Machiavelli e il problema delle «mani sporche». Considerazioni sul male in politica

Anno XLIX, n. 209, gennaio-aprile 2014
Centro Einaudi
Articolo completo/Full text


The problem of Machiavelli’s intention in writing The Prince is at the heart of the interpretation of this work, which turns 500 years old this year and which allegedly started political modernity. That is to say a new era in which politics is separated, or autonomous, from the moral and religious realm and only needs to answer effectiveness requirements in a consequentialist perspective. I shall maintain that Machiavelli’s main purpose was that of educating a new prince according to what he had learnt (through his readings and his 15 years in office) so that the prince could meet the extraordinary challenges of the age. In this Bildung process the first and most important lesson is that the State (which Machiavelli always sees as the motherland, in a patriotic, surely not detached, way) must be saved and preserved at all costs. This is not just a theoretical consideration, because the dire situation of the age made the loss of the State a real and present possibility. In this perspective the problem of “dirty hands” can be seen as the problem of how to educate a prince who is good (because he is committed to his State and citizens) but also knows how to use evil means in order to achieve his main purpose, which constitutes the overriding good; the chief question in this educational process is how a good human being can remain such even if he commits evil deeds for his country. The answer, we will find, is surprisingly Aristotelian and reminiscent of the classics.