Machiavelli Versus Plato Essay

Comparing Machiavelli's The Prince And Plato's The Republic

Comparing Machiavelli's The Prince and Plato's The Republic  

    Many people in history have written about ideal rulers and states and how to maintain them.  Perhaps the most talked about and compared are Machiavelli's, The Prince and Plato's, The Republic.  Machiavelli lived at a time when Italy was suffering from its political destruction.  The Prince, was written to describe the ways by which a leader may gain and maintain power. In Plato?s The Republic, he unravels the definition of justice.  Plato believed that a ruler could not be wholly just unless one was in a society that was also just. His state and ruler was made up to better understand the meaning of justice.  It was not intended to be practiced like that of Machiavelli's. Machiavelli, acknowledging this, explains that it is his intention to write something that is true and real and useful to whoever might read it and not something imaginary,"?for many have pictured republics and principalities which in fact have never been known or seen?(Machiavelli 375)."  Therefore, because one ruler is realistic and the other imaginary, the characteristics of Machiavelli's ruler versus Plato's ruler are distinctly different. 

            Machiavelli?s model for his ideal prince was Cesare Borgia, also known as Duke Valentino and son of Pope Alexander VI.  He believed Cesare Borgia possessed all the qualities of a prince destined to rule and maintain power in his state. He believed that politics has a morality of its own.  There is no regard of justness or unjustness, of cruelty or  mercy, of  approval  or  humiliation, which   should   interfere   with  the  decision  of defending the state and preserving its freedom.  Therefore, the ruler/prince's single responsibility is to protect the state from any possible danger even if it means deception or cruelty.  Of course it is far better to be considered humane than cruel, but sometimes cruelty is the only way to achieve security and stability in the state. Cruel actions by the prince should be done at once, and quickly.  Then the prince should slowly reward his people with benefits so that the cruel actions may be forgotten.  "For injuries ought to be done all at one time, so that, being tasted less, they offend less; benefits ought to be given little by little, so that the flavour of them last longer (Machiavelli 370)." Cruelty, therefore, will not seem like it is committed everyday and people will soon forget if they are reassured with benefits.

            On the contrary, Plato's idea of the ruler is almost exactly the opposite that of Machiavelli's.  Plato's reason for his ideal ruler and state was to explain the meaning of justice. One must examine what it means for a state to be just and what it means for a person to be just to truly understand the meaning of justice.  According to Socrates, ??if we first tried to observe justice in some larger thing that possessed it, this would make it easier to observe in a single...

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A Comparison Of Plato And Machiavelli

Term Paper: Comparison between Plato and Machiavelli

Jia Yi Quan Li

May 12, 2014

Philosophy of the Person II (10:30)

A Comparison between Plato and Machiavelli

A long standing debate in human history is what to do with power, who should rule, how to rule and if morals should be separated from politics. These questions have sparked a lot of controversy because humans or states have had to sacrifice their freedom to a certain extent for the order and structure of a civil society. Machiavelli and Plato have both profoundly shaped politics and the art of governing to this day. However, they both have really different views starting from basic ideas like the nature of man and how a government should be run. While Machiavelli suggests that a virtuous ruler must be less concerned with morality and be more concerned about shrewdness and pragmatism; Plato defines a virtuous city as one where each individual does what he does best for the interests of the common good and where the ruler is a philosopher king, this in turn leads to the manifestation of justice. It is relevant to clarify that the definition of virtue, common good and justice is different for each author.

Plato and Machiavelli differ from methods of obtaining knowledge.

Plato used more or reasoned approach while Machiavelli used an empirical approach. While Plato was aiming for definitions and conclusions Machiavelli was looking for results. Machiavelli lived during the 16th century, amidst a deteriorating, corrupt and totalitarian, form or government. His masterpiece, The Prince, was written in an attempt to influence Lorenzo "The Magnificent", in the hope for a position in the public office. The Prince is therefore mainly a political paper Machiavelli's method is strictly inductive and his principles are purely practical, not moral. Plato is thought to have written The Republic around 380 B.C. Plato lived in Athens during the post- Peloponnesian War period. His views are shaped by Socrates and the after war political and moral atmosphere. Plato wanted to fight the Sophist belief that morality was only an idea created and imposed by the rulers of societies upon their subjects. Plato also wanted to combat the widespread belief that there is no such thing as objective truth. Plato in the Republic sets out to define what the virtue of justice is and why a person should be just.

Plato and Machiavelli had different views on human nature that ultimately shaped their thinking.

Plato believed that an individual has an immortal...

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