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Compare and contrast Machiavelli and Wollstonecraft’s views on the meaning of virtue

Virtue in Machiavelli

Machiavelli describes ‘Virtue’ as the qualities and ‘personal abilities’ required in order for a man to be a prince (The prince). Having virtue implies having ‘natural talent’ (chapter 7, page 57) and ‘abilities’ such as strength, courage, intelligence, the will power, mental and physical capacity, and skill in order to get successful results. Machiavelli places great emphasis on virtue he says in the prince that virtue ‘the most splendid thing in the world', more magnificent even than the sun, for 'the blind cannot see the sun'.

Nevertheless, throughout the prince Machiavelli often makes reference to the concept of Fortune he suggests quite early on in the book that Fortune and ability must be aligned in order for a prince to succeed. Nonetheless, it is not until chapter 25 of his book that we fully understanding who or what fortune are. The concept of Fortuna derived from classical Roman mythology of the goddess who had a wheel which represents luck/ fortune or torture.

Although, Machiavelli personified her she is however, not a natural or supernatural force but a tide of cyclical fore coming events. With this in mind Machiavelli describes Fortuna as the ‘unpredictability of life. Therefore, it is important for a prince to prepare for Fortune as she has the ability to attack those princes without virtue and also she can bring them down at any time as she did to Cesare Borgia who had great ability (virtue) and did everything correctly however, lose the power due to bad fortune (Pitkin).

The wise prince should do all he can to prepare so that when fortune turns on him, he can withstand it (book rags). Machiavelli states that ‘All wise princes should… pay attention not only to current troubles, but to future ones, seeking to forestall them as diligently as possible (The prince, p44).

In a metaphor, Machiavelli compares fortune to an ‘angry’ river and when it floods it’s in ‘fury’; although it (the flood) cannot be stopped its impact can be lessened. He says in chapter 25 of the prince ‘although this is a nature of river, it does not mean that men cannot make provisions during quiet times, by building dykes so when the water rises. (P 121) Moreover, Machiavelli suggests that fortune will not even try to harm these who have mode preparations’ she transfers her fury when she knows ‘that are no dykes an embankments’.

This proposes that she is driven by rage and hatred by the lack of virtue in men as ‘Fortune favours the brave’ (skinner p29) and princes that use their virtue stand up to her. Additionally, she admires these qualities an especially those who have risen up to power through their own virtue. (Skinner, p32, 29) In chapter 7 of the prince, Machiavelli uses the example of Cesare Borgia as a prince who inherited power from his father.

Machiavelli luck in two outline conceptions of virtue: the virtue of the exceptional individual, the political hero, who shines in moments of exceptional severity, and the virtues of good citizenship, which operates within stable institutions of the State, and that is no less heroic than the first, as demonstrated by many examples in the history of Rome, where shone the power of ordinary citizens. In him is now merged with that confidence in the strength of man, that was capital city of civilization (think of Boccaccio), and was then inherited and consciously theorized by humanistic civilization. But, just on the basis of this tradition of thought, Machiavelli knows that the man in his act has clear limits, and must deal with a number of factors external to him, and not dependent on his will.

These limits assume the face of capricious and fickle fortune. And 'this is another great theme of civilization humanistic Renaissance, which also makes its appearance since Boccaccio. It’s the result of a secular...
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