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Machiavelli, Leonardo, and the Science of Power

Machiavelli, Leonardo, and the Science of Power

Roger D. Masters

In recent years, Niccolò Machiavelli’s works have been viewed primarily with historical interest as analysis of the tactics used by immoral political officials. Roger D. Masters, a leading expert in the relationship between modern natural sciences and politics, argues boldly in this book that Machiavelli should be reconsidered as a major philosopher whose thought makes the wisdom of antiquity accessible to the modern (and post-modern) condition, and whose understanding of human nature is superior to that of Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Marx, or Mill. Central to Masters’s claim is his discovery, based on previously untranslated documents, that Machiavelli knew and worked with Leonardo da Vinci between 1502-1507.

An interdisciplinary tour de force, Machiavelli, Leonardo, and the Science of Power will challenge, perplex, and ultimately delight readers with its evocative story of the relationship between Machiavelli and da Vinci, their crucial roles in the emergence of modernity, and the vast implications this holds for contemporary life and society.

“This provocative and insightful study emphasizes the central role of nature not only for Machiavelli, but for any theory of education, politics, and the state. Masters is unsurpassed at articulating the deep connections between political philosophy and the natural sciences.” — Robert Perlman, M.D., Ph.D., Kennedy Center, The University of Chicago

“Roger Masters is unique in his approach to understanding human nature. Unlike most historians, he understands biology. Unlike most biologists, he understands history. This is a powerful book.” — Matt Ridley, author of The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature

ISBN: 978-0-268-01416-2
408 pages
Publication Year: 1995

Roger D. Masters, the Nelson A. Rockefeller Professor of Government at Dartmouth College, has published 16 books and is the author of over 125 scholarly articles.

“Masters’ book illuminates our understanding of Leonardo and Machiavelli as individuals and as connected figures who established modern ways of thinking about science and society. For the first time it clearly defines their distinct legacies and their combined impact on the history of western culture. It points to how their combined impact was the basis for Hobbes and other moderns to grow their theories, which unfortunately oversimplified the originators. In proposing a provocative, enlightening, and challenging theory of modernity based on science and power, the book establishes a comprehensive critical approach to two of the most creative and influential thinkers and artists in human history.” — Sixteenth Century Journal

“Here is a book with which to plunge into a corner of the Renaissance while keeping that period’s relevance to modern life and thought squarely at the center of attention. . . A fascinating element of the author’s argument is the possibility that Machiavelli might have been an intellectual intimate of Leonardo, but that they kept their friendship entirely secret from both the world and posterity for reasons of their own. . . This book is very much worth reading.” — The Jerusalem Post

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Machiavelli, Leonardo, and the Science of Power

Roger D. Masters

 Machiavelli, Leonardo, and the Science of Power
Cloth Edition
Paper Edition

In recent years, Niccolò Machiavelli’s works have been viewed primarily with historical interest as analysis of the tactics used by immoral political officials. Roger D. Masters, a leading expert in the relationship between modern natural sciences and politics, argues boldly in this book that Machiavelli should be reconsidered as a major philosopher whose thought makes the wisdom of antiquity accessible to the modern (and post-modern) condition, and whose understanding of human nature is superior to that of Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Marx, or Mill. Central to Masters’s claim is his discovery, based on previously untranslated documents, that Machiavelli knew and worked with Leonardo da Vinci between 1502-1507.

An interdisciplinary tour de force, Machiavelli, Leonardo, and the Science of Power will challenge, perplex, and ultimately delight readers with its evocative story of the relationship between Machiavelli and da Vinci, their crucial roles in the emergence of modernity, and the vast implications this holds for contemporary life and society.

“This provocative and insightful study emphasizes the central role of nature not only for Machiavelli, but for any theory of education, politics, and the state. Masters is unsurpassed at articulating the deep connections between political philosophy and the natural sciences.” — Robert Perlman, M.D., Ph.D., Kennedy Center, The University of Chicago

“Roger Masters is unique in his approach to understanding human nature. Unlike most historians, he understands biology. Unlike most biologists, he understands history. This is a powerful book.” — Matt Ridley, author of The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature

ISBN: 978-0-268-01416-2

408 pages

“Masters’ book illuminates our understanding of Leonardo and Machiavelli as individuals and as connected figures who established modern ways of thinking about science and society. For the first time it clearly defines their distinct legacies and their combined impact on the history of western culture. It points to how their combined impact was the basis for Hobbes and other moderns to grow their theories, which unfortunately oversimplified the originators. In proposing a provocative, enlightening, and challenging theory of modernity based on science and power, the book establishes a comprehensive critical approach to two of the most creative and influential thinkers and artists in human history.” — Sixteenth Century Journal

“Here is a book with which to plunge into a corner of the Renaissance while keeping that period’s relevance to modern life and thought squarely at the center of attention. . . A fascinating element of the author’s argument is the possibility that Machiavelli might have been an intellectual intimate of Leonardo, but that they kept their friendship entirely secret from both the world and posterity for reasons of their own. . . This book is very much worth reading.” — The Jerusalem Post

Frank M. Covey, Jr., Loyola Lectures in Political Analysis