Comparsion of Realism and Idealism in Niccolo Machiavelli´s The Prince and Socrates´ Plato´s Republic
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When speaking of Niccolò Machiavelli from The Prince and Socrates, from Plato’s Republic, there is no way to avoid the clash between realism and idealism. The contrasting of both of these states of minds, when it comes to ruling a city, per se, is fascinating because, while they are extremely different, they’re perceiving the same objective: ruling a civilization successfully. Machiavelli uses the concepts of virtù, fortuna, and free-will to describe political success. On the other hand, in The Republic of Plato, Socrates uses Justice and good morals to reach enlightenment and genuinely become a Philosopher King and thus, rule a city successfully.
According to Plato, the soul is composed of three parts: Reason (logical), Emotion (spiritual), and Appetite (appetitive); these three parts of the soul also resemble a Just society. Emotion and appetite are considered the less worthy with reason being the most significant because its’ passion isn’t lustful, rather it seeks knowledge and education. Plato stresses that Justice is a very important trait in the soul of an individual because a Just person is a person ruled by reason and not easily deceived by his or her emotions and appetites. A soul that is primarily ordered and governed by reason, has the ability to control its’ emotions and appetites thus being a Just and healthy soul. The logical part of the soul is what makes a Philosopher King possible.
The individual ruled by reason distinguishes what is real and not only apparent, judges what is true and what is false and wisely makes Just decisions in harmony with the love he has for goodness and true knowledge. Those who are considered fit to rule, the philosophers or rulers, have been chosen to pass through several training ...
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... fool not to do so.
. Unlike, Plato, who argues that a person should always remain good, no matter what the circumstances, Machiavelli argues differently in chapter 15: “… a man who strives after goodness in all his acts is sure to come to ruin…hence it is necessary that a man who is interested in his survival learn to be other than good, making use of this capacity or refraining from it according to need. (The Prince, p.62)” Although, Machiavelli admits that, yes, indeed, the people will praise a prince with good qualities, (merciful, trust-worthy, open-handed, courteous, etc.), it is impossible for humans to actually perceive all those qualities. Even if those good qualities were to be achieved by a prince, his success in ruling a state is not achieved, and the opposite qualities “…though seeming evil, will result in his safety and well-being. (The Prince, p.62)”