Machiavelli’s The PrinceDiscussion Questions
The following ten questions will be used to guide our discussion of the Prince in the next few days. For today though, I want you to read through all of these questions, and pick 4 of them to answer in your notebook in paragraph form. This will be a homework assignment and also prepare us for a productive discussion. However, these questions also make very good essay and test questions so you might see them later on!
1. How does Machiavelli view human nature? Provide examples in your explanation.
2. Compare and contrast the different ways in which a Prince can rise to power.
3. Do you thing Machiavelli’s ‘realistic’ advice to aspiring leaders is on the money? What particular advice do you find good or bad? Why?
4. In Chapter 18 Machiavelli discusses the need for a prince to have two natures: a fox and a lion. Why does he say a prince needs both?
5. Machiavelli argues that a leader should be both loved and feared, but that if you have to pick one, pick fear. Explain what your position is on this. Have you ever had any personal experience with these two positions?
6. In Chapter 18 Machiavelli says that “the vulgar (common people) are always taken by appearances and by results, and the world is made up of the vulgar…” This sums up his philosophy for rulers that the ends justify the means. Do you think he is right? Tell why or why not and give examples.
7. How would Machiavelli define the concept of justice? Provide examples in your explanation.
8. Machiavelli distinguishes between appearance and reality, can we sum up his ideas as follows: “Never mind reality, image is everything.”? Is this good advice in politics or private life?
9. Who, among politicians and rulers of our era, can be considered a ‘good’ student of Machiavelli’s teaching? Can we blame this person for his or her actions? On what grounds can we do so?
10. How much of the Prince is relevant to contemporary society in an age when monarchies no longer are the primary form of government? Provide examples in your explanation.