Tuesday, March 22, 2022

The Cub by Nicholas Squirreliavelli

Working on a writing project with my daughter Sophie, presenting philosophy in an animal story with animalized versions of key philosophical works interspersed. Here is our first draft of The Prince, aka, "The Cub."


The Cub

It is hard to become a lion king and even harder to stay one. In the old days, your dad might be a king and then you would become one. The people were used to your dad. It was easier.

Of course there often were sneaky lions wanting to overthrow you. They play to the animals who are unhappy. You have to smash anyone who gets too powerful. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

This is even more important when you come to power and you have not inherited it. Smash all those who might compete with you immediately. Be vicious. Eliminate anyone who might oppose you. It is much better to do it all at once than to trickle out the elimination of your enemies. Never do an enemy a small injury. Make it so severe that you never need fear revenge.

You have to be both a lion and a fox. When you are powerful enough to crush your enemies by force, destroy them like a lion kills a wolf. But sometimes the clever lay traps for you and you have to be sneaky to defeat them. In such cases, outsmart them like a fox. Never attempt to win by force what you can win by deception.

To be a fox is to lie. The world is full of bad animals. If the world were only full of good animals, the cub could always be good. But because the world has so much bad, the cub must sometimes pretend to be good while doing bad things to those who oppose him or her. Otherwise the truly bad will destroy you. When brutality is the only option, it is holy.

The end justifies the means. Promise what you must now in the present then take it back when you need to in the future. It is better to act and repent than to regret not having acted. Keep your true plans secret while portraying yourself as only true and virtuous in public.

It is much safer to be feared than to be loved. Certainly, it is dangerous if the animals of your kingdom hate you. But they do not have to love you. It is best if they fear but do not hate you.

There will always be animals outside your kingdom that want to defeat you. A cub must thus always be preparing for war. The art of war must always be on his or her mind. Hunt on your territory to prepare yourself. That war is just that is necessary for you to prevail. You cannot avoid war. Postponing only gives the advantage to your enemy.

Let your administrators do unpopular things for you. Make strong statements against the enemies of your kingdom to stir up the spirit of your people. Perhaps even invent enemies and destroy them to win favor. Speak strongly in favor of your friends and allies. Put them in your debt so that they will strongly support you.

Get some animals to tell you the truth, but only when you ask for it. Your animals should only tell you what you want to hear when you want to hear it. But it is important to ask for what they think is true from time to time and to listen. But you must always be in charge of what they tell you.

Many believe that the world is only governed by chance or God. That’s half of it to be sure. But your choices are the other half. God or chance may be half of what happens, but that gives half the governance to you. Use it wisely.

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Key Excerpts from Machiavelli's The Prince

The current Russia-Ukraine conflict got me thinking about Machiavelli's The Prince. Here is a quick collection of M's thoughts.


1-3. Leadership of "states" (dominions over people, either principalities or republics) is either hereditary or newly acquired. Hereditary leadership is easier to maintain because it's the tradition. 

New principalities acquired either used to have a principate or used to be free. They are acquired either by your own forces or outside forces. They are acquired either by valor or by good fortune. A "mixed" principate is one where a new part is added.

The possibility of change arises because some think change will improve things (grass is greener). When acquiring a new principate of similar language and customs, the main thing is to end the bloodline of the former principate but leave the laws and customs the same.

It's harder to keep a new territory of different language, custom, and law. Some options are to send colonists or go live there yourself. Occupation doesn't work so well. Be either soft or harsh. If you're harsh, crush them so they can't come back with revenge. People hold grudges against "small insults."

It's easy to line up followers in a new rule among the weaker. But beware, they just as easily switch to follow others too. So don't let powerful individuals close from the outside (foreigners) or let internal people get too much power. 

"A prince must not only oversee current scandals, but future ones as well." Catch problems early and squash them before they fester.

4. Principalities are governed in two ways--by a central authority and distributed leaders who owe their positions to that authority or by distributed leaders who inherited those positions. The first is much easier to rule. France was the second, and there were always malcontents that were trouble.

5. When taking over a place where they used to have freedom under their own laws, it's more difficult. You probably will need to destroy their laws. You could go live there. To let them live under their own laws after installing a group of leaders and taking tribute. Only the first route will succeed in the long term. Immediately eradicate their customs and traditions.

6. Those who come to power by their own power and resources (their own "virtue") crush all their enemies, clear the deck, and succeed. P.S. He puts Moses in this category.

7. It is very hard to succeed if you come to power by good fortune (i.e., by appointment). Cesare Borgia is a near exception, who by his deception, craft, and brutality used then eliminated others. You have to clear the deck. Being nice to people now won't make them forget harm you did to them in the past.

8. Here M treats people who rise to power by villany. He does not seem to oppose their methods--he says he won't comment (and then does). He speaks of the "good and bad use of cruelty." "In cases of necessity, I judge it simply expedient to imitate them." They achieved power but not glory. 

"Cruelty well used (if one can ever say cruelty is good) is when it is practiced suddenly and decisively, but not prolonged." "Act quickly and commit the first offenses right away."

9. When citizens make someone a leader, it is important for the leader to keep the citizens dependent on the state and friendly toward him. Their main desire is not to be oppressed. "a prince needs a friendly populace. Otherwise, in adversity, there is no hope."

But beware of other leaders and magistrates. "In times of trouble, they will try to ruin him."

10. Prince should be able to defend himself. Forget about open territory. Have a fortress. The people from the outside land will get over it after the attackers leave. "The nature of man is such that he feels obligated both for benefits given and benefits received."

11. Church principalities are easy to hold, once established.

12. The fundamentals a state has to have are good laws and a strong army. Mercenaries won't do it. [He really assumes that anyone who has the capacity and opportunity will take control by force. Very dark sense of human nature.]

13. Auxiliary arms--using someone else's troops. Losers rely on them. They are more dangerous than mercenaries because the one who owns them will take you over. "Without its very own native troops, no principality is secure... fate hangs on fortune." Tacitus--"No human thing is so weak and unstable as a reputation of strength not based on actual force."

14. War is the only art that concerns a person in command. [What an adversarial sense of the world!] Neglect of the art of war is why princes lose their states. In peace, a prince needs to be more armed than in war. Hunting is good preparation. And you learn your terrain.

"A prince must always be reading history and study the records of excellent men, the reasons for victory and defeat." No laziness in peacetime.

15. [This is where the interesting material really gets going.] A lot of people aren't good. The person who always tries to be good will fail because of the people who are not good. "A prince who wants to maintain his position needs to learn how not to be good, and then either use or not use the good as necessary." "There will be traits considered good that, if followed, will lead to ruin, while other traits considered vices which, if practiced, will achieve security and well-being for the prince."

"Any man who tries to be good all the time is bound to come to ruin among the great number who are not good"

16. "Liberality, as it is usually practiced, is harmful." "In our times, no great things have been done except by those who were perceived as misers." "Nothing harms your own resources like liberality." But spend liberally the resources of others. "It is wiser to be known as a miser, which gives you a bad name but not a hated one."

17. "Every prince would want to be thought compassionate rather than cruel. But I need to warn him to be careful about compassion." "It is much safer to be feared than to be loved if one must renounce one or the other." However, short of being loved, the prince shouldn't be hated.

18. Everyone talks about how princes should be people of honesty who keep faith. Not true. Successful princes live by their wits and hold keeping faith in low regard. "A prince needs to know how to handle beasts and men." Laws are the way of man. Force is the way of beasts.

"You need to be a fox to know snares, a lion to scare wolves." A prince who is only a lion will fall into traps. A prince who is only a fox will be eaten by wolves. "Because men are imperfect and don't keep faith with you, neither must you keep faith with them."

The lion cannot protect himself from traps, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves. One must therefore be a fox to recognize traps, and a lion to frighten wolves.

A prince needs to know how and when to deceive. He needs to know when to act badly as well as when to act rightly. [The end justifies the means.] He needs to always seem compassionate, faithful, honest, humane, and religious. But he needs to do whatever needs to be done and have a variable nature.

"A prince deceives to win and maintain the state."

19. It is important for a prince not to be hated or scorned. Other than that he doesn't have to worry about his reputation. Taking your people's stuff is how to become hated. Also to be avoided is the perception of being lazy, effeminate, or fearful. He should be decisive and his judgments should not be reversible.

Two threats to a prince--external and internal. If he is well-armed and has friends, he's good. The best way to avoid plots is to be loved by the masses. "A prince need not worry about conspiracies when he enjoys popularity." "Everyone sees what you seem to be, few know what you really are, and those few do not dare take a stand against the general opinion"

"A prince should let others administrate unpopular measures and only claim credit for popular measures." "A prince will always be hated by someone." "If he has to choose, he cannot afford to be unpopular with the most powerful faction."

20. "A clever prince, some say, cultivates enemies when he can so that his reputation increases when he puts them down." "The prince who fears his own people more than enemies should build forts. Those who fear enemies more should forget forts." "The best fortress is not to be hated by the public."

21. "A prince is always esteemed when he takes a strong stand against enemies or in favor of friends." It always happens that someone who is not your friend will urge you to neutrality." "Princes should avoid obligations to others."

"One can never side-step an uncertainty without stepping into another one. Prudence weighs the qualities of the uncertainty and chooses the best of the alternatives."

22. Three types of ministers--those that understand themselves, those who understand others, those who understand neither. The first two are good. Don't pick a minister who thinks more of himself than you. 

23. The only way to guard against flatterers is to have people tell you the truth. But to keep respect, you should only let them tell you the truth when you ask for it. "A prince who is not himself wise cannot be counseled well."

24. "Men are more drawn by the present than the past." "That defense is only good and certain that rests on yourself and your own virtue."

25. Many believe the world is governed by fortune or God and that there is nothing we can do about fate. "However, free will is not entirely powerless. Fortune may be half arbiter of our world, but she leaves half of the world to our governance." "A prince who relies on fortune gets ruined when fortune changes. A prince succeeds who can adapt to his time."  Also some pretty misogynous comments I won't repeat.

26. An appeal to the Medicis to take back Italy.

A quote from Livy: "That war is just which is necessary."    

 There is no avoiding war, it can only be postponed to the advantage of your enemy.

Alexander never did what he said, Cesare never said what he did.

An unavoidable war is called justice. When brutality is the only option left it is holy.”

The first method for estimating the intelligence of a ruler is to look at the men he has around him.”

Never attempt to win by force what can be won by deception

If an injury has to be done to a man it should be so severe that his vengeance need not be feared.

A prince must not have any other object nor any other thought… but war, its institutions, and its discipline; because that is the only art befitting one who commands

Never do an enemy a small injury.”

The new ruler must determine all the injuries that he will need to inflict. He must inflict them once and for all

There is no avoiding war; it can only be postponed to the advantage of others.

Chapter 18

The promise given was a necessity of the past: the word broken is a necessity of the present.”

It is better to act and repent than not to act and regret.

We have not seen great things done in our time except by those who have been considered mean; the rest have failed.”

Keep your friends close, keep your enemies closer.”

a prince who wants to keep his authority must learn how not to be good, and use that knowledge, or refrain from using it, as necessity requires."

Saturday, March 12, 2022

Deconstruction Novel -- chapter 9.1

Jerry Pattengale wrote a bit of a review of the novel on higher education that Erin Crisp and I wrote, How Angie Saved Chicken U. It has an ISBN but is not quite up on Amazon yet. Since he mentions the long-term novel I have been writing on Fridays/Saturdays, I thought I would give continued proof of concept. :-) Here's from this morning:


Matt had met with Dr. Baine. Now it was Brad’s turn to meet with Dr. Todley, the history professor. As before, the group came up with some questions for Brad to cover. As with Dr. Baine, I would go too as a second witness.

Brad wanted to know more about why he shouldn’t vote for a third-party candidate or why he had to vote at all. April wanted to know more about the “separation of church and state.” Dr. Todley didn’t seem too concerned about it to her. Jessica wondered if there were any scenario when he might vote for a Democrat.

Matt didn’t really have any questions. He just wanted Brad to get Dr. Baine into trouble about abortion.

Dr. Todley was happy to meet. He did not yet have any of the group in class, but he saw these issues as extremely important and wanted to influence as many students as he could to vote Republican. For him, the future of America as a Christian nation was at stake. 

“So your ‘lunch bunch’ has some questions about the debate?” He took the lead.

“Yeah, we wanted to follow up with both you and Dr. Baine to hear more about your thoughts on the election. I come bearing questions,” Brad said.

“I hope they’re not Trojan questions,” he said with a completely straight face. Brad did not realize he had echoed the Greek story of the Trojan horse. It leaped out of his subconscious like the Greeks hiding inside the horse.

“No, my questions won’t jump out and attack you by surprise,” Brad smiled. He looked down at the paper where he had written down the questions.

“Why don’t you just give me the paper and I’ll go down the list?”

“Sure, if you can read my handwriting,” Brad said and handed him the paper.

“Separation of church and state,” his eyes fixed on the second question. “No such thing,” he said firmly.

“You all need to take my American history class next semester. There are all kinds of lies they teach you in the public school about American history, and that’s one of them. The phrase ‘separation of church and state’ appears nowhere in the Constitution or the official founding documents of the United States.

“In fact, as late as 1877 the state of New Hampshire required that all state representatives be Protestants. Until 1833, any elected official in Massachusetts had to confess their belief in the Christian religion.”

“So where does the idea come from?” Brad asked.

“It’s a misinterpretation of the first amendment. What it says is that ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.’ It’s about there not being an official religion of the nation as a whole. It was never meant to cut religion out of all public life. And nothing in the Constitution prohibits the individual states from having Christianity as their official religion.”

Brad didn’t really know enough about it to ask detailed questions or what pushback a different history professor might make.

“So is there any limit to what Christian laws the government might make?” ...