There were many transitions throughout history in terms of politics. One example is the United States, who went from having a king on the other side of the world to a president leading them in their own country. Another example is Germany, who went from having a horrible dictatorship to gaining a president who would look to help the country rebuild after a devastating war.
Now I could come up with many other examples of historical transitions, but none are as important as the transition from the origin of politics and its theory in ancient Greece and how it can be led by a group of wise philosophers to one 16th century Italian man’s new ideas about how a country could be lead through a born into power prince. In this paper, I will be discussing how an important work of Niccolo Machiavelli differed against the teachings of both Aristotle and Plato with four different subjects of discussion as talked about by both sides of the differentiation.
I will also discuss why the words of Socrates would not be able to be compared to the thoughts of Machiavelli in his political treatise that changed the way many people looked at political theory. When it comes down to it, Machiavelli began the new age of Western political theory when he wrote The Prince. He talked of ways that a prince could maintain his political power once he has acquired it. This was a new way of discussing political theory because in the past it was about how anyone who was a philosopher would be ruling due to the wisdom and knowledge that could allow him to lead.
With a prince, he is born into the family and gains the title of prince through that. Machiavelli takes a family of whom the prince is struggling and basically writes this entire book because of them and presents new ideas of how a prince could stay the way he is and not have to necessarily worry about he or his family being rebelled against. This goes against Plato and Aristotle in more ways in one, but in general, it just goes against their ideas that the philosophers should be the one to rule compared to just one prince.
Of course, there are many specific situations in which Machiavelli and Plato/Aristotle differ, but this is just the general idea and was a different viewpoint for many readers and philosophers of Machiavelli’s time who knew and respected Aristotle and Plato’s views. Let’s start with the subject of the potential of human beings. According to Machiavelli in chapter 17 of The Prince on page 51, he sees “every ruler should want to be recognized as passionate and not cruel. Nevertheless, I have to warn you about being compassionate.
What he means by warning them about being compassionate is that even a ruler who is thought of to be cruel can show more potential in ruling land compared to his people, who might not necessarily even be that compassionate. Machiavelli says that the potential of all of the human beings of a ruler’s land can occur if the prince keeps his subjects law abiding and not allowing disorder to occur through out. Human beings have potential to grow into a peaceful community and leaders if the prince follows these orders, which is a small summary of what Machiavelli is saying here.
Plato thinks that a person who leads his subjects by himself is a tyrant and that everyone who leads by themselves are tyrants. One good quote from Book IX of The Republic Plato states about a tyrant is as followed: “But now that he is under the dominion of love, he becomes always and in waking reality what he was then very rarely and in a dream only” What Plato means is that a leader who is a tyrant loves all of the power that he gains as a tyrant and even when he wasn’t ruling initially, he always dreamt of the power as do many other people who wish to be a ruler.
Plato shows with this quote that human potential can easily diminish if they achieve their hidden desire to rule. Machiavelli disagrees with this because the prince would be following orders of being compassionate while cruel at the same time, and would not just be extremely cruel and abuse his power because he would then face trouble with people trying to throw him from his power. Aristotle comes into play with human potential with an interesting quote from the very beginning of Book I in his Politics. Every city, therefore, exists by nature, if such also are the first partnerships. For the city is their end, and nature is an end: what each thing is—for example, a human being, a horse, or a household—when its coming into being is complete is, we assert, the nature of that thing. ”
What Aristotle means by this quote is that human beings can only recognize their full potential if they are part of a city. These humans try to achieve the highest quality of life through being part of this city-state and try not to become extremely inhumane and ight against each other like animals. Machiavelli would disagree with what Plato was saying because if there was one person who was leading the country like a prince and doing what Machiavelli believes is the passageway to success of a great ruler, they will not become like an animal but rather would become a leader and show the people that he has the potential to be a great leader without becoming an animal who has all of the power through something like a tyrant. Machiavelli found that human priority was very deceiving when it came to human beings helping other human beings.
In Chapter 17 on page 52 of The Prince, Machiavelli brings up the fact that men are “devoted to you (as long as you serve their interests). They promise you their blood, their possessions, their lives, and their children, so long as you seem to have no need for them. But as soon as you need help, they turn against you. ” Machiavelli shows that when it comes to offering help, men only do so as long as they know that the person they are offering help to doesn’t need it. If the person they offered help to actually needs the help, men don’t go through on their offer.
He relates this to a prince when he states that the people that the prince is rallied behind only are behind him because of the promises that he makes end up turning against him unless the prince actually goes through with other preparations that go along with the promises that are said to be made. On this subject, Plato states in book VIII of The Republic that a democracy would end up developing if the poor has enough of their rich leaders. Plato says that “democracy comes into being after the poor have conquered their opponents, slaughtering some and banishing some, while to the remainder they give an equal share of freedom and power.
This differs a lot from what Machiavelli says because Plato assumes that the poor would try to overthrow the rich if the rich kept giving them promises and then it turned into something even worse for the rich as the poor tries to fight them and develop a democracy. Machiavelli would say that the rich would have to give other promises to the poor as they were giving them money and potentially making the poor bankrupt. When it comes to Aristotle on this subject, he believes that if people were given promises for a say in things, they would be too happy to even care about what is going on.
He says this in Book IV part IV of Politics when he states, “Those who have any complaint to bring against the magistrates say, ‘Let the people be judges’; the people are too happy to accept the invitation; and so the authority of every office is undermined. ” Aristotle takes this as the people would be too happy to take advantage of the opportunity of a freedom of speech and would not necessarily do anything about it. He also takes it as if this idea of an undermined authority was true, then everything about authority is deemed weak and worthless.
Machiavelli would disagree with this because he feels that if people were going to have this sort of freedom to make a judgment along with an authority, they would take advantage of it because it would be a promise given to them by their ruler and it wouldn’t necessarily be bad as long as the ruler isn’t damaging the society with his power. Machiavelli would tell the prince to say something like this and allow his people to tell him what they desire so they would feel that he is helping them.
The prince wouldn’t listen in reality, but would do something else in return that would make the people respect him through deceiving. When it comes to social dynamics, Machiavelli has a very interesting take on how a prince can be socially brought up into power. In book IX of The Prince on page 31, Machiavelli states that “Rule by one man can be brought about either by the populace or the elite, depending on whether one or the other of these factions hope to benefit from it.
What he means by this is that a prince ruling can easily be brought up by any of the social class and gain the respect and the obedience from either the populace or the elite. He would have to work hard to gain respect if he were brought up by the elite compared to the populace since the populace would be making him feel elite and the elite would just be making the prince just be a leader of many other elites who can easily turn their backs on him. Machiavelli feels that the prince bought up by the populace would have an easier time staying in control because of this.
Plato talks about his views of social dynamics in book III of The Republic. Plato says that some people “have the power of command, and in the composition of these he has mingled gold, wherefore also they have the greatest honour; others he has made of silver, to be auxiliaries; others again who are to be husbandmen and craftsmen he has composed of brass and iron” What he means by this is every single social class has its own kind of metal attached to it and only the gold can have power in command compared to the middle class silver and the lower class brass.
Machiavelli would disagree with this kind of social status because there shouldn’t necessarily be a middle class in his eyes. There’s only the elite and the populace, and even the populace are all together as one and shouldn’t have any separation in status.