Essay Question: 1. Readers of the Republicfrequently complain that in their debate over the nature of justice,Thrasymachus gave up his argument with Socrates too easily. Write an essay onthe respective views of Thrasymachus and Socrates on what justice entails. Howwould you continue Thrasymachus argumentthat is, how would you advance hisargument beyond the point he left it at the end of Book 1 of the dialogue?
1. Only Use Politics of Aristotle as a source
2. Directly answer the question
3. Draw some comparisons and contrasts, the exent of it
4. Any similarities?
5. What is the point he left at the end of Book 1?
6. How do you advance his viewpoint?
Sample Answer format:
“For Aristotle, virtue or areterefers to the characteristic excellence of man (Aristotle assumes only men arecapable of fully developed virtue). Virtue is displayed in actions that areseen to be noble or admirable. Such virtuous actions are described by Aristotlein The Nicomachean Ethics as consisting of a mean: Virtueis a statethat decides, consisting in a mean, the mean relative to us, which is definedby reference to reason. Acts thatdisplay courage or generosity or modesty are thus virtuous because they aresaid to lay between the extremes of excess and deficiency in behaviour.However, there is no single set of rules a person must follow to exhibit virtueaccording to Aristotle. Rather, virtue is something of a relative concept.Virtue is relative to the person who is acting, and to the circumstance in whichhe finds himself when performing particular acts. At the same time, it is not awholly relative concept because Aristotle insists that the decision as to whatis the appropriate act a person should commit to is something to be determinedby practical reasonnot what someone feels is right for him. Practical reasonis gained through education and experience. Concretely, a person trains himselfto become virtuous by continually performing virtuous acts so that theinclination to carry out such acts becomes part of ones character. Thus, inthe final analysis, virtue is a function of characterthe predisposition to actvirtuously.
Aristotle links virtue to politics throughhis observation that man is by nature a political animal. Men are naturallysuited to live together in a polis, the purpose of which is to make possiblethe good life. For that reason, the type of political regime one lives in iscrucial to whether or not virtuous characters can flourish. The regime bestsuited to a life of virtue is one where an aristocracy of virtuous men rule. Ifthat is not possible, a second-best regime, a middle-class polity, is practicallybest, for even if men performing truly noble deeds will be rarer in such aregime, the fact that the majority enjoy only moderate wealth means that they tend to be free from the arrogance that characterizes therich and the envy that characterizes the poor. Such a middle way is at leastconducive to political stability and with political stability, ordinary virtuecan still find a home.
Machiavellis concept of virtu departssignificantly from the Aristotelian conception. Machiavelli talks about virtuin two different contexts: the virtu of a prince who is able to seize andmaintain power and the virtu of citizens in a republic. In both cases, virtu isseen as a purely political quality. For a prince, virtu means force, skill,cunningattributes necessary to succeed in a world where power is the onlycurrency that everyone recognizes. A prince displaying virtu is one who knows howto adapt to necessity and how to use violence effectively and economically. Avirtuous prince is one who must be prepared to abandon ordinary moralconstraints in order to obtain his objectives. And he must be prepared tochallenge whatever bad fortune he confronts. Virtu for a prince means beingaudacious.
Whenhe speaks of citizen virtu, by contrast, Machiavelli refers primarily to theirabiding love of liberty which conditions them to sacrifice their own immediateself-interest in favour of a common goodthat common good being securing apolitical space free of tyranny.
Incomparing Aristotle and Machiavelli on virtue, the one thing they hold incommon is that both see virtue not as a set of rules but as something exhibitedpractically in response to concrete circumstances individuals find themselvesin. But their differences are far greater. For Aristotle, living a life ofvirtue is part of living well. Virtue has an unmistakably moral connotation.For Machiavelli, by contrast, virtu is a purely political concept. It is usedto describe the attributes needed for success in the world of powerpoliticssuccess measured, on the one hand, by the ability of a prince to seizeand maintain power, and, on the other hand, by the ability of the people toresist tyranny. In neither case does virtu resemble a moral quality ofindividuals, but rather it is that which allows one to succeed in politics.
Onthe face of it, the Aristotelian and Machiavellian conceptions of virtue inpolitics seem to converge when the former discusses the advantages of a polity(a mixed regime) and the latter extols a republic (an institutionalizedbalancing of the ambitions of the rich and poor). While their politicalprescriptions may be similar, they are offered for different reasons. Aristotlefavours a polity because of the stability it provides which allows for thepractice of ordinary virtue. Machiavelli is partial to republics because theyare the grounding for liberty which he understands as a political rather than amoral value.”
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