Machiavelli’s Enterprise by Harvey Mansfield

Harvey C. Mansfield, 'Machiavelli's Enterprise,' The New Criterion, October, 2013.


To create the modern world Machiavelli initiated a two-fold transformation of politics and philosophy that would bring them together: politics with the elevation of philosophy and philosophy brought down to earth. These two motions come together in the prince, now understood not merely as a ruler but also as a thinker devoted to improving the prospects of princes and incidentally, or not incidentally, their peoples—so that princes become knowers of “the world.” It was necessary for Machiavelli to reverse the meaning of modern and create a new meaning of world. “Modern” would no longer signify the weakness taught by Christianity but would acquire new vigor from obeying human necessities rather than divine commands. “The world” would be this world as opposed to the next world of Christianity and to the high-minded morality of classical philosophy.

The New Criterion