Appearance of virtue provides power, not actual virtue.

from The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli page 70 nonfiction ~3 min read

Thus, it is not necessary for a prince to have all the above-mentioned qualities in fact, but it is indeed necessary to appear to have them. Nay, I dare say this, that by having them and always observing them, they are harmful; and by appearing to have them, they are useful, as it is to appear merciful, faithful, humane, honest, and religious, and to be so; but to remain with a spirit built so that, if you need not to be those things, you are able and know how to change to the contrary. This has to be understood: that a prince, and especially a new prince, cannot observe all those things for which men are held good, since he is often under a necessity, to maintain his state, of acting against faith, against charity, against humanity, against religion. And so he needs to have a spirit disposed to change as the winds of fortune and variations of things command him, and as I said above, not depart from good, when possible, but know how to enter into evil, when forced by necessity.[1]

A prince should thus take great care that nothing escape his mouth that is not full of the above-mentioned five qualities and that, to see him and hear him, he should appear all mercy, all faith, all honesty, all humanity, all religion. And nothing is more necessary to appear to have than this last quality. Men in general judge more by their eyes than by their hands, because seeing is given to everyone, touching to few. Everyone sees how you appear, few touch what you are; and these few dare not oppose the opinion of many, who have the majesty of the state to defend them; and in the actions of all men, and especially of princes, where there is no court to appeal to, one looks to the end. So let a prince win and maintain his state; the mean will always be judged honorable, and will be praised by everyone. For the vulgar are taken in by the appearance and the outcome of a thing, and in the world there is no one but the vulgar; the few have a place there when the many have somewhere to lean on. A certain prince of present times, whom it is not well to name, never peaches anything but peace and faith, and is very hostile to both. If he had observed both, he would have had either his reputation or his state taken from him many times.[2]


  1. My big bet is that this can be reconciled. That somehow, one can be made not a hypocrite and so observe the timeless values while also obtaining that which it merits. Regardless, it seems unlikely that this will happen in my lifetime, but if it were to happen at all, then let it begin somewhere, and it must begin first with the capability of humans to see people for what they truly are and not to be deceived by appearances. The day each individual can think for themselves is the day great deceivers will fail to reign. Since this is unlikely, I find myself once again placing myself in a position of a martyr –much less inclined to accept this ideology than to battle against it in a righteous war that perhaps will only lead me all the more a failure if the above lines are infinitely and always true, which I myself, have observed to believe are true. In this light, perhaps it is not a bet at all but simply my own foolishness, my stubbornness, my unwillingness, my conviction that this cannot be the only way in which the people exist. ↩︎

  2. I still firmly declare that though finding beauty may be an impossibility within the masses, that it is something worthwhile to attempt, and through our attempts find merit to escape hypocrisy. ↩︎

—Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince, p. 70