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.
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 believed that a prince’s morality and ethics characterized a good leader whereas Machiavelli believed a ruler should use their power and fear to maintain control. Socrates would view Machiavelli’s concept of a prince as morally wrong and would not be supportive of a political system led by a Prince with a Machiavellian train of thought.
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 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
Socrates believed the possession of virtue was a highly valued characteristic. Although Socrates gives no clear definition of virtue it can be inferred that he is referring to the moral responsibility to do the right thing despite your own personal interest. According to Socrates, an ideal leader should be virtuous in their decisions in order to create a society founded on justice. To Machiavelli it is more important to act like you
Machiavelli and Socrates reveal strong beliefs and principles regarding the manner in which a government should operate, reflecting their ideals to their current states. Socrates emphasizes the importance of truthfulness and justice in governmental systems and Machiavelli focuses on having a determined ruler than can lead the state into success. Both men lived during a time of uncertainty and instability, desiring to change their society for the better. Socrates would view Machiavelli’s Prince as a unacceptable ruler due to Machiavelli’s emphasis on deceit and power, while Socrates bases his government ideals of justice, honesty, and morality.
Socrates’ contradicting views are presented when he claims, “Not from money does virtue come, but from virtue comes money and all of the other good things for human beings both privately and publicly” (Apology, 30b). Socrates disputes that fortuna comes from virtue and presents a cause and effect relationship, contrary to the interconnected relationship as presented by Machiavelli. A prince should use philosophical thinking to question and explore many ideas in order to amass success. Just having money and luck, on the other hand, will not lead to more success because the prince is unable to think about how he can execute his rulings. Through his views, he connotes how the ruler cannot start his reign with both fortuna and virtue. This contradicts with Machiavelli’s prince because Socrates disputes the lack of emphasis on fortune.
As philosophers, both Socrates and Niccolo Machiavelli developed theories in response to the warring political environment around them. However, the theories and principles developed by the two philosophers are vastly different in regard to the concept of truth, Socrates would hate Machiavelli’s model prince due to Machiavelli’s manipulative view of truth. While Socrates desired a state that focuses on fundamental truth and ethical decisions, Machiavelli advocated a state led by a pragmatic, logical, and even cruel decision maker. The difference between the two theories is stark, not only would Socrates disagree with Machiavelli’s concept of a prince, he would view the prince with utter
Socrates and Machiavelli are both very influential philosophers and two of the great minds of their time. However, both of these men had their own separate ideas that did not completely agree with one another. Machiavelli was born into a Renaissance time period of fragmented politics, lots of bloodshed, and angry citizens while Socrates grew up in a time of political adjustment and instability in Athens. Machiavelli constructed The Prince as a political pamphlet to his friend Lorenzo de ' Medici on how a prince would successfully rule his land or kingdom most effectively. This guide consisted of ideas that involved cheating and lying to keep people happy and asserting dominance over others. The Greek philosopher Socrates, on the other
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.
Following from the difference in opinions of virtue, there is another closely related area in which Machiavelli and Socrates thoughts differ; goodness and justice. Socrates believed that a man should be good and virtuous in all aspects of his life, however, Machiavelli simply did not believe this was possible. Machiavelli states, “everyone will admit that it would be highly praiseworthy in a prince to possess all the…qualities that are reputed good, but as they cannot all be possessed or observed, human conditions not permitting of it, it is necessary that he should be prudent enough to avoid the scandal of those vices which would lose him the state” (Machiavelli, Chapter 15, 57). From this it can be concluded that Machiavelli believes that the Prince should not try to be good and virtuous in all respects, but only in the ones in which it benefits