In Machiavelli’s writing, it gives the reader a window to see into what he perceives as virtue. He was a philosopher who believed in the ideals of an authoritative figure being there to guide, or uphold his followers similar as a pillar, with respect and leadership. Although, Machiavelli’s theory is quite different, and in some way contradicts, from other philosophers, it is still respected and at times, proven by people of high authority. Machiavelli was influenced by philosophers, such as Plato and Aristotle, and it is for that reason he is able to make theoretical arguments. His influence from philosophers before him is quite different due to the way that he rejected Aristotle’s theory of virtue completely. Although, his opinion based on his knowledge and understanding of virtue differed greatly, he did create his own definition of what he believed virtue to be.
Machiavelli rejected Aristotle’s philosophy of virtue. He, instead, believed that virtue was strength power, excellence and rigor. He, too, held a strong rejection of traditional morality. There was an idea that a man concerned with the future should always follow in the footsteps of men who were excellent for if he does not succeed at the very least, he was on the right path. Imitation of those who were in power, no matter how good or bad they ruled, was how someone achieved excellence. He also spoke of Brother Girolamo who could not make the unbelievers believe in his new orders. If he would have overcome the difficulties in conducting his affairs then he would have showed a great deal of virtue. a n example referred to is a dominican friar by the name of Savonarola, praised for his accomplishment of convincing Florentines that he spoke with God, by Machiavelli even though it led to his terrible end. He then continues to say that once they were held in great respect with no more concerns for those who envy them, they remain powerful, secure, honored, and happy (Machiavelli 24-25). Respect was what held them in power, but also what kept them content. Once there was no more respect from the people who followed them then they lost their virtue of strength.
Aristotle’s theory of virtue was that good habits of the soul by which we act attain happiness. The approach Machiavelli took of virtue was quite different from Aristotle’s theory. Throughout the text, Machiavelli expressed his belief that virtue was based on the power and strength of an individual. His use of virtue can cause issues in how his theory of virtue is used. His theory of virtue can be problematic depending on the situation. For example, in the story of Alexander VI after all was said and done, Machiavelli said that his choices when using his power and trying to accomplish more led to his ruin. The intentions to gain control of other states through disorder led the duke to have many unresolved issues that eventually caught up to him. In the text he says whoever believes that among great personages new benefits will make old injuries be forgotten deceives himself’ (Machiavelli 33). Part of his theory of virtue is the rejection of traditional morality which can be interpreted as even the strong and powerful are not immortal. Even the strongest people can be too confident in their strength that lead to issues for those in authority or other positions.
Alexander VI was the first relevant figure that Machiavelli employs to express his idea of virtue. The situation of Alexander VI started with making his son, the duke, great. He then wanted to make his son the lord of a state of the church, but he knew it was not possible due to the circumstances. The power was long under the protection of individuals that would not consent to it as well as to those who feared the greatness of the pope that he could not trust. His use of his own power was to create disorder in the states so he could make himself lord over them. There was some effort that was needed on his part which led him to create friendships with other places. Although, his intentions did seem to be wrongful by the way he chose to achieve his goal, Machiavelli did make sure that he was praised for helping others. Machiavelli begins by saying And because this point is deserving of notice and of being imitated by others… which is in reference to the duke creating a place of peace and control in Romagna (Machiavelli 29). Eventually, Machiavelli does say he did believe that some of his other choices led to his ultimate ruin. Specifically referring to the issues he left behind that eventually caught up to the duke no matter how much he tried to escape them.
Most philosophers hold their own theory of what virtue really means and Machiavelli is no different. His theory differs most noticeably from Aristotle’s although both philosophers have reasons to believe their theories. The theory of virtue that Machiavelli believed in was expressed through many individuals. There was also multiple of other characteristics that Machiavelli praised besides the use of strength of those in power. For instance, in some cases it seemed better to praise the accomplishments of the men who used the power they had to help others such as it was for the case of the duke. He clarified that they were still capable of making mistakes that could ruin the progress they made, because they were not immortal. In other cases, it appeared that devious behavior was praised for gaining more power over others. In the case of Alexander VI he wanted to use disorder to accomplish his goal. Machiavelli’s theory of virtue overall incorporates many possibilities of what good and bad power and strength can be interpreted as along with what it can do to a person if not used logically.