What is Machiavelli's take on human nature in The Prince?

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Always a controversial figure, Machiavelli is perhaps at his most polarizing in his account of human nature. In general, Machiavelli argues that human nature is primarily based upon self-interest. Thus, even if a person does something that is often perceived to be virtuous, such as donate to charity, he or...

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Always a controversial figure, Machiavelli is perhaps at his most polarizing in his account of human nature. In general, Machiavelli argues that human nature is primarily based upon self-interest. Thus, even if a person does something that is often perceived to be virtuous, such as donate to charity, he or she is not doing so out of a general desire to do good. Rather, according to Machiavelli a person only acts virtuously if there is something to be gained by doing so.

This idea is manifest in much of Machiavelli's political policy. For instance, while Machiavelli encourages politicians and statesmen to seem virtuous, it's important to recognize the importance of the trivial verb "to seem." Machiavelli does not think a politician should concern himself with truly being virtuous; instead, he should seem virtuous to bolster his political reputation, as the perception of virtue often wins over the loyalty of the state. As such, the root of Machiavelli's concept of virtue is a prime example of his theory of humans as self-interested animals. 

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