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Love: Sacred Cow or White Elephant? Do you think Chapter 17 was a little harsh? Isn’t there a place for love in our lives? Must the Machiavellian be cold-hearted and indifferent to affection?




  I found this lovely picture on a blog on the Internet. It is a detail, I presume, from some painting that is very famous,but my state university art education was skimpy and I do not recognize it. It is a striking portrait of a nursing mother or nursemaid. What painting is this detail taken from? I do not recognize it.Surely all five of these toddlers cannot be hers, but she accepts them all with calmness and repose. One hungry baby is nuzzling her breast while the others seem to be satisfied.

  Motherly love is surely the sweetest and purest form of human love. The nursing mother or the mother who carries a child in her womb is the most precious possession of the human race. The future of humanity depends on her.

  What is motherly love? Surely it is a biochemical and brain response that was programmed into her by our evolutionary history. I have heard women describe the first sight of their new baby and particularly the first smell of their new baby. Like most mammal mothers, she wants to nurse, cuddle, nurture, and raise her babies. I am certain that a particular part of her brain becomes active when she sees or smells her baby.

  Some mothers have defective biochemistry and hate their babies, abuse them, abandon them, drown them in the bathtub, or put them in a dumpster to die. This is true of other mammal mothers, who abandon their young because of some terrible flaw in their brains. Fortunately for you, me, and other mammals, this is rare.

  What is love? Mother’s love is like all other kinds of love. It is the experience of brain chemistry. This is not in any way demeaning of love, it is simply a description of it. If love is not an electrochemical reaction in the brain, then what can it possibly be? If it is not stored in the brain, then where is it? In the liver? In the big toe? Nowhere? In a famous case, a man who was a loving father and husband suffered a brain injury when his skull was penetrated by a spike. He lost his love for his family and his personality changed for the worse in every way. If a spike through the brain can kill love but leave the man himself alive, then love must surely be in the brain.

  Romantic Love: Researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine have determined, according to CNN, that “... when you fall in love, the ventral tegmental [a part of the brain] floods the caudate [another part of the brain] with dopamine. The caudate then sends signals for more dopamine. The more dopamine you get, the more of a high you feel. When you fall in love, exactly the same system becomes active as when you take cocaine. You can feel intense elation when you're in love. You can feel intense elation when you're high on cocaine.”

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  That is to say, love is the sensation of dopamine in your caudate. Like every other organic process, love fluctuates. Like every other organic process, it changes over time. Like every other organic process, it is either growing or deteriorating. Like every other organic process, it is stronger in some people and weaker in others. Like every other organic process, it is well formed in some people and malformed in others.

  Most American adults have been in love with more than one person and many have been married to more than one person. If their experience has been like mine, then the sensation of being in love with one woman was very different than with other beloved women. The sensation of love, for me at least, varied a great deal depending on the person I loved.

  Some people say that love is eternal, unchanging, unfailing, and perfect. This idealized fantasy of love is very destructive because it suggests that love is either perfect or it is not love at all. This view of love is delusional, cruel, and inhuman.


  There is no rule of Machiavellianism which compels us to be cold hearted, unresponsive to affection, or unable to be affectionate. Machiavelli himself loved his wife, his mistresses, his children, his friends, the city of Florence, his books, and his political intrigues. You can love those around you, and you can use Machiavellian techniques to make their lives happier and more fulfilling. Why not?

  Love is joyful (dopamine filled), but love can be very painful too. Those who love you are very demanding. They want that dopamine fix. Dopamine (happiness) is very addicting.

  Think about it.


Chapter 17





Download or read online: Machiavelli’s Prince in English translation by W. K. Rowling


Read a brief summary of Machiavelli’s life and works,

written by W. K. Rowling as the Introduction to his translation of The Prince


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Better Living Through Machiavellianism


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