This essay historicizes Giorgio Agamben’s notion of the “animal outside” as ingenuity by exploring early modern French polemics stemming from the humanist reception of the Machiavellian simile stating that the prince should deploy both the lion’s strength and the fox’s ingenuity. Defined in the Aristotelian corpus and valorized in Plutarch’s Moralia, ingenuity-as-prudence was a set of cognitive responses prompted by appetites and shared by humans and beasts alike. Ingenuity anchors an alternative account of organized polis and sociability to rationalist readings of Aristotle’s Politics. Promoted by Machiavelli, this alternative was condemned by humanists such as Erasmus and Vives — Erasmus saw it as the beastly degradation of politics into the subhuman tyranny of the passions. This polemic was replayed in Montaigne’s response to the anti-Machiavellian lawyer Innocent Gentillet during the French wars of religion. Against Gentillet and with Plutarch, Montaigne fully acknowledges the importance of ingenuity as “the animal outside” in human sociability.

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