The Machiavellian Cosmos

Anthony J. Parel

View Inside Price: $48.00


March 25, 1992
216 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
ISBN: 9780300051698
Cloth

In this highly original interpretation of Machiavelli's thought, Anthony J. Parel identifies a theme generally neglected in the scholarship of this sixteenth-century political thinker: Machiavelli's belief in the occult forces of heaven and humors. Challenging the current tendency to view Machiavelli as a pioneer of modern political science, Parel argues instead that a premodern cosmology and anthropology underlie Machiavelli's political works.
 
Parel shows that Machiavelli's world picture owes more to the astrological cosmology prevalent in the Renaissance than to the Aristotelian or Platonic or Christian world picture. This astrological determination significantly affects Machiavelli's conceptions of history, politics, and religion and shapes his notions of virtu and fortuna. It also has considerable impact on his ethical ideas: the Machiavellian cosmos has no room for a Ruling Mind or for the Sovereignty of the Good, and humans are left to pursue their appetites for riches and glory as best they can. In a similar fashion, says Parel Machiavelli's political anthropology is influenced by the ancient idea that body humors determine a person's temperament and behavior, for he believes that humors compromise human autonomy and rationality. According to Parel, the theory of humors also affects Machiavelli's view of the body politic and his characterization of republics, princedoms, and licenzia, and Parel explicates this in new readings of The Prince, the Discourses, and the Florentine Histories.

"A very important and interesting book and a trenchant and original contribution to Machiavellian studies."—J.G.A. Pocock, The Johns Hopkins University

"A highly original approach that reinstates Machiavelli in his worldview. A refreshing plea to rediscover the famous Renaissance thinker, often disfigured by the attempts to fit him in a modern frame."—Sergio Bertelli, University of Florence

"In this fascinating book Parel opens up the arcane (in both senses) world of Renaissance astrology and medicine and the relations between them."—Terry Hopton, Political Studies

"Parel's important discussion of Machiavelli's key political writings is centered on the view that different political systems—and their success/failure—were linked to the humours of separate social groups, and the extent to which they were satisfied. . . . Parel's close analysis of Machiavelli's language in the context of contemporary astrological and humoural theories is a valuable contribution in locating Machiavelli in his proper historical, premodern, context."—Christopher F. Black, History

"Parel's book is carefully and knowledgeably constructed on analyses of the full range of Machiavelli's writings."—Charles Trinkaus, American Historical Review

"This challenging book reaffirms the distinction between ancient and modern by focusing on the nature of causation, and it explores Machiavelli's cosmological theory through a detailed study of his writings."—Stephen H. Wirls, The Review of Politics

"The Machiavellian Cosmos provides the reader with a wealth of information on the two 'ancient sciences' of medicine and physics. . . . Indeed this book, because of the questions it raises and the perspective it presents, can be considered a vehicle with which to depart on many other 'paths yet untravelled.'"—Barbara J. Godorecci, VIA: Voices in Italian Americana

"The Machiavellian Cosmos is a long overdue investigation into the importance of astrology and the prevalent ideas on the humors of the body in Machiavelli's thought and provides a stimulating reassessment of his political theories."—The Year's Work in Modern Language Studies