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The Art of Spiritual War


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The American Mind

Or, How to (Posthumously) Conquer the World from Your Desk

Michael Anton

June 8 2021

I long ago concluded that a full and accurate account of Niccolò Machiavelli’s work will forever elude my grasp. In more than thirty years of studying “the most penetrating Florentine,” my interpretation of his thought has changed and I expect will change further. Nonetheless, in discussions with friends recently, I presented some ideas which have developed in my head over the last decade or so. Those friends encouraged me to set down my ideas in pixels, hence this essay. I make no claim that anything here is authoritative.

To the (frequent) criticism that I rely on Machiavelli overmuch, my typical reply is that his writings are so comprehensive that there is almost no issue I ever examine on which he hasn’t already said something incredibly apt and incredibly wise (and typically incredibly droll). Machiavelli’s relevance would endure not simply because of his importance in the history of philosophy, but above all because of the depth and accuracy of his infinite insights into war, international relations, the nature of things, politics, and man.

But in this specific case, Machiavelli’s relevance is direct. For, if my read is correct, Machiavelli faced a challenge so startlingly similar to ours that it almost seems as if history does repeat itself. To put it as succinctly possible, he sought to liberate philosophy and politics—theory and practice—from a stultifying tradition and corrupt institutions. And then he did it. He recruited and trained a new army, defeated his enemy, promulgated a new teaching and conquered the world, or at least the West—with books (“the foreigner … was allowed to seize Italy with chalk”; Prince 12). We might therefore be able to learn something from him about our challenge and how to meet it.

Machiavelli the Antichrist?

There’s no way around this, so I may as well just blurt it out: the tradition and institutions Machiavelli attacked were Christian. This will make some Christians today understandably squeamish about taking advice from the faith’s greatest earthly antagonist since Julian the Apostate. Those who can’t bear the thought may go; I won’t be offended. To those who might be intrigued, I will do my best to blunt the edges of Machiavelli’s more pointed criticisms of Christianity.



Almost 500 years after his death and here we are  Still talking about Niccolò Machiavelli, and what he wrote.

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