The Dimensions Of Morality In The Prince And The Republic Of Plato

1291 words - 5 pages

Morality is likely the most debated topic of all time, especially in regards to our moral responsibility for each other. Throughout history many writers and philosophers have taken different angles the concept of morality and have applied it in many ways. This includes: Niccolò Machiavelli with The Prince (we will be looking at The Qualities of the Prince) and Plato with The Republic (we will be looking at the section The Allegory of the Cave. The Prince (1513) essentially lays out a how-to guide of how to obtain power and how to keep it; The Qualities of the Prince contains a list of qualities that one should appear to have while in power; this work will be used to represent the case against moral responsibility for others. The Republic (approximately 380 BCE) is detailed description of the ideal society; The Allegory of the Cave is an explanation of how we should choose the servants of our state; this will be used to represent the case for moral responsibility for others. Plato’s The Allegory of the Cave and Machiavelli’s The Qualities of the Prince both contain concepts that contend whether or not we have a moral responsibility for each other, but Plato’s ideas are the ones that we should try to apply.
The Allegory of the Cave is a Socratic dialogue between Socrates and his student Glaucon explaining how the statesmen of an ideal society should be chosen. The allegory begins with a group of people kept prisoner in a cave (or den) who are only able to look forward and face a wall. The only things they are able to see are shadows illuminated by a fire behind them. They are incapable of seeing each other or those behind them, so they believe that the shadows are everything. At some point one of these prisoners is thrown out of the cave into the outside world, away from all that they know. Being blinded by the light and totally helpless they would initially want to go back into the cave because that is what they know. However after awhile their eyes adjust and are able to see not only the shadows, but reflections and eventually people themselves, as Plato wrote “when he remembered his old habitation and the wisdom of the den and his fellow prisoners, do you not suppose that he would felicitate himself on the change, and pity them?” (Plato 870). After being outside for awhile they are eventually thrown back into the blinding darkness of the cave.
The whole point of the allegory is to represent to journey to enlightenment. The prisoners represent either the unenlightened that have not had enough experience to gain great wisdom or the uneducated that have not learned enough to gain great intelligence. And being thrown out of the cave into the outside world represents the process of becoming enlightened. Once enlightened they would of course not want to leave and to make them go back into the Cave would be cruel, as is noted by Glaucon. But as is explained they must be made to descend again among the prisoners in the den, and partake of their...

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