Machiavelli view on human nature

In the modern era, Machiavelli has been credited as the first true political thinker. In many ways, he can be considered as the child of his time. He has elaborated at length his theories of the separation of politics from ethics and statecraft in his masterpiece, ‘The Prince’. Throughout the book, he talks about his views on human nature and motivation, a subject upon which he builds his entire philosophy and ideas. Furthermore, he gave a very dark, negative, and degenerative picture of human nature and attempted to equate the different instincts of human beings with those of animals in his book of the same title. From his detailed account of human nature in ‘The Prince’, the following points can be drawn:

Machiavelli view on human nature

Machiavelli has made pessimistic comments about human nature in his famous book ‘The Prince‘. Observing and simulating the real picture of his era has enabled him to provide such real information concisely. According to him, the reason behind the situation at that time in Italy was due to the human character of the people during that period. There is a direct correlation between the decline in the human qualities of an individual and the decline in the social, political, and economic conditions of the country. As a result, Machiavelli’s realistic work and positive sentiments reflect these ideas and can be seen in the content of his work.

1. Man is highly self-centered– According to Machiavelli, human being is highly selfish and self-centered to the core. He only seeks his interest, cares for himself only, and does not pay attention to the interests of others. He is always self-regarding and not others regarding.

2. Egoistic: Man is egoistic of the first order. The range of his – thoughts and actions, is always based on his egoistic tendencies.

3. Aggressive: Human beings are aggressive and this nature, always led them into conflicts and quarrels with one another. Their aggression brings disorder and anarchy in the society.

4. Greedy: Man is greedy by nature and, to promote his interests, he can go to any extent. Man is never satisfied with whatever he acquires, but incessantly strives for gaining more and more.

5. Wicked:- human beings are wicked by luring His, always ready and comfortable to act against the collective and larger.

6. Timid:- Human beings are, by nature, timid. They prefer to adopt a course of action and customs that are universal or accepted by the majority, to avoid criticism, resistance, or opposition from society.

7. Loves change:- According to Machiavelli, human beings love – change and novelty. All humans be they rich or poor. Always seek change.

8. Discontented:- Human beings are always discontented, unsatisfied, and insatiable, No one is contented with whatever he acquires and possesses and whatever position he holds in the society.

9. Stupid:- Human beings are, by nature, stupid and anal As animals are governed by irrationality and mere emotion likewise, human beings are also moved by emotions and illusions and do not apply reason of their own.

10. Ambitious:- Humans are highly ambitious by nature. They always remain direful of many things but, when they cannot get that, pessimistic tendencies and dissatisfaction prevail over them. Conflicts and wars are the product of such unjust desires.

11. Loves liberty Man, by nature, loves liberty and always – desires independence from others. He always wants to live an independent life on his own.

12. Dominating, by nature, is highly dominating and always wants to dominate other fellow beings. This quest for dominance thus leads to strife among the individuals.

13. Jealous:- Man is, by its basic nature, jealous of others. He could not see others prosperous and happy.

14:-Love of wealth:- According to Machiavelli, love of wealth, is yet another dominating instinct of human nature. A loves his property more than his kith and kin and he cosily

Implications of Machiavelli’s views on Human nature:

Machiavelli has presented a very dark, negative, and pessimistic picture of human nature. The implications of his views on human nature could be highlighted as under:

1. First, it implies that the state should place strict vigilance, and check on human beings as they are wicked, selfish, and self-regarding

2. Secondly. in order to tame and regulate the behaviour of such human beings, the state should use maximum force and coercion.

3. Thirdly. Machiavelli granted unlimited and absolute power to the rulers. The rulers are not expected to bother about the people and should rule over them, with an iron hand.

4. Fourthly, it implies that there are dual versions of morality, one for the ruler who can do anything on the pretext of state interests, and the second version is for the common masses.

5. Fifthly, it implies that politics is a dirty game and could not be played by good men of virtues with fairness: So, it is justified to employ even unhealthy or immoral means to achieve the proposed goals.

6. It implies that human beings are not trustworthy and faithful. So, they cannot be trusted, whatsoever.

Criticism of Machiavelli view on human nature

Based on the account given by Machiavelli describing the characteristic features of human nature, this theory has been subjected to severe criticism in the following way:

1. Humans are not perfect:- Critics pointed out that although all human beings are neither perfectly good nor bad yet, they could not be portrayed in an entirely bad and negative manner. Human beings inherit both good and bad traits.

2. Causes of Evil:- Critics stated that Machiavelli had certain Pre-conceived notions about the basic evilness of human nature but, failed to explain or give a reason for the cause of their bad nature and why human beings are so wicked and selfish.

3. Unacceptable:- His views led us to conclude that it is the element of fear which was fundamental in the origin of the state. But, in the present times, it has been well established and accepted fact that “will” and not “fear” is the basis for the origin of the state.

4. Rational animal:- Critics pointed out that Machiavelli has portrayed a very negative picture of human nature and motives, which led it close to the traits of animals. But, human beings are rational and civilized in reality.

5. Way of Change:- Machiavelli believed in the incorrigible nature of human beings, which is not always true, With the help of proper training in etiquette and education about social and personal relations, human beings could easily be molded and reformed for the better.

6. If all human beings were so bad, wicked, jealous. selfish and dominating in nature, then the development of human societies and the general progress of humankind would not been a reality in the present day. The human beings, then, would be forced to live in the state of nature


As a result, Machiavelli’s views on human nature are characterised by a pragmatic and realistic assessment of people as well as rulers. Because of his departure from classical ethical ideals, he began to emphasize the importance of understanding human behavior as it is rather than as it should be, rather than as it ought to be. Machiavelli argued that humans are primarily motivated by self-interest and ambition, and political leaders must navigate the complexities of power, virtue, and fortune to maintain and consolidate their authority.