constitutional backgrounds, c. 1512 and lifelong learning

September 13, 2006

One of the best parts of being committed to ‘lifelong learning‘ is always feeling proximate naivety, like peering into the closet of an older sibling to find clothes, boxes and awards organized in an unattributable manner. Reading certain, “classic” texts hitherto ignored for some lost reason, is to uncover large pieces of your missing self. This hit me, especially hard reading selections of the Discourses on Livy this morning:

“Of all men who have been eulogized, those deserve it most who have been the authors and founders of religions; next come such as have established republics or kingdoms. After these the most celebrated are those who have commanded armies, and have extended the possessions of their kingdom or country. To these may be added literary men, but, as these are of different kinds, they are celebrated according to their respective degrees of excellence. All others — and their number is infinite — receive such share of praise as pertains to the exercise of their arts and professions. On the contrary, those are doomed to infamy and universal execration who have destroyed religions, who have overturned republics and kingdoms, who are enemies of virtue, of letters, and of every art that is useful and honorable to mankind. Such are the impious and violent, the ignorant, the idle, the vile and degraded. And there are none so foolish or so wise, so wicked or so good, that, in choosing between these two qualities, they do not praise what is praiseworthy and blame that which deserves blame. And yet nearly all men, deceived by a false good and a false glory, allow themselves voluntarily or ignorantly to be drawn towards those who deserve more blame than praise.”

Machiavelli, Writings Vol. 2 – Discourse on Livy Chapter X: In Proportion as the Founders of a Republic or Monarchy are Entitled to Praise, So Do the Founders of a Tyranny Deserve Execration.


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