Comparing the Concepts of Seeming and Being in Relation to Political Power and Leadership in The Prince and The Republic
9. Machiavelli says the prince only has to seem good, not be good. Socrates insists that seeming is bad, being is good. Is it better to remain in the cave with Machiavelli, or see the light with Socrates? Write three pages for Machiavelli and against Socrates, write another three pages against Machiavelli and for Socrates.
Both Niccolò Machiavelli and Plato, in their works The Prince and The Republic (respectively), address the concepts of seeming and being in relation to political power and leadership, however they do so in two distinct manners. In the Republic, Socrates insists that seeming is bad, and being is good. Using a parable of people in a cave, he states that the only way to know the difference between what seems and what actually is reality is to experience it in its purest form, instead of through images. Machiavelli, on the other hand outlines the different ways that a prince could rise to power, and justifies any and all means that a prince could take. He states that a prince only has to seem good when it fits his purposes, not actually be good. He encourages an aspiring prince to be deceitful and conniving in order to gain and maintain power. Before concluding which political theorist is correct, it is interesting to examine whether it would be better to remain in the cave with Machiavelli or see the light with Socrates.
The citizens of Socrates’ Republic are divided into three classes. Those who are deemed fit to rule, the philosopher/rulers, are those who have been chosen to pass through several stages of training and preparation. They are the most fit to rule, because they are the only ones who (at the end of their training) know the difference between what seems to be reality and what reality actually is. They have gained this knowledge because they have spent the majority of their lifetimes preparing to rule. The other two classes of people in the Republic, the warriors and the moneymakers, can really only see what seems to be, and occasionally what really is. They simply rely on the philosopher/rulers to be knowledgeable and always act in the best interests of the community as a whole. The parable of the cave is evident here.
Socrates tells Glaucon a tale of men in a cave. These men have been “chained foot and neck since childhood” (Plato 514a). The chains prevent them from turning around; they can face only forward towards a wall. Directly behind them is a low wall, behind that a road, and behind that a burning fire. People pass by on the road between the backs of the men and the fire, casting shadows onto the wall directly in front of the men. Sometimes these people carry things, and on occasion they speak. Since the men cannot turn their heads, and never have been able to, they must assume that the shadows they see on the wall are real images. Likewise, they assume...