Plato vs Machiavelli

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Of the many disparities between Plato and Machiavelli, the distinction of virtue versus virtu sticks out like a sore thumb. Virtue was the political bases for Plato: All men should behave virtuously at all times. Whereas Machiavelli believed virtu was the basis for political prowess. What was best for the state as a whole was the main concern, and the ends always justified the means. Plato’s object was the creation of a utopian society--a civilization that abhorred war and centered itself upon moral virtue and honor. He saw war as evil; and evil was merely the failure of justice. He believed that there should be a standing army to defend the republic but that war for the sole purpose of waging battles was highly unjust. His utopian society was centered on creating society perfect; he sought to answer the probing question: What would it be like if the world was perfect? Virtue was a skill that had to be practiced daily to attain perfection. To be a good ruler in Platonic society one had to aspire to all the virtuous qualities of a perfect soul and aim for utopia. A good ruler acted the same all the time. One without moral virtue was considered unjust. Doing evil to men who were evil was shunned. It was seen as adding to the evil in the world. The way to conquer evil was with honor and virtue. The division of public and private lives did not exist in Platonic society, and ulterior motives were non existent to him.

Machiavelli, on the other hand, wrote the Prince as a guide book for rulers on how to maintain powerful and successful states. His stark realist ideas were centered on war, not on the utopian state that Plato spoke of so often. Machiavelli stressed that war was the key to maintaining a polity. “The first way to lose your state is to neglect the art of war; the first way to win your state is to be skilled at the art of war.” (The Prince, 62) A good prince was to take charge in solving any possible problems, so having a powerful and skillful standing...
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