The Prince

“He who believes that new benefits will cause great personages to forget old injuries is deceived.”

~ Niccolò Machiavelli

Considered one of the 6 cardinal virtues of Hinduism, forgiveness is the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offence, with an increased ability to wish the offender well. Well at least that’s the textbook definition anyways. However, incorporated into the DNA of man is the desire to stay ahead of the competition, to maximize chances of survival. I bought a book yesterday, The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli, which turned on a metaphorical light bulb in my head. The book explains the art of statecraft, of holding and governing principalities, and the virtues and behaviours that a ‘new prince’ (or any leader for that matter) should exhibit to maintain rule over his dominion.

The book is famously amoral, with its directions given only as a means to an end, with no consideration of ethics beforehand. Morality is of no interest to the author; only the efficacy in which power is obtained and retained is morality relevant. Still, the writings contained in this book are disturbingly pragmatic. In the experienced eyes of Machiavelli, the appearance of virtue is more important than its true existence. What intrigued me is the conscientious dilemma this book presents: when making difficult decisions, does one take the path of morality or the path of maximal success? Sometimes the two paths are convergent; the dilemma arises when they are not.


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