Socrates, Machiavelli, and Rousseau are three philosophers discussing political ethics from entirely different perspectives. This paper argues that Socrates, Machiavelli, and Rousseau are all idealists regarding their stances on political ethics. First, this paper argues that Socrates is an idealist due his belief that the current government has much more potential than it is currently reaching, and that the government could eventually be changed. Second, this paper argues that Rousseau is an idealist because of his unrealistically positive view of the natural state of humanity and negative view of society. Lastly, this paper argues that Machiavelli is idealistic because of the overwhelming, impossible number of criteria that the Prince
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.
Niccolò Machiavelli, a Florentine philosopher and political aficionado from the 16th century and Socrates, a classical Athenian savant who lived during the 5th century B.C., are both judged as being forefathers to modern western political science and thought. The two great men both came from erratic epochs within their respective nations of Italy and Greece: wars, transitions of power, and domestic conflicts left their countries void of sustainable leadership and in desperate need of a brighter future. But despite being from equally hopeless times, their theories on how their societies (and ultimately, future ones) should function in order to prosper, are divergent. In this essay, I will argue that Socrates would
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 Machiavelli both existed during times of political unrest. Both men sought different means of political leadership, and could be seen as activists of their times. During times of war and unrest, it was a bold choice that both men made to stand up for their beliefs and speak out against the system. However, Socrates wouldn’t have agreed with Machiavelli’s means and concepts of the Prince and his ideas for how a political establishment should function.
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
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.
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.
Socrates and Machiavelli hold vastly different views on violence and violent actions, the former advocates strongly that it is always better to be harmed rather than to harm while the latter argues that violence is essential, when used correctly, in order to gain and maintain power. These contrasting views on violence both hold merit, yet the question of which view is more corrupting depends strongly on what corruption is defined as, and thus, which view fits this definition. Socrates is determined to be guilty of corruption by the court of Athenians, as his methods of questioning and actions regarding violence are viewed as dangerous and threatening to the Athenian democracy. However, he also acts in ways that strengthen the democracy with his view, by defending the law even when other members of the court disagree with him and violence appears imminent. Machiavelli, on the other hand, states that violence is necessary and that wickedness and improper violence corrupt more so than violence itself. When used properly, he believes that violence is not corrupting, but rather essential in maintaining power and creating a successful rule. In the case of examining these differing views of violence and determining which is more corrupting, corruption is to be defined as actions that are purposefully undertaken that weaken the rule of government and put the lives and property of the citizens. Based upon this definition, when violence is handled how Machiavelli suggests, his views
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
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.