chapter  4
34 Pages

Prudence and the Compass of Deceit

Barbosa first distinguishes lies using words (mentira por palabra) from lies using actions (mentira por obra). Lying by words is divided into three types: playful, which is labelled jocose; useful, which is deemed a venial sin; and pernicious, a mortal sin. In these divisions, Barbosa is tacitly following the distinctions discussed by Aquinas (Summa theologiae, 2a2ae, q.ll0, art.2). Aside from works of obvious fiction, Barbosa rules out lying with words. He then asks whether one can 'engaiiar con palabras'. It is at this point that he explicitly distinguishes between 'mentira por palabra' and 'engaiio por palabra'. One can have lying without deceit (for example, when a person knows that they have been told a lie) and deceit without lying (for example, when one uses equivocal words). So whilst a prince cannot lie, he can deceive (enganar) by using 'palabras equivocas, ambiguas 0 anfibologicas'. To this end, then, engano is split into a bad variety (called

The discussion of deception occupies six loosely interconnected essays, whose titular descriptions give some idea of the range of deception within Saavedra's scheme of things: 'Para saber reinar, sepa disimular' (43); 'Sin que se descubran los pasos de sus designios' (44); 'Y sin asegurarse en fe de

El dar a entender el mismo Maestro de la verdad a sus discipulos que queria pasar mas adelante del castillo de Emaus, las locuras fingidas de David delante del rey Achis, el pretexto del sacrificio de Samuel, y las pieles revueltas a las manos de Jacob, fueron disimulaciones licitas, porque no tuvieron por fin el engafio, sino encubrir otro intento. Y no dejan de ser licitas porque se conozca que de elIas se ha de seguir el engafio ajeno, porque este conocimiento no es malicia, smo advertimiento. 61

Saavedra's prince is caught in a web of shifting appearances, deceitful advisers, duplicitous courtiers, and hypocritical neighbours; he has to contend with a whole spectrum of deceit, from the deception of others (a cliche of the genre) to the fallibility of his own senses (a sceptical position only fully acknowledged by Saavedra). Whilst prudence is a prerequisite of successful rule, Saavedra's tacit position is one in which the ability of the prince to discern accurately is seriously compromised and this in turn

been replaced, not simply through necessity but through active choice, by the need to respond to reality itself in all its variability. In this way, prudence's nascent pragmatism becomes a form of barely concealed selfinterest.