Virtu and Fortuna: A Description of Military Life



I got some books on tape from the library to keep me company on car trips while my husband is gone.  He laughed a one of my choices, saying that it was a tad dense.  But I thought lectures on the history of ethics would defintely keep my mind occupied.

Anyway, I was struck by an application of Machiavelli's formula for success:

"Machiavelli's third assumption was that human history could be a science...that there could be a formula for success in public life because there were only two variables in life....  The two variables were what Machiavelli called virtu and fortunaVirtu, in Italian, meant not "virtue," certainy not moral virtue, but strength, power, prowess, control, the ability to compel objective reality to obey your will, the ability to impose your will on something else.  Machiavelli's other category, fortuna, meant not "fortune" in a sense of a fortune in wealth, but luck, chance, or fate, all the things you could not foresee or control.

Machiavelli's formula for success is the maximization of virtu and the minimization of fortuna, or the conquest by virtu of fortuna."


And as I listened to this, I was struck by what a perfect summation it is of what we strive for in the military life: the maximization of control and the minimization of chance.  And how we try to impose our will on those things we can not foresee.  We try so hard to tip the scales towards virtu, don't we?

But oh how the military feels like fortuna!


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