Despite living thousands of years ago, Socrates and Machiavelli were both influential thinkers whose works are still relevant today. These two great thinkers and philosophers wrote about and extensively studied political systems. The influences of their work can still be seen today in constitutions and governments around the world. Were it not for their transcendent works, there is a real chance today’s systems of government would look very different. While no governments today exactly match those advocated for by Machiavelli and Socrates, their writings surely influenced other thinkers later on in history. Both of these philosophers advocated for different leadership structures with the hope of creating fair and long-lasting states.
He explains that, “...a natural difficulty which exists in all new dominions, because men change masters willingly, hoping to better themselves; and this belief makes them take arms against their rulers…” (Machiavelli 6). Hence, in order to be an effective ruler, a prince must overcome the aforementioned challenge. Moreover, he must also be pragmatic, unbound to moral consciousness or traditional scruples, heavy-handed, sleuth, defend his state with a domestic military (as mercenaries only provoke the weakening of a state), and take whatever lengths he must to solidify his strength and capabilities to rule, brutality being a welcomed measure so long as the “ends justify the means”, while also not oppressing the people.
On the heels of the Peloponnesian war, Socrates was blamed for corrupting the youth and disrespecting the Athenian gods and Athenian values. His defense or “Apology” and reaction after he was sentenced to death in “Crito” demonstrate his most basic philosophy and ideals of what a government should truly be like. Yet in a vastly different situation, Machiavelli, who lived during the renaissance of Italy experienced constant shifts of power which he wrote his book, “The Prince”. Machiavelli writes about how a leader or prince should conduct himself in order to keep and efficiently run a republic or principality. Although Socrates’ texts on the surface deal with his accusations, the texts give great insight as to how he thinks a government
Socrates and Niccolo Machiavelli are two of the most renowned influential political theorists in history. Their most acclaimed works, Apology, and The Prince appropriately created the basis for various political ideologies that are still being used in today’s society. Machiavelli wrote The Prince in 1513 as a gift to the Medici family who controlled Florence at the time. The Apology was written by Plato in 399 BC who was one of Socrates students and admirers. Most of our knowledge on Socrates philosophies and theories originate from the writings and dialogues of Plato. Machiavelli and Plato lived during times of uncertainty, violence and political fragmentation however they both had different perspectives on what makes a good prince.
Machiavelli, however, held a different opinion in regards to the public. Machiavelli’s book has many instances where he talks about the public’s opinion, and how it affects the Prince. His ideal concept of a Prince seemed to include being highly praised by the people. In fact, he included an entire chapter on avoiding hatred and contempt from the people, where he discusses the necessity of avoiding hatred and being despised at all costs. In Machiavelli’s chapter on means of rising to power, he notes that high opinions of you from fellow citizens can lead to a rise to power.
At first glance, Socrates and Machiavelli appear to have a lot in common. They both lived in a time of political unrest and violence. They both dealt with uncertain surroundings in their societies. Most importantly, they both tried to use philosophy to improve their society. However, there was also an important difference between them. While Socrates was a moral philosopher whose goal was to search for truth and knowledge, Machiavelli was a political philosopher whose goal was to create a lasting society with a Prince that could hold power. Because of their clashing ideals, it is unlikely that Socrates would be supportive of a Machiavellian political system or Prince, though there are specific aspects of the society that Socrates would
Machiavelli writes the ‘Prince’ while away in exile which by most people, is interpreted as his manual or guide on how to rule. It is quite clear that he demonstrates political interest and advocacy in his work through the many stories of past rulers he shares as examples of what to do and what not to do. An example of a ruler who came from a lower position, meaning no riches or status, was Agathocles (son of a potter, who became the King of Syracuse) (Machiavelli  2006) which is similar to the status of the man Plato speaks of, Socrates. However, Machiavelli speaks for power politics and the importance of the ruler being in total control since “a wise prince should establish himself on that which is in his own control and not in that of others” (
Machiavelli and Socrates agree on very little. While an initial reading of the two may elicit some comparisons, the goals of their respective philosophies rely on different foundations, and would therefore culminate in very different political results for society. Socrates would likely see in the Prince a selfish ruler, while Machiavelli would see in Socrates a dangerous idealist whose ideas would lead to instability and the death of the state in which these ideas were implemented. Machiavelli’s philosophy of the Prince would not satisfy Socrates because instead of focusing on right action, the Prince is encouraged to put political expediency and self-preservation above all else. In addition, the type of political system that Machiavelli’s
While Socrates and Machiavelli lived over 1900 years apart, the dilemmas their societies faced draw many parallels. In Machiavelli’s “The Prince”, he demonstrates a wide-ranging set of rules and principles to be followed by a leader to ensure the steady maintenance of authority and stability in a state or principality. Not only would Socrates be opposed to many of the espoused views in “The Prince” on what creates a successful ruler, thereby society, but had he lived in Machiavelli’s “ideal” state, he would openly question and rebel against the cogs that maintain its stability, possibly even advocating its upheaval. Socrates would most ardently disagree with Machiavelli’s depiction of the supremacy of the prince and state over its
Plato’s The Apology and Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince provide two opposing views of the ideal ruler and government. The seminal works attempt to uncover the true definition of justice which becomes the basis from which they craft their vision of effective civil leadership. The two men, both influenced by the times of similar conflict and chaos in which they worked, espouse divergent beliefs regarding proper and effective authority. This difference is rooted in a fundamental incongruity between their views of human nature. Socrates, as an ancient Greek philosopher and teacher, views the individual as a sacred and beautiful being capable of reason and great wisdom while Machiavelli believes that the people are inferior to their leaders
Socrates and Niccolo Machiavelli were both incredibly influential in the development of Western philosophical thought, specifically in relation to ethics in politics. Machiavelli’s text The Prince, written during a period of political turmoil in Italy, outlines the necessary steps a prince must take to obtain both power and authority. Plato’s The Last Days of Socrates assesses the moral and ethical guidelines an ideal leader should possess through the beliefs and teachings of Socrates. While both texts had similar objectives, their opinions were quite contradictory. Socrates would have found Machiavelli’s concept of the “Prince”, and the government he creates to be both unethical and fundamentally flawed. Socrates places higher value on the maintenance and creation of justice, while Machiavelli stresses the process of obtaining and preserving power, unethical or not. Due to their differences in their ideas of virtue, knowledge, and justice it can be concluded that Socrates would not be supportive of the government in which The Prince proposes.
In the Prince, Machiavelli argues that the idea of truth in the government is only a method to manipulate the unsuspecting public. A leader does not need to be truthful as long as the public believes he is. Politics during Machiavelli’s time was much harsher than that of Socrates and his work reflects his cynical history. While Socrates experienced a major change in his home government during his lifetime, Machiavelli witnessed multiple periods of governmental turmoil.
He states “…the difficulties of maintaining hereditary states accustomed to a reigning family is far less than in new monarchies…” (Machiavelli, 5). Socrates may not oppose this first idea, but this sets up the rest of the book’s intentions which are how to rule most effectively, which Socrates may find very wrong. Machiavelli next goes into detail in The Prince on how this new leader should lead the people of his kingdom. He then tells a story about someone who was handed land and did everything correctly in his eyes but got very unlucky (Machiavelli, 1950). This person is Cesare Borgia, Duke of Valentinois. He was given territory by his father, Pope Alexander VI. He became a vicious ruler, one that Machiavelli extremely admired and claimed to have had ruled perfectly. Machiavelli admired how Borgia came into power and instantly took out any allies/armies he had a lack of trust with. Next, Borgia “…appointed Messer Remirro de Orco, a cruel and able man, to whom he gave the fullest authority” (Machiavelli, 27). This man was hired to keep control of the area and have everyone feel threatened so they wouldn’t be disobedient. But once Borgia found out this threatening figure running the land was causing people to dislike him as a leader, Borgia decided to cut Messer Remirro de Orco in half and display his body in the center of town. After displaying his body to the town, it “…caused the people both satisfaction
Throughout the course of history, political philosophy has been dominated by two great thinkers: Niccolo Machiavelli and Socrates. Although both highly influential, Socrates and Machiavelli may not see eye to eye. When it comes to the idea of how an “ideal prince” would act, Machiavelli believes that they should lead through fear and follow a thirst for power, no matter the cost. Socrates, on the other hand, believes that they should lead through morality and have a healthy thirst for knowledge. Overall, these two would not exactly agree on what the actions of a good leader would look like or how a political system should be run.