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Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
September 2023
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Book description

Machiavelli is said to be a Renaissance thinker, yet in a notable phrase he invented, 'the effectual truth,' he attacked the high-sounding humanism typical of the Renaissance, while mounting a conspiracy against the classical and Christian values of his time. In Machiavelli's Effectual Truth this overlooked phrase is studied and explained for the first time. The upshot of 'effectual truth' for any individual is to not depend on anyone or anything outside yourself to keep you free and secure. Mansfield argues that this phrase reveals Machiavelli's approach to modern science, with its focus on the efficient cause and concern for fact. He inquires into the effect Machiavelli expected from his own writings, who believed his philosophy would have an effect that future philosophers could not ignore. His plan, according to Mansfield, was to bring about a desired effect and thus to create his own future and ours.


‘Mansfield has a signature way of reading and writing, which is on full display in Machiavelli’s Effectual Truth. As a reader, he is not afraid to make bold conjectures about arguments, suggestions, and intentions that an author does not state plainly but conveys between the lines of his text. As a writer, he blends simplicity and subtle sophistication. Mansfield is a master at using simple, unpretentious words in phrases that are more artful and telling than they first appear.’

Devin Stauffer - Professor of Government, The University of Texas at Austin

‘The scholar is suspicious, attentive, sharp. The writer, austere, stingy, and often funny in his many polemical puns. Reading Harvey Mansfield has always been a first-class intellectual experience, but Machiavelli’s Effectual Truth offers the pleasure of a true tour de force: not just a highly original family tree of The Prince and the Discourses on Livy’s political realism, from Machiavelli to Montesquieu and Tocqueville, but an existential inquiry into what it means to create, to hand down, and to inherit in the world of ideas - as much today as in the past.’

Gabriele Pedullà - Professor of Italian Literature and Comparative Literature, University of Roma Tre, author of Machiavelli in Tumult

‘Having long reigned as the foremost interpreter of Machiavelli’s thought, Harvey Mansfield offers a provocative examination of Machiavelli’s significant, but overlooked, term- ‘the effectual truth.’ Mansfield finds monumental significance in Machiavelli’s neologism, which shaped the history of modern political philosophy and hence our contemporary world. This is a challenging work, full of insight as well as wry humor that demands - but also rewards - reflection.’

Vickie B. Sullivan - Cornelia M. Jackson Professor of Political Science, Tufts University

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