Human irrationality, according to Machiavelli, is vividly illustrated by a near-universal failure to prepare for the storm when the sea is calm. One aim of The Prince, therefore, is to explain how a ruler can maintain the loyalty of the most indispensable sources of political support in times of crisis, tumult, war and adversity. Emergency preparedness is therefore the essential virtue of the statesman. Stockpiling provisions to survive a siege is an obvious example. Anticipating adversity also rules out reliance on mercenary armies, unlikely to remain loyal when the chips are down. But Machiavelli’s subtler point is that the ruler’s best chance for survival lies in his ability to control the empirically unverifiable picture of the future internalized by his subjects and especially by his rivals for power.
6:00 p.m. Introduction Ellyn Toscano, Executive Director, New York University Florence
6:05 Tempi dubii, tempi avversi: Anticipations of Adversity in Machiavelli’s Prince Stephen Holmes, Walter E. Meyer Professor of Law at NYU School of Law