Insights Into Human Behavior
Nicollo Machiavelli had far greater understanding of human nature than Sigmund Freud
For those who may know vaguely Machiavelli’s name but are unfamiliar with his seminal work The Prince, the term Machiavellian likely conjures up notions of deceit, trickery, and other psychological dark arts. One may imagine that the Italian writer was seeking merely to justify and promote double-dealing and other morally questionable behaviors and could in some ways be considered to be a more writerly version of Shakespeare’s Iago.
The misconception of Machiavelli as a superficial immoral cad evaporates the moment one opens The Prince and begins to read. Written in the then-common style of an instruction book for rulers, Machiavelli’s work stands far above its peers because of its acute psychological insights. While the Roman Catholic Church was making a fortune by peddling notions of morality while profiting from a wide variety of morally dubious schemes, Machiavelli cut straight to the heart of the matter without illusion or dissimulation. He understood human psychology and his book is a treatise on how a ruler may exploit human psychology in order to bolster his authority and extend his likely longevity at the apex of power.
Machiavelli was an astute observer of human behavior as it was, not as others imagined it ought to be. This can clearly be seen, for example, in his advice to rulers on the topic of generosity. Machiavelli noted that the first time a gift is given, the recipient is delighted and feels gratitude to the giver. This generally has the effect of engendering within the recipient feelings of approbation for the giver. The second time a gift is given, however, the joy of receipt is less and the recipient begins to feel that such gifts are his due. The third time a gift is given, the recipient may actually feel that a more substantial gift ought to have been provided, and instead of feeling gratitude they may well feel aggrieved that they did not receive more. Worse still, should it come to pass that such gifts can no longer be given, those who formerly received them will become angry and denigrate the former giver.
Many men who’ve been through a divorce will recognize this pattern, especially where there was a disparity in wealth between…