Human Nature In MachiavelliS The Prince And MontaigneS Essays

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Both as important thinkers in Renaissance period, Machiavelli and Montaigne made The Prince and Essays works profoundly shaped by Renaissance humanism. Renaissance humanists re-embraced and again kindled their favour to classical literature, with which they came to be more human-centered and exalt human nature. In this way, they, on the one hand, sought to achieve outward perfection; on the other hand, persisted in inward inquiry into oneselves. The tendency toward perfection is well illustrated in Machiavelli’s The Prince, in which he provides guidelines to become a “perfect” prince. His contemporary thinker, Michel De Montaigne, puts more emphasis on his inquiry into himself. Though one is busy in offering counsel for perfection while the other immerses him in studying himself, both Machiavelli and Montaigne scrutinize human nature. To provide guidelines for the princes to gain and keep their power, Machiavelli has to first give a precise understanding of human nature, without which a prince can hardly maintain his power and control his people. To be more exact, The Prince is mainly a utilitarian guidebook for the princes, and Machiavelli’s view of human nature is generally not morally based, which is best proved when Machiavelli suggests that he doesn’t care so much whether a prince is moral or not. In his opinion, moral is not the key to power maintenance. Montaigne, however, writes his Essays not for some utilitarian purpose. He writes Essays to study himself. Unlike Machiavelli, who writes The Prince, “a knowledge of the actions of great men, acquired in the course of a long experience of modern affairs and a continual study of antiquity” to “approach his Magnificence with some token of his devotion”, Montaigne writes Essays mainly for a “domestic and private” goal, rather than for serving the readers or his own glory. “He himself is the matter of his
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