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Compare and contrast Aristotle's and Machiavelli's theories (Essay Sample)


Compare and contrast Aristotle\'s and Machiavelli\'s theories

Compare and contrast Aristotle's and Machiavelli's theories
Legitimate political goals lies on the perception of people within which they have their own definition. This may come when the perception relies on the dependence of the public from what the government provides or from the oppression, the public absorbs from the leadership system. On the other hand, others consider that leadership might only benefit a few at the expense of other people. This relates to idea raised by Steve Biko that the most powerful weapon lying in the hands of the oppressor is within the mind of the oppressed. This may give a different overview on what politics is perceived by different analysts. Combining both ideas, Aristotle together with Machiavelli argued in their texts, The Politics and The Prince respectively, on how the two concepts are distinguishable.
The idea behind political science is seen to raise questions especially between Aristotle and Machiavelli with an argument of whether the term does the work of either man justice. From the onset, one can see the philosophical difference that exists in their theories together with their vision in the political system. Common to both Aristotle and Machiavelli is that they are products of their times with their ideas still holding weight in the modern political world. Contrary to this, their outlooks on philosophy differ distinctly with the perception they have on political matters. To Aristotle, the main goal of politics was to maintain the struggle of people in achieving good life. On the contrary, Machiavelli argued that the goal of politics was to maintain power and stability. Focusing on the above notion, the two philosophers came up with powerful arguments that supported their views. From their specifications, I can see some pros and cons under each argument for which will be explained in details. The arguments surround two major concepts: the nature of state and nature of political science.
Concerning the nature of state, the two authors conflicted with their opinions in theory. According to Aristotle, state was a community that ultimately founded the building blocks of friendship and trust. According to his notion, Aristotle believed that the state had the ultimate position in presenting a partnership with a good intention. In his book, The Politics, Aristotle argues about the partnership of citizens in a constitution. He implies that “All must have the virtue of the good citizen; thus, and thus only, can the state be perfect. They will not have the virtue of a good man, unless we assume that in the good state all the citizens must be good.” (Aristotle 41). Considering the above, it is evident that Aristotle believed in partnership, which would help in building the unity among people. He believed that with the political differences, collaborating with people could help in bring together people. This idea seems practical in the current world as various leaders try to collaborate with their political rivals with the aim of bringing unity.
Contrary to what Aristotle said, Machiavelli thought otherwise concerning the citizen of a state as having the virtue of a good citizen. He supported the idea that a state was founded with the view of fear for a prince. According to his defence, a state was supreme and a stable structure of coercion. With the supremacy that the state had, they can mandate on their personal ideas for them to succeed in maintaining order in the region. The state, according to his arguments had a supreme system if carried out in the right order, over others since the people in power use control. Before engaging in an argument, one has to understand that a new prince has no position of observing things that men are esteemed for maintaining the state. Considering that the position of men in the society remained to be superior, the new prince cannot act contrary to the demands of people that would otherwise diminish their wish for fidelity, humanity, religion and friendship. This means that when in throne, the new prince will have to follow the will of the people without altering anything. As Machiavelli says, “And you have to understand this, a prince, especially a new one, cannot observe all those things for which men are esteemed, being often forced, in order to maintain the state, to act contrary to fidelity, friendship, humanity, and religion. Therefore it is necessary for him to have a mind ready to turn itself accordingly as the winds and variations of fortune force it, yet, as I have said above, not to diverge from the good if he can avoid doing so, but, if compelled, and then to know how to set about it.” (Machiavelli, The Prince, 36). From the above idea, one can depict three diverse categories for the authors based on the way they exercise social organization and development. Ideally, both Aristotle and Machiavelli understood that social organization could work as a partnership, negotiation and an authoritarian system. Under partnership, the idea is behind what the leadership could do to assist the people. This revolves around the joint pursuit that the people have on common goals. In terms of negotiation, the two authors agreed that with an ongoing negotiating exercise, individuals with disparate goals would come to a consensus and would remain essential within the state of belligerency. The last option f authoritarian system, the authors agreed upon the suppression of all the dissent and opposition that ever existed. This follows the ideology that leaders follow while on the throne. Both would employ authoritarian system with the aim of maintaining the goal in life.
Aristotle favoured the concept of partnership, a belief that function well with the inclusion of the citizens. This idea of partnership worked well within the common pursuit of justice together with the mutual respect. According to the book, Aristotle says, “Hence, as is evident, there are different kinds of citizens; and he is a citizen in the highest sense who shares in the honours of the state” (Aristotle, 43). This conclusion by Aristotle depends majorly on the acceptance of human nature as a foundation for higher universal principles. The idea seems to refer to the notion of people being social animals with their happiness depending on the sincere friendship and worthy activity. In contrast, Machiavelli has a different opinion with the concept of Aristotle on human nature. According to his idea, people have the obligation of employing an authoritative approach. Machiavelli explains this factor through the interpretation of the fox and the lion. Use of authoritative approach is good to present a genuine challenging in keeping a good image. According to his book, The Prince, Machiavelli states that “men naturally are ungrateful, fickle, false, cowardly, covetous, and as long as you succeed [men] are yours entirely; they will offer you their blood, property, life, and children, as is said above, when the need is far distant; but when it approaches they turn against you” (Machiavelli, The Prince 34). This gives a very different approach to the perception of Aristotle based on good exercised through citizens of state. The two authors perceive the idea of humanity with a different approach. Perhaps, this idea is best seen when Machiavelli writes about a man being feared than loved. He says, “Men have less scruple in offending one who is beloved than one who is feared, for love is preserved by the link of obligation which, owing to the baseness of men, is broken at every opportunity for their advantage; but fear preserves you by a dread of punishment which never fails,” (Machiavelli, The Prince 34).
Another distinction between Aristotle and Machiavelli was on their perception on virtue and ethics together with their roles, which they play in politics. According to Aristotle, there exists a distinction between personal and civic virtue and that they are independent. According to this sentiments, “Hence it is evident that the good citizen need not of necessity possess the virtue which makes a good man” (Aristotle 54)” virtues remain to be independent despite any consequences that might befall. Aristotle considered civic virtue as central to politics. However, Machiavelli faced out the perception of Aristotle on virtues and took a simpler version over them. He considered them inept. According to his book, his notion on virtues and ethics seem complex as shown in this extract. “It now remains for us to see how a prince must regulate his conduct towards his subjects or his allies. I know that this has often been written about before, and so I hope it will not be thought presumptuous for me to do so, as, especially in discussing this subject, I draw up an original set of rules. ……………. Therefore, if a prince wants to maintain his rule he must be prepared not to be virtuous, and to make use of this or not according to need.” (Machiavelli 65). In the above extract, Machiavelli tries to show the need for preparing a ruler to act without virtue. An emerging situation is that those around him will also act just like him. His notion on virtue and ethics remain reluctant evident from this extract. “We say cruelty is used well (if it is permissible to talk in this way of what is evil) when it is employed once and for all, and one’s safety depends on it, and then it is not persisted in but as far as possible turned to the good of one’s subjects.” (Machiavelli 39). This extract shows a fair difference existing between the attitude of Aristotle and Machiavelli in terms of virtue and ethics.
With their differences depicting a distinct importance, their ideas on good and bad forms of state remained questionable. Machiavelli defined a bad state as that with a leader with no control. Aristotle, on the...
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