The Best Society: a Comparison of Aristotle and Machiavelli

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Authors
Wassmuth, David
Advisor
Greiner, Katherine
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Date of Issue
2023-04-28
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Title
The Best Society: a Comparison of Aristotle and Machiavelli
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Presentation
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Abstract
By investigating the writings of Machiavelli and Aristotle, I will show what a just society is and how both authors believe this can be achieved. Aristotle, writing in the 4th century BC, believes that every person’s individual quest for virtue will create a just society, and that just societies can only be built in this way from the ground up. He gives a very direct route to a just society by listing virtues, explaining their related vices, then showing why the virtues are useful to a just society. In The Prince, Machiavelli provides an interesting counterpoint, arguing that to create and maintain a just society, rulers must commit unjust actions. His 16th century method of fighting fire with fire directly attacks vices present in society, but the benefits may be outweighed by the costs of reaching a just society in this way. Both authors believe that a just society is a worthy and achievable goal, but their methods to reach the goal differ greatly. Aristotle provides an intellectual and optimistic approach to a just society, while Machiavelli brings it down to earth with a more practical approach to make just societies work. This paper searches for a reconciliation of these two views, finding a common ground that both authors agree on. From that point, it may be possible to create a society that is both just and feasible in today’s world.
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Semester
Spring
Department
Honors Scholars Program