Following on from Part 1 of this series, I want to suggest that Machiavelli’s work can be seen as grounded in a concern with the vigour and health of the republic, defined in a specific way. The way I want to use the word ‘republic’ here is centred around the idea of a collective agent: the political group conceived by analogy with the individual person, so that terms like ‘vigour’ and ‘health’ can be applied to it.
The key feature of persons that I want to consider is their goals and desires. Let us suppose that we have no problem with speaking of the interest or goals of a single individual. What then are the interests or goals of the group?
Well, the first notion to define is the simplest, what I’ll call the collective interest: which is simply the sum of the interests of all the individual members added together. But that will be diffuse and often contradictory, and so won’t produce much of the unity in action that characterises a person.