A comparison of Plato and Machiavelli

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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...