Language and The Prince by John Najemy

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Aug 5, 2019 03:23
Language and The Prince by John Najemy

In his effort to understand the linguistic issue at stake in the Prince, Najemy hits the nail on the head by quoting the letter to Vettori dated 9th April. In this short exchange with his old friend, Machiavelli opens to a consideration of language and reality as two entities essentially separated, disconnected in a way that frustrates who tries to theorize about politics and society. Nevertheless, the 'segretario fiorentino', will try to dominate language, to mold and forge it according to his ideas and intentions.
In the dedicatory letter to Lorenzo de` Medici, he rejects the flourished humanistic idea of language as ornament and rhetoric instrument of truth. He compares to prostitution the whole apparatus of ornaments with which humanists used to embellish their texts. His desire would be to relay only on facts and science. For this reason, he tries to set a clear methodology for his exposition, disposing a serie of linguistics tools for guiding the reader in the comprehension of a treatise on politics that aimed to total objectiveness. Fred Chiappelli analyzes such 'rhetoric' tools in order to evaluate their logic and linguistic coherence and cohesion. His contribution is essential to a scientific evaluation of Machiavelli's terminology. His work is oriented on investigating the origin of his style and the provenience of his lexicon, which has multiple source; in fact it varies from chancellery reports tradition to Latin history books.
As Najemi well points out, Machiavelli is anxious about language. He wonders about the correspondence between things and their linguistic representations, admitting a sort of frustration in nothing the impossibility of a perfect coincidence. (He doesn`t refer directly to words but to concepts and discourses.) His idea of a not necessary connection between words and things clashes with that of the humanist philologist Valla who believes that knowledge and truth are historically determined by their common use and meaning. Such an idea is quite the opposite of what Machiavelli states as firm belief in 'The Prince'.
According to Najemi such an attempt to deny the common and historical determined usage and meaning of words is arbitrary and almost a sign of autism in Machiavelli. According to him, the idea that concept and words can have a timeless meanings should condemn his treatise to irrelevance and insignificance. Instead, in other more pondered works (like the Discorsi) where he is willing to mediate with historical significance of ideas and concepts, he inserts himself in a well consolidated tradition of political thought, showing his talent and originality within a social and historical discorse.