Title

Are Machiavelli and Plato more similar than once understood?

Presenter Information

Marley Clark

Presentation Type

Presentation

Abstract

Initially, many would consider Machiavelli to be a cold realist and Plato, a starry eyed idealist. In The Prince, Machiavelli describes the expectations for the ideal ruler in ways that have typically been considered cunning and even ruthless. In the simplest of terms, Machiavellian theory can be described as advocating for "whatever means necessary to maintain political power." Realism is deeply rooted within Machiavellian prose, at least on a superficial level. In stark contrast to the cynical, self-interested teachings within The Prince, in The Republic, Plato promotes an idealist interpretation of political theory which focuses on how society ought to be. Plato presents definitive explanations for justice, the ideal society and the 'just' individual. Plato's high expectations for the human spirit and society is easily considered idealistic, even fanciful. The crux of Plato's Republic involves Socrates describing his "ideal city state" which is a utopian society that is ruled by the philosophers of the community. Plato's critics find his argument are whimsical, bordering on absurd. While Plato's idealism is everywhere in evidence, his 'realist' observations about human nature are pertinent to his political theory. In my research paper, I will argue that both political theorists are more complicated and, consequently, more similar than many commentators acknowledge. By analyzing Plato's The Republic and Machiavelli's The Prince and The Discourses, I hope to show how Machiavelli and Plato share some similarities despite their major differences. I will be arguing that Machiavelli is more idealistic and Plato more realistic than frequently regarded, and indeed the two political theorists are more similar than commonly believed.

Category

Humanities

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Apr 17th, 2:40 PM Apr 17th, 3:00 PM

Are Machiavelli and Plato more similar than once understood?

UC 332

Initially, many would consider Machiavelli to be a cold realist and Plato, a starry eyed idealist. In The Prince, Machiavelli describes the expectations for the ideal ruler in ways that have typically been considered cunning and even ruthless. In the simplest of terms, Machiavellian theory can be described as advocating for "whatever means necessary to maintain political power." Realism is deeply rooted within Machiavellian prose, at least on a superficial level. In stark contrast to the cynical, self-interested teachings within The Prince, in The Republic, Plato promotes an idealist interpretation of political theory which focuses on how society ought to be. Plato presents definitive explanations for justice, the ideal society and the 'just' individual. Plato's high expectations for the human spirit and society is easily considered idealistic, even fanciful. The crux of Plato's Republic involves Socrates describing his "ideal city state" which is a utopian society that is ruled by the philosophers of the community. Plato's critics find his argument are whimsical, bordering on absurd. While Plato's idealism is everywhere in evidence, his 'realist' observations about human nature are pertinent to his political theory. In my research paper, I will argue that both political theorists are more complicated and, consequently, more similar than many commentators acknowledge. By analyzing Plato's The Republic and Machiavelli's The Prince and The Discourses, I hope to show how Machiavelli and Plato share some similarities despite their major differences. I will be arguing that Machiavelli is more idealistic and Plato more realistic than frequently regarded, and indeed the two political theorists are more similar than commonly believed.