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Aristotle was a greek philosopher who lived approximately 2400 years ago. He is considered one of the great philosophers from his time, and he is still widely known and highly regarded today. During his lifetime, he came up with Virtue Theory. Virtue Theory is an ethical theory that focuses on a person’s character, not the set of rules a person is supposed to follow, to determine if they are a good person or not. This is largely based on Aristotle’s virtues, of which the four most important are prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude. There is also 8 more virtues, but these are the main four. Aristotle believes that each of these virtues comes at the Golden Mean, which is halfway between excessive and deficient for each of them. He also believes that for someone to be a good person, they must follow all of the virtues. For example, temperance is the golden mean between the two vices, self-indulgence, and insensibility, or how fortitude is between recklessness and rashness. Like Aristotle, most people realize that it is not good to be too self indulgent nor too insensible. Most people realize that moderation is a good thing, but they never put it on a scale like Aristotle did. Aristotle also believes that every virtue is good in moderation, and this is one of the things which he is remembered most for because it still has relevance for today’s society. Machiavelli believes a lot of the same things that Aristotle taught, and he wrote them in his book, The Prince.
Machiavelli was a philosopher during the Italian Renaissance. One of his most famous works was The Prince. In it, he talk about how a prince should behave and treat their subjects. He agrees a lot with Aristotle when it comes to moderation in virtues. He says that princes are supposed to be generous, but not generous to the point where it earns you a reputation for being generous. He says it’s a bad thing to be too generous because he will use up all of your resources, but he also says that it is a bad thing to not be viewed as somewhat generous because you will be viewed as a miser. Machiavelli said, “I say that it would be good to be considered generous, nevertheless, generosity used in such a manner as to give you a reputation for it will harm you”(The Prince, pg338). This shows that for generosity, Machiavelli agrees with Aristotle in sharing the same principle for the virtue of generosity. They both agree that too much and too little generosity are both bad.
Machiavelli also says that princes must not be cruel, and they must be merciful, but not too merciful. But he also says that cruelty can be necessary in some cases. But too much mercy is never acceptable because it can create disorder among people. Machiavelli also takes a standpoint in the middle of whether it is good to be loved or to be feared. However, since it is difficult to have both at the same time, Machiavelli feels that is better to be feared than to be loved. He says, “I reply that one should like to be both one and the other(loving and feared), but since that is difficult to join them together, it is much safer to be feared than loved when one of the two must be lacking.(The prince, p339) ”.
As you can see from the evidence provided above, Machiavelli definitely followed a lot of the same principle of moderation in virtues as Aristotle did. Many of Machiavelli’s ideas are probably based off of Aristotle. They have exactly the same opinion on generosity, which is to be generous, but not too generous. Moderation in virtues is necessary for anyone to thrive in the world, and Aristotle and Machiavelli are absolutely right in the way they see it.
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