The Political Power of VIrtue

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Moderns (ACS- 1000)
February 11, 2014
The Political Power of Virtue
Niccolò Machiavelli’s, The Prince, emphasizes the need for realism, as opposed to idealism in order to achieve a functional society. He reveals the principles that a ruler must follow in order to achieve success, and acknowledges reprehensible traits of princes that are just as important for becoming an effective leader. Machiavelli discourages the idea of selfless virtue by supporting the notion that the ends justify the means. Brutus, a character from Shakespeare’s, Julius Caesar, acts virtuously in defeating Caesar, as it was preformed in the hopes of benefiting the state. The quality of virtue contained in a ruler is a focus that both Machiavelli and Shakespeare acknowledge as vital in order to achieve the betterment of society. Although uncharacteristic for their time, Machiavelli and Shakespeare both introduce the modern view of society and the necessity of political corruption in order to maintain status and prestige while also preserving the general welfare of society. Machiavelli emphasizes that it is impossible for the prince to satisfy everybody's expectations in society and therefore it is inevitable that he will disappoint some of his people. In order for a prince not to be virtuous, he must have the notion of the greater good for the people in mind. Machiavelli offers a perspective on the realities and not the ideals of political manipulation and morality. “I have thought it proper to represent things as they are in real truth, rather than as they are imagined…the fact is that a man who wants to act virtuously in every way necessarily comes to grief among many who are not virtuous. Therefore if a prince wants to maintain his rule he must be prepared not to be virtuous, and to make use of this or not according to need” (Machiavelli, 50). This statement is vital for the stability of society and is a critical consideration in Machiavelli’s thought. A well managed...
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