Machiavelli in Context (Great Courses, #4311)

Machiavelli in Context (Great Courses, #4311) - William R. Cook I recently read a David Brooks column where he was comparing Machiavelli to the better parts of Ted Cruz. It struck me as an incoherent column. He clearly didn't understand who Machiavelli was beyond a comic book characterization, and I'm still searching for anything good to say about Ted Cruz.

Anyways, it got me to thinking that I really didn't understand Machiavelli well enough to articulate my full disgust with that David Brooks column and that led me to this superb lecture and I'm glad for this Great Course Lecture. (Often, from a true negative, namely David Brooks, a positive can come about, namely learning about Machiavelli).

This lecturer also gave a Great Course on Dante (which I listened to and really enjoyed), and I'm currently working my way through a Yale Course on Dante, and to properly understand Machiavelli, one must understand the influence that Dante had on him (both this lecture and the Yale Course on Dante's Comedy make that point).

Machiavelli can be argued to be the first modern man. He undoes the paradigms for which Aristotle and Cicero and the other early thinkers had instilled in to the zeitgeist of the thought of the middle ages and through the Renaissance. By that I mean, for example, Cicero would have said it is most important to be a good person in order to be a a good (virtuous) leader. Machiavelli stands that thought on its head.

The David Brooks of the world always like to create the other (see Donald Trump or Ted Cruz for their special brand of otherism and hate). Brooks and his ilk will always try to bring the conversation back to lack of Community, Character, and Culture and then hide behind there superficial brand of Christianity (or their specific brand of Religion in Brooks' case). This lecture makes me realize the supreme irony that Brooks was accidentally employing because of all the people in the world, Machiavelli did more to change the world view Brooks (and his ilk) cling to.

Overall, a very good lecture. Machiavelli's most important work probably is "The Discourses on the First Ten Books of Livy". I ended finding a free copy through google books and it's turning into a real find. The book really illustrates how Brooks was misusing Machiavelli and how history is necessary for understanding our current place in history but the context should never be ignored, and shows that the way the world works is the exact opposite from the comic book characterization that Brooks uses in his twice weekly columns. History is a wonderful thing and Machiavelli knew what to do with it and how to use it and how we need to get the meaning from the past not just the stories.