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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index M > Niccolò Machiavelli Quotes

Niccolò Machiavelli
(3 May 1469 - 21 Jun 1527)

Italian statesman and writer who wrote a pragmatic theory of government in The Prince (1532) which included a number of maxims of practical statecraft. His political philosophy shocked his contemporaries

Science Quotes by Niccolò Machiavelli (4 quotes)

…it ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new.
— Niccolò Machiavelli
The Prince (1532). W. K. Marriott (translator) and Rob McMahon (editor), The Prince (2008), 71.
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For of men it may in general be affirmed that they are thankless, fickle, false, studious to avoid danger, greedy of gain, devoted to you while you are able to confer benefits upon them …; but in the hour of need they forsake you.
— Niccolò Machiavelli
In The Prince (1882), 111, as translated from the Italian by N.H.Thomson. Another translation gives: “Speaking generally, men are ungrateful, fickle, hypocritical, fearful of danger, and covetous of gain,” in Forbes Book of Quotations: 10,000 Thoughts on the Business of Life (2016).
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Men are more apt to be mistaken in their generalizations than in their particular observations.
— Niccolò Machiavelli
Attributed (?). Widely seen, without citation. Webmaster has not yet found a satisfactory primary source, but finds the quote used as an epigraph as early as C. E. Rhoad, The Problem Method of Teaching: Operator’s Manual (1950), 43. A University of Nebraska Publication. Notably, this quote does not seem to appear in any 19th century quote collection volumes. If you know a primary source, contact Webmaster.
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Men are of three different capacities; one understands intuitively, another only understands so far as it is explained; and a third understands neither of himself nor by explanation; the first is excellent, the second commendable, and the third altogether useless.
— Niccolò Machiavelli
Collected, without citation, in Day's Collacon: an Encyclopaedia of Prose Quotations (1884), 87.
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Quotes by others about Niccolò Machiavelli (2)

Power politics existed before Machiavelli was ever heard of; it will exist long after his name is only a faint memory. What he did, like Harvey, was to recognize its existence and subject it to scientific study.
The Prince and the Discourses by Niccolò Machiavelli, with an Introduction by Max Lerner (1950), xliii.
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After all, most men are incapable of deciding for themselves, and have got to have a leader somewhere. If the new discoveries in mass suggestion enable us to make government easier, not only political, but moral and aesthetic, why not welcome them like other useful inventions? Why should science be limited to improvements in our control over nature, and exclude the most important part of our environment, our fellows? Get on the inside, join, as I used to be told, some party, and learn where the ropes come down within your reach. Adopt the high calling of Manipulator and save the State.
Such Machiavellis are not confined to Russia and Italy; one may find them all about even in this Land of the Free. … Still there remains in me a strange misgiving about making use of one’s fellows through an appeal to their weaknesses, even when all you do is to select their objects for them. In the elegant diction of Mr. Mencken, and in spite of the great weight of his authority, a government of the boobs, for the boobs and by the boobs to me still has its morbid charms.
In Learned Hand and Irving Dilliard (ed.), The Spirit of Liberty: Papers and Addresses of Learned Hand (1952), 36.
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Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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