To Imitate the Ancients in the Hard Things or the Soft
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To Imitate the Ancients in the Hard Things or the Soft: Castiglione and Machiavelli’s Rival Programs for Civic Education. (2019). The Political Science Reviewer, 43(1), 35-66.


Machiavelli’s civic education is central to his originality as a political thinker, but scholars of Renaissance political thought and civic republicanism too often interpret his advice to princes as merely a more effective means of achieving the same end desired by his humanist contemporaries and not a radical departure. This essay questions this understanding of Machiavelli’s relationship with humanist political thought by comparing his teaching on civic education with his rival in the mirror of princes, Baldassare Castiglione. In what follows I demonstrate that while Castiglione’s Courtier offers a re-articulation of the “soft things” of ancient thought, Machiavelli intends to revive the “hard things” of ancient practice. The root of this contrast can be traced to their different conceptions of virtue and fortune. By situating Machiavelli in his intellectual context, we can not only discern his originality, but determine the merits of his departure from his contemporaries.

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