Explain how Machiavelli's discussion of virtue (virtu) in The Prince differs from that of the ancients like Plato and Cicero. Give examples.

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Platonic philosophy is hinged on moral virtue as practiced by just rulers. Man served the State and hence, ethics and politics were the same. This is to be contradistinguished with Machiavellian principles, which states that the State should serve the people.


It is immoral and unethical, maintains Plato, for a ruler to rule solely by might.
Machiavelli has stated, ""A Prince, therefore should have no care or thought but for war, and the regulations and training it requires, and should apply himself exclusively to this as his peculiar province; for war is the sole art looked for in one who rules" (Machiavelli, P. 70)."
Therefore, it is clear that Machiavelli's idea of virtu' is not one that is based on moral character, but rather, based on utility. For Machiavelli, virtu' outweighs morality when the needs of the situation demands it; for Plato, one must preserve morality at all times. Plato believes in utopian ideals and propositions; Machiavelli, was a realist.
Cicero, on the other hand, maintains that there was no distinction between that which was morally good and what was useful to man. His concept of duty is directly opposite the concept of duty as forwarded by Machiavelli. Cicero believed that pleasure may be enjoyed by man, but that there is a right and moral way to enjoy pleasure. For example, sex is an enjoyable activity and may thus be engaged in by man, but it is wrong to have sex with another man's wife. To quote from Cicero, "Virtue is a habit of the mind, consistent with nature and moderation and reason." Even their concepts of government are markedly different. ...
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