Plato compared to Machiavelli and Lao-Tzu
When it comes to different forms of government, people have been ruled by leaders, princes, and presidents. Certain philosophers such as Plato, Lao-Tzu, and Niccolo Machiavelli have proposed their views on how to show power. While Lao-Tzu and Plato had similar views compared to Machiavelli, they developed different actions when it came to people.
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The views of Plato, Lao-Tzu, and Machiavelli will develop the government as we know today. In this comparison, what do these three philosophers reveal about how different a government is?
Lao-Tzu, who is a Chinese philosopher known for “Tao-te Ching.” Lao-Tzu believed in the power of the people. “Lao-Tzu takes the question of the freedom of the individual into account by asserting that the wise leader will provide the people with what they need, but not annoy them with promises of what they do not need (Jacobus 56).” Plato, on the other hand, was a student of Socrates who worked on philosophical essays.
Plato believed in a spiritual form. “In order to live ethically, it is essential to know what is true and, therefore, what is important beyond the world of sensory perception.” (Jacobus 581). Deeper into the views on government, Lao-Tzu wanted people to believe in Tao. “Who relies on the Tao in governing men doesn’t try to force issues or defeat enemies by force of arms (Lao-Tzu 60).” In other words, Lao-Tzu wanted a peaceful way of living; where the government did as the people wanted.
“Governing a large country is like frying a small fish. You spoil it with too much poking (Lao-Tzu 64).” Plato’s view of society can be found in “The Allegory of the Cave.” Plato suggests that the people in the cave is society, and the people are prisoners that are looking beyond the meaning of life. “Being self-taught, they cannot be expected to show any gratitude for a culture which they have never received.
We have brought you into the world to be rulers of the hive, kings of yourselves and of the other citizens and have educated you far better and more perfectly than they have been educated, and you are better able to share in the double duty (Plato 588).” Plato and Lao-Tzu philosophies of what a ruler should be are similar when it comes to the spirit of a person. Plato and Lao-Tzu believed in individual happiness when it came to the leading role.
In comparison to Plato, Machiavelli saw a completely different view. Machiavelli thought a leader should control his nation without the fear of uncertainty. Machiavelli believed that by having a military and equipped was a priority for a leader. “Nevertheless, a prince must be cautious in believing and in acting, nor should he be afraid of his own shadow; and should proceed in such a manner, tempered by prudence and humanity, so that too much trust may not render him imprudent nor too much distrust renders him intolerable (Machiavelli 91).
“Plato, on the other hand, suggests the opposite. Plato believed a ruler must be truthful and have knowledge and discipline. “Observe, Glaucon, that there will be no injustice in compelling our philosophers to have a care and providence of others; we shall explain to them that in other States, end of their class are not obligated to share in the toils of politics (Plato 588).”
Plato believed in the four virtues of wisdom, courage, self-control, and justice. Compared to Machiavelli, Plato thought a ruler can never be unfair and people should not harm others. In the end, Machiavelli believed that a leader would do well by being superior rather than Plato’s views on the government by caring for the people.
With regard to whom Plato would most likely agree with when it came down to beliefs, Plato was more for Lao-Tzu views on government. Lao-Tzu and Plato saw similar views regarding how a leader should rule his people. Plato and Lao-Tzu were more content with the people running society. Both philosophers wanted the same goal, which was wisdom. Plato and Lao-Tzu spread their beliefs through the thoughts of others. Plato was searching for this wisdom of others, where Lao-Tzu was more natural. Both of these philosophers are on different paths but believing that the way to succeed in being a leader was to not force it.
In conclusion, Machiavelli had different beliefs compared to Plato and Lao-Tzu. Machiavelli believed in a strict leader, and the use of war and guns, Plato and Lao-Tzu believed in natural wisdom and the rise of the people. All these views were necessary when it came to surviving and operating mankind. In today’s society, each belief is something people would want as a leader.
- Machiavelli, Niccolo. “Part One: Government The Qualities of a Prince.” A World of Ideas: Essential Readings for College Writers, by Lee A. Jacobus, Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2017, pp. 84–97.
- Plato. “Part Five: Science The Allegory of the Cave.” A World of Ideas: Essential Readings for College Writers, by Lee A. Jacobus, Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2017, pp. 580-590.
- Tau, Lao. “Part One: Government Thoughts from Tao-Te Ching.” A World of Ideas: Essential Readings for College Writers, by Lee A. Jacobus, Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2017, pp. 55–58.