Throughout history there have been two main kinds of virtue . One is Plato 's , in which virtue is associated with attributes such as justice wisdom , courage and moderation , and the other is Machiavelli 's , in which is associated with being the best at any given task . Many reasons could account for this drastic change in the definition of virtue put forth by Machiavelli , but the most important would be found in a consideration of the time period in which Machiavelli lived . This will explore how and why Machiavelli 's concept of virtue came
to be so different from the one Plato had originally put forth
There is ample evidence to suggest that Machiavelli was familiar with the works of Plato . He was an avid reader of many subjects , especially those of a political nature . He was also an admirer of Ancient Roman society and must have been exposed to many ancient authors . There was also the fact that for all their intellectual advances in art , law philosophy and medicine , the Renaissance Italians were indebted to the ancients . Their practice of imitating those thinkers of ancient history led the Italians to rediscover many facts about the world , which were once only known to the ancients . Even so , Machiavelli chose to radically change the concept of virtue to an idea that is nearly the opposite of what Plato had in mind (Wootton xiii
The concept of virtue that Plato had in mind was most readily laid out in the Republic . Although it is mentioned several times throughout the book , virtue generally comes to mean an attribute of the concepts already explained above . Specifically , with regard to justice , which the Republic is most concerned with , virtue means being just . For the citizens of a state to be virtuous , they must be just to their fellow citizens and the state itself , and for the state to be just , it must attempt to run the most virtuous state as possible
In the beginning of Book I , Socrates gets into a debate with some of his fellow citizens about the meaning of justice . After Polemarchus picks up where Cepalus 's argument left off , Thrasymachus , who is getting fed up with Socrates consistently refuting the arguments of all who try attempts to give his own definition of justice . He demands that Socrates give his own account of justice . But after some words Socrates persuades Thrasymachus to put forward his concept of the virtue of justice . The account of justice that Thrasymachus finally gives is that justice is the advantage of the stronger ' It is a sort of mite is right ' argument in that whoever is ruling , and whatever they demand of their subjects must be obeyed . If the citizens do not obey then they are being unjust (Grube
The view of Thrasymachus is somewhat similar to Machiavelli 's view . In The Prince , Machiavelli lays out his concept of virtue (which he calls virt ) in chapter 6 , which is entitled About new kingdoms acquired with one 's...