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Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy

Volume 24, Issue 2, Spring 2020

Sean Erwin
Pages 337-355

Mixed Bodies, Agency and Narrative in Lucretius and Machiavelli

Scholars have cited the influence of Lucretius on Machiavelli as important to framing Machiavelli’s position on the freedom of political agents. Some scholars like Roecklin (2012) and Rahe (2007, 2008) argue that Machiavelli was a determinist based on Machiavelli’s rejection of the clinamen; others argue with Brown (2010, 2013, 2015) and Morfino (2006, 2011) that Machiavelli’s affirmation of Lucretian natural principles left room for the freedom of agents. However, this paper takes a different approach by arguing that Machiavelli successfully resists identification with either of these positions. I argue here that Machiavelli affirms a notion of agency that reflects the influence of the Lucretian notion of mixed bodies where human actions emerge from an irreducible multiplicity of subjective and objective factors. I also argue that Machiavelli structures the narratives describing the actions of his agents in a way that supports interpreting their actions as both contingent and necessary.

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