What Were Some of the Accomplishments of Niccolo Machiavelli?

In addition to being infamously honored by a negatively perceived adjective, "Machiavellian," having been named after him, Niccolo Machiavelli is known for his critique of moralistic political theory, his "guide books" regarding the maintenance of state power and his often discomforting pragmatic disregard for ethics in his written advice to the rulers of his time. Some later thinkers, such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau, believe that Machiavelli's true contribution to political and philosophical thought was to expose rather than celebrate the lack of ethics prevalent in governance. Some modern scholars point out that Machiavelli's success at writing popular and biting stage comedies is evidence of his satirical side and his political observations should also be considered in this light.

One of Machiavelli's accomplishments is that he is sometimes viewed as a prototype of the modern empirical investigator or scientist. He built his generalizations from his first-hand experiences within the realm of Renaissance politics and from historical facts. Machiavelli emphasized the uselessness of imaginative theorizing and instead noted, in a realistic manner, how political power could be effectively maintained. He simply described what rulers really did to maintain their states, and he did so in a "scientific spirit" while ignoring any questions regarding whether those actions were good or bad. In this respect, it could be said that his objective was to discover and to observe what was really happening, and that he preferred to view the world from an empirical and realistic, rather than idealistic, perspective.