The Lion and the Fox: Montaigne, Lipsius and Post-Machiavellian Conservative Prudence

Ferenc Hörcher


This essay deals with the post-Machiavellian phase of the history of prudence in Western political thought. After the sudden rise of Machiavellism, or the reason of state discourse, the second half of the 16th century saw an effort to turn back to a more traditional understanding of the virtue of prudence, or at least to try to combine prudence and reason of state in a way which would help to moderate its subversive power. Confronting the warlike events of their age, in their politically oriented writings the two hero of the present paper, Montaigne and Lipsius, expressed an interest in the question how a more tradition-based concept of prudence could and should find its place once again in politics. The paper is going to show how Montaigne’s prudence integrates much of Machiavelli’s insight, while Lipsius’s concept of prudence combines “reason of state” and Christian stoicism. Finally it will be argued that both thinkers represent varieties of early modern conservative prudence, or alternatively, of political realism. 

Słowa kluczowe: Montaigne, Lipsius, reason of state, early modern, conservative prudence, Machiavelli, political realism

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