Virtue in Machiavelli's "The Prince" Analytical Essay by scribbler

Virtue in Machiavelli's "The Prince"
An analysis of the concept of virtue in Machiavelli's "The Prince".
# 152379 | 1,456 words | 2 sources | MLA | 2013 | US

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This paper interprets the view of virtue in Machiavelli's "The Prince" and draws comparisons with earlier Platonic and Aristotelian views of virtue and politics. The paper finds that in Machiavelli's view, the ruler practices virtue outside the bounds of traditional moral excellence and character; virtue comes closer to whatever is necessary for political power. The paper discusses how in contrast to Plato, Aristotle, and Augustine, Machiavelli sees no problem in the ruler pursuing passions or entering into good or evil if it is beneficial and expedient for power retention, and he does not insist that social good be in the forefront of political philosophy. The paper explains how this goes against the earlier Greek theories that placed lofty ideals of the communal good at the heart of political virtue.

From the Paper:

"According to Machiavelli's The Prince, dominion is acquired either by virtue or by fortune (Machiavelli bk. 6, 22). His entire text seems a sort of guidebook for such princes who wish to know how to preserve the new state that they have conquered by virtue. This is already an interesting use of the word "virtue" since it implies less the character of the leader than the force it took to acquire the new land.
"Machiavelli links politics with virtue, but his concept of virtue is quite different than that typically associated with philosophical ethics. For one thing, he has no qualms about the use of arms and military force. He talks of cruelty badly or well used for political aims. A well used cruelty strikes to ensure that the leader has no doubt in subjugating the new citizens (Machiavelli bk. 9, 35). This is grounded less in morality than in the practical necessities of war and conquest. In his view, laws are no good without arms (a view repeated in his Discourses III.31). War and being prepared for it are virtues. He asserts in book 14 that "a prince must not have any objective nor any thought, nor take up any art, other than the art of war and its ordering and discipline" (Machiavelli bk. 14, 54). This is a very different perspective from the idealistic views of Plato, who might see Machiavelli's perspective as tyrannical. War or armed conflict is never viewed in Plato, Aristotle, or Augustine as a virtuous aspect of politics."

Sample of Sources Used:

  • Machiavelli, Niccolo. The Discourses. Trans. Leslie J. Walker. New York: Penguin Books, 1970.
  • _____. The Prince. Trans. Angelo M. Codevilla. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997.

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