective notion. Depending on your definition of evil, you could honestly answer either yes or no. A more subtle answer would be, Machiavelli is a teacher of LESSER evil. In his own words,
[A] prince, so long as he keeps his subjects united and loyal, ought not to mind the reproach of cruelty; because with a few examples he will be more merciful than those who, through too much mercy, allow disorders to arise, from which follow murders or robberies; for these are wont to injure the whole people, whilst those executions which originate with a prince offend the individual only.
The Prince, Chapter XVII
Although I must admit, I’d have to think twice before construing something like this as evil:
A prince ought also to show himself a patron of ability, and to honour the proficient in every art. At the same time he should encourage his citizens to practise their callings peaceably, both in commerce and agriculture, and in every other following, so that the one should not be deterred from improving his possessions for fear lest they be taken away from him or another from opening up trade for fear of taxes; but the prince ought to offer rewards to whoever wishes to do these things and designs in any way to honour his city or state.
The Prince, Chapter XXI