Morality is the “differentiation of intentions, decisions and actions between those that are distinguished as proper and those that are improper. Morality can be a body of standards or principles derived from a code of conduct from a particular philosophy, religion or culture, or it can derive from a standard that a person believes should be universal” (Medium). Throughout this course the theme of morality is brought up in readings read in this course like “The Trial and Death of Socrates” written by Plato and the book “The Prince” written by Niccolò Machiavelli. When talking about morality people have different meanings of the word or different views on morality. There is not one definite definition. The two books mentioned above share a central theme of morality but in both books view morality in very different perspectives.
Upon reading Plato, Socrates views morality in the highest decree. When Socrates was standing trial for “corrupting the youth,” and many other things he defends himself by voicing his opinion about what he thought is right. In the book he states, “Someone might ask if he feels remorse about what he did that will ultimately get him killed. Socrates replies with his answer by saying that the person is wrong and that this should not be looked at as life or death situation but instead look at it as if this man did a good or bad thing” (Plato pg. 31). Socrates is valuing highly of what he believes is moral to him. He perceives that doing the right thing is more imperative than taking a path that will save him in the end. He thinks that accepting his fate is more moral than the obvious. He wants the jury and the prosecutors to know that if they sentence him to death than it will hurt them more than it will hurt him in his opinion because he knows that what he is fighting for is worth fighting for and dying for what he believes in is worth it. Socrates does not regret his actions. He would rather die for what he believes in than admitting that he is “corrupting the youth” and many other things that he is accused of. Whereas for Machiavelli, he seems to strike down the idea of morality. He reckons it useless and, in a way, Machiavelli is saying that a leader should put up a facade. For instance, a leader could show that they possess these qualities but do not have to put these qualities into action. In the Prince, it states, “So, a leader doesn’t have to possess all the virtuous qualities I’ve mentioned, but it’s absolutely imperative that he seem to possess them” (Prince). In other words, the prince can put up a front but does not have to practice it. Machiavelli believes this is true because this can lead the people into rebellion. If as a prince and we always do the right thing then people can take advantage and think that this prince is weak. In addition to Machiavelli views of morality it also ties in with the quality of virtues.
Machiavelli’s idea of “Virtu” is that it is a drive, talent or ability directed toward the achievement of certain goals. In other words, a prince should do anything necessary to get what he wants or do anything in his power for his state. For instance, being evil and cruel if necessary. In the book he states, “A prince should lead and take the good path to be a good leader, but when necessary a prince should use evil or know how to use evil during situation when need it” (Machiavelli). This is the most vital quality a prince must have to be great according to Machiavelli. In Machiavelli’s opinion leaders can have a reputation of being moral but does not have to practice morality. The overall message Machiavelli is trying to get across is to stay in power; any means necessary to accomplish these goals are acceptable. He clearly sees the importance of brutal force and evil. Here Socrates would not agree with Machiavelli at all. In Plato, Socrates believes that as a leader or a person we should have a moral virtue. A quality for being morally good. In the book he states, “for the unexamined life is not worth living for men, you will believe me even less (Plato pg. 39). People should examine their life and as a person we should do good in life which in turns will lead to happiness, but Socrates would also think that people do have a choice to be bad but as a person we do not have to choose that path to do bad things we can choose to be good. Socrates in the end believes good in a man.
Though Plato and Niccolò Machiavelli are two different worlds apart in their principles both writers had a view on what morality is. Plato saw the world through Socrates’ eyes where in his era, people started to question their beliefs and started to think about what is right and wrong and questioning god and etc. whereas in Machiavelli piece was written during the development of renaissance as a guide to how successfully govern and how to be a great leader and how to hold that power that they get ahold of. Also, in Machiavelli’s period the only way to succeed is by abandoning traditional moral values and adopting ways even if it is not morally right to be a successful leader. In a way both writers were brought in eras that were difficult in a sense.
In many ways, Socrates in Plato and Machiavelli would disagree with one another on certain ideas. In Plato, Socrates would view a prince who possesses qualities that Machiavelli believes a prince should have as an egocentric ruler and Machiavelli would view Socrates as a risky and dangerous idealist which would lead the state to rebellion which in Machiavelli’s eyes he would see that as weak and that whomever ruling that state does not know how to control their state, so he would think that the prince is incompetent of leading or ruling.
Machiavelli’s thoughts toward morality is amoral or in other words there is a lack of morality. This is because in his book he talks about what it takes to be a great leader at any cost. In comparison to Plato, Socrates is trying to spread the idea of knowledge and speaks of happiness. Connecting this back to morality Machiavelli thinks that being moral can sometimes lead to the people to rebel because if we show weakness then people will not listen. Whereas in Plato, Socrates believes that if we have moral values and we do not commit acts of evil then we have happiness.