Plato vs. Machiavelli

Topics: Good and evil, Virtue, Political philosophy Pages: 3 (1352 words) Published: April 11, 2010
Plato’s Republic and Machiavelli’s The Prince each present an “ideal” state along with a description of what an “ideal” founder of such a state would be like. The ideals of these two great men differ immensely and the foundation for these differences can be found in their distinctive views regarding human nature. Once this is assessed the picture that each man paints of their ideal ruler or founder becomes much clearer. Plato promotes the concept of philosopher-kings who rule over his imagined Utopian society, while Machiavelli endorses a ruthless and at times amoral prince whose primary objective is the preservation of the state. Plato’s view of human nature can be seen when considering his view of the soul, which, according to him, is comprised of three distinct parts; one of reason, one of appetite, and one of spirit. One’s inclination towards a particular part of the soul determines his place in society. The spirit-dominated soul is one of courage and bravery, therefore, these people are the soldiers in Plato’s ideal society. The workers or craftsmen are those with an appetitive soul, one that yearns to fulfill only life’s basic needs. Finally, we have the souls that are inclined towards reason and these select few are those that Plato deems worthy of ruling. For Plato there is no greater goal in life than the pursuit of knowledge. An intelligent man is just and therefore fit to preside over the state for he will always have the best interests of the state in mind. These characteristics are inherent in someone, they are not things that can be achieved or taught so the act of discovering what role each man is more apt to fill is the only task to be done. Then people are simply given the education needed to take on the duties they were meant to perform. In Plato’s mind the result of this is a truly harmonious society where everyone strives to contribute to the success of society as a whole. This seems simple enough in theory but in reality in deprives...
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