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Machiavelli and War

The entire post was revised, all premises changed and conclusion changed and examinations changed

“A prince ought to have no other aim or thought, nor select anything else for his study, than war and its rules and discipline; for this is the sole art that belongs to him who rules, and it is of such force that it not only upholds those who are born princes, but it often enables men to rise from a private station to that rank. And, on the contrary, it is seen that when princes have thought more of ease than of arms they have lost their states. And the first cause of your losing it is to neglect this art; and what enables you to acquire a state is to be master of the art.”

– The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli (Page 67)

Note: This only applies to the types of government that Niccolò observed in his book “The Prince”, which was written in 1505, therefore any governments that exist at this time may not follow this logic. In addition, he only observed principalities in his book or in other words, governments governed by princes. Meaning that this logic only applies to the government type principality.

I have had trouble finding the premises for Machiavelli’s argument, clearly it is very complex, most likely due to his time in exile with the Medici family. This article aided me in finding some of the premises, it gives a well done short description of Machiavelli’s political career as well as his writings.

Syllogistic Logic: (all, some, no, not, is/are)

Premises 1: Some war grants power

Premises 2: All power grants control

Premises 3: All princes need control

Premises 4: All knowledge of war grants power

Premises 5: All ignorance of war drains power

Premises 6: All study grants knowledge

Conclusion: Therefore princes should use the study war in order to maintain and gain power and avoid losing it as power grants control.

Reminder: In a principality government, the prince is in control, meaning if he loses his power/control, then he will be overthrown.

Examination of Factual Correctness:

Premises 1: This is also correct, as wars that are won do grant and sustain power.

Premises 2: This statement is also correct, clearly any from of power grants some control even if minute.

Premises 3: Again true, if a prince in a principality loses control of his government then he will be overthrown.

Premises 4: This is a little opinionated, but still for the most part true when governing a principality in 1505.

Premises 5: Again correct when considering the logic applies to 1505.

Premises 6: This statement is correct.

Factually Correct: Yes

Examination of Validity via Substitution and Counterexamples:

Premises 1: Some T grants U.

Premises 2: All U grants V.

Premises 3: All W need V.

Premises 4: All X of T grants U.

Premises 5: All of T drains U.

Premises 6: All grants X.

Conclusion: Therefore should use of in order to gain and maintain U and avoid losing it as all U grants V.

Premises 1: Some guns grant power

Premises 2: All power grants control

Premises 3: All generals need control

Premises 4: All knowledge of guns grants power

Premises 5: All ignorance of guns drains power

Premises 6: All experience grants knowledge

Conclusion: Therefore generals should use their experience with guns in order to maintain power and avoid losing it as power grants control

Machiavelli’s argument does not admit this counterexample and most likely many others therefore making his argument valid.

Machiavelli’s argument is sound, and considering he spent much time alone during his exile, I would assume his argument is well built. I would say that most of his ideas originated from the Medici family and literature on Roman history; as clearly indicated in his book “The Prince“. He has a very devious nature and often suggests in his book that treachery and deception are necessary to maintain a position of power. Either way, he has powerful arguments built upon Italian history.


8 Responses to Machiavelli and War

  1. Avery C says:

    Nice post Vincent. I find your counterexample to be particularly interesting, especially the conclusion.
    The conclusion of the original argument reads “Therefore war is is the only required study for a Prince.” However, the conclusion of your counterexample reads “Therefore Generals need Guns.” The discrepancy is that the original argument states that X is the only required study for Y, while the counterexample states that Y need X.
    We can fix this discrepancy by changing the conclusion of the counterexample to match the original. This then reads as “Therefore guns are the only required study for a General”, which is false. This means that your counterexample actually DISPROVES your argument.
    Anyway, the rest of the post was pretty great. Look forward to reading more from you!

    • Vincent says:

      I will fix that immediately, thank you for pointing that out.

      • Vincent says:

        I have revised the blog post completely, I found more of the quote after taking a second look through “The Prince”. It definitely clarifies more of Machiavelli’s thoughts in my mind.

        • Avery C says:

          Excellent revision. I feel that the premises of your new argument much more clearly state Machiavelli’s thoughts.

  2. jeff says:

    Hey Vincent,

    Nice blogpost! I really like the fact that you used an example of logic from so long ago. The counterexample seemed to prove the validity, but I am less than inclined to agree with your argument that “Therefore war is is the only required study for a Prince.” Just evaluating the truth of this statement is untrue as the prince needs to know so much more than just the art of war.

    Your premise 4 states that “A Princes need to maintain power” but the conclusion is only reached if a prince’s /only/ need is to maintain power. Therefore, war is not the /only/ required study for a prince.

    Also additional pictures and sources would be great too :)

    • Vincent says:

      I agree, I am working on it now, just polishing some rough edges. I am reconfiguring the premises, but I continue to find something missing in the premises, hopefully I can get this fixed.

      Thanks for the reply, Vincent Badenhorst

  3. Thad says:

    Awesome post Vincent, the profoundness of your background source is remarkable as well as the arguments your set.

    The counterexample of your is really interesting, I particularly enjoy the method of your examination process it’s very detailed, elaborated and ordered. In addition, extra image of external source link can promote your work to a higher level. Nevertheless, this is state of the art level nice job

    • Vincent says:

      Thank you Thaddeus, I appreciate the feedback, I will try to find more images and links, but I don’t know if I can find any.
      Regardless, thank you for the comment Thaddeus.


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