Machiavelli was and individual whose work was known to have influenced politics profoundly and even up to this day, the art of governing still exists. Machiavelli has strong beliefs regarding how a government ought to be managed and due to his views today’s political atmosphere has been shaped in this specific way. Even though Machiavelli was known to be a political realist because of his political realism, his views advocated certain courses of actions. In order to ascertain whether the actions taken by Machiavelli are more compatible to the views held by Plato, it is important to analyze both Machiavelli’s and Plato’s core tenants. Plato, on the other hand, lived in Athens during the period of the Peloponnesian War and his views were known to be shaped during this war. Plato was therefore known to be Socrates’ teacher whose views were greatly influenced by the political atmosphere or environment that existed during the Post-Peloponnesian Athens. Despite the fact that Plato was a prolific writer whose writings had survived even up today, only The Republic could be compared to Machiavelli’s works. The works by both Machiavelli and Plato were different in various ways and a bit similar in some views (Machiavelli 90).
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Machiavelli’s two sides are reflected in the two views on what a prince ought to do during the period of peace and war. The Prince is the work which details how the prince should behave. In Machiavelli’s view the prince asserts that one must have great industry as well as good fortune so as to retain a conquered territory. He also states that people who are used to liberty are often difficult to rule. In order to run a city which is used to liberty and independence, the prince must do the following: live with them, destroy them or leave them alone. Machiavelli debunks his rationalism in either destroying or leaving them alone.
According to Machiavelli, he supposed that Rome was a virtuous place because of the fact that Rome was stripped away due to unqualified emperors who ignored the laws of the land. He further asserted that Rome prospered under the reign of good emperors, but Italy was ruined because of the previous rulers. In conclusion, Machiavelli said that any ruler leaving his government in good conditions will ultimately live securely and even after death, such a ruler would be remembered. Furthermore, he stated that he would make his life full of anxiety and death would eventually consign such a ruler to eternal infamy. He also warned that rulers must not follow the examples of Claudius and Nero in committing evil to their people but must instead be good to their constituents (Machiavelli 100).
Plato, on the other hand, defined a virtue as the average for an individual and that a happy world was a virtuous world. Plato wanted his citizens to deprive and starve. Plato strongly believed that a state should always be virtuous and that there was no way that virtues could be brought about with no justice. As a result, the state had to ensure that the body was just and took the moral responsibility of regulating the actions of people and ensured that live was lived in a strict accordance with the polis greater good.
Plato’s The Republic deals with justice and government. Socrates used a form of a narrator that had been mentioned in this work in addition to several statements regarding the government and a way in which justice is made. According to Plato justice is for the interest of the beholder and thus any just individual will ultimately lead a better life than the one who is unjust. Plato, being questioned whether justice is often followed the rewards obtained as a result of being just or the rewards of justice, Plato then describes the perfect state called the Utopia. On this basis, it was in Plato’s view that the state is a place where citizens are to benefit from each other because of their different skills and abilities. In order to provide well-being for each and everyone, a city needs to be organized by being divided into 3 layers that are based on ability. The upper class, according to Plato, is the guardians who are able to rule, they are responsible for guarding the city. The second class has less abilities and auxiliaries while the third class consists of artisans and farmers mainly. To ensure that rulers make informed choices and decisions, the state should be compelled to educate the top two classes (Plato 126).
Differences between Machiavelli’s views and Plato’s
Machiavelli shared many Plato’s view. He made it clear that a ruler had to know what to do and be capable of doing what was required as it had been mentioned in The Prince. Plato’s guardians, just like Machiavelli’s were the class capable of ruling and governing in the best possible manner. This was because they knew how to make sacrifices for the good of the polis and they did make tough decisions. Just like Plato, Machiavelli also supported an enlightened and a strong ruler. In addition, both Plato and Machiavelli shared the view that it was necessary for a ruler to have complete power. Apart from Plato who held the view that the rationalism was possible due to the fact that no one was capable of ruling except for those who did, they ought to have the power, Machiavelli, on the other hand, supposed that a ruler acted in interests of people and his own views. In order to create good civilization, both Plato and Machiavelli agreed that virtue was required and without it each civilization be it in Egypt, Rome, Carthage or Athens would fall apart if its rulers did not follow the land’s law and were unjust.
However, there were some major differences between Machiavelli and Plato in that Machiavelli asserted that individuals ought to generally be left alone in order to facilitate the continued support of people. For Plato, there was a strong believe that there was an urgent need for the government to strongly interfere with people in order to make their lives to be more virtuous. Another point of contrast aroused from the fact that in The Prince, the ruler was more concerned with nothing else other than to maintain power. Pluto’s ruler cared for his people as opposed to his own power and was more virtuous. While Machiavelli made strong claims concerning the virtues of the Republic of Rome, Plato supported enlightened dictatorship which had absolute power. The political theories of Plato and Machiavelli could thus be termed as incompatible.
In my opinion, Machiavelli’s views were more convincing in terms of their arguments because Machiavelli defended good rulers who put people but not power first and defended the law. Such rulers, according to Machiavelli, were ideal rulers who ought to leave people alone if they were about to remain in power. In order to protect the common wealth of people and at the same time defend the ruler’s power, it was essential for people to be left alone.
I do agree with Machiavelli’s views that indeed, the benefits in possession of a ruler can be used in swaying the public’s perception concerning him. I suppose that Plato’s view cannot be trusted because they are shaped during the war and in political atmosphere. His assertion that justice lies in the interest of the beholder and that whoever is just will consequently lead a good life and vice versa is based on assumptions which of course cannot be relied upon.
In conclusion, a comparison between Plato’s and Machiavelli’s views reveals that Machiavelli was known to have ruled the society in a strict accordance with his books while Plato was of the opinion that the government should interfere into people’s affairs, which as for me is utterly wrong and undemocratic. In addition, Plato’s view advocated for dictatorship and absolute power. It is not only unjust but undemocratic as well. From my point of view good leaders should therefore uphold Machiavelli’s ideas because he advocates for rulers who know what to do and are able to do what is required. On the other hand, Plato’s view should never be disregarded in totality. To a great extent he also shared the same views like Machiavelli for instance; he also held the same view as Machiavelli that virtues were a requirement for a creation of a good civilization. Both Machiavelli and Plato were also in agreement with the fact that if there were no virtue, any civilization in every part of the world would not exist if their rulers didn’t follow the laws of the land. Moreover, Machiavelli’s ideas were in some way compatible with the views held by Plato and as a result, good leaders or rulers should have the good virtues in order to be able to rule their citizens in a good way.