Page:A Brief History of Modern Philosophy.djvu/9

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6
THE PHILOSOPHY OF THE RENAISSANCE

profound contempt of his fellow citizens, who refused to accept his services after the republican government was again restored. He died in 1527.—Political interest made him a thinker. The misfortunes of Italy and its consequent conditions inspired him with a desire to restore its ancient spirit and power. Why should we imitate the splendid arts of the ancients and neglect their splendid deeds? But the sole possibility of accomplishing anything great requires us to press forward to the realization of great ideals without scruple! There are passages (especially in his Principe) in which Machiavelli seems to regard the ideal which a man proposes as an indifferent matter, if he only pursues it unscrupulously and energetically. But in the background of his thought there was constantly but a single ideal; the unity and the greatness of Italy. He regarded everything right which would contribute towards the realization of this ideal. Finding the Italians of his age lacking in a proper appreciation of greatness, he attributes it to the softening influence of the Church and of Christianity. In his Discorsi (Dissertations on the first ten books of Livy) he draws comparisons between the mind of antiquity and that of his own age, thus laying the foundation for a comparative ethics which was highly unfavorable to the modern period. Honor, magnanimity and physical prowess are not sufficiently appreciated now, and this is due to the fact that Christianity places the ideal of humanity in a transcendent world. To Machievelli it is perfectly clear that these attributes possess more than secondary value, they are intrinsically meritorious. Machiavelli reveals the true spirit of the Renaissance both by the purely human ideal which he presents to his fellow countrymen, as well as by his emulation of power for its own sake.