The work begins with written correspondence between Thomas More and several people he had met on the continent: Peter Gilles, town clerk of Antwerp, and Hieronymus van Busleyden, counselor to Charles V. More chose these letters, which are communications between actual people, to further the plausibility of his fictional land. In the same spirit, these letters also include a specimen of the Utopian alphabet and its poetry. The letters also explain the lack of widespread travel to Utopia; during the first mention of the land, someone had coughed during announcement of the exact longitude and latitude. The first book tells of the traveller Raphael Hythlodaeus, to whom More is introduced in Antwerp, and it also explores the subject of how best to counsel a prince, a popular topic at the time.
Sir Thomas More was a Londoner from birth. He was born in 1478 in the last flowering of the late Middle Ages Roman Catholic world of that distant day. More was a brilliant student who studied at Oxford and at the law courts of Lincoln Inn. More rose high and became Lord Chancellor of England under Henry VIII. All was well with Sir Thomas as he served King and Country as lawyer, judge, diplomat, Steward of Oxford and Cambridge, pious Christian layperson and author. His book "Utopia" has become a deserved classic of satire.
Thomas More lived from 1477 to 1535. He was convicted of treason and beheaded in 1535 for refusing to accept King Henry VIII as head of the Church of England. Utopia, written in Latin, was published in 1516. It was translated to English by Ralph Robinson in 1551. The translation by Clarence Miller was published by Yale University Press in 2001. [This review is based on the Miller translation.]
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The Commonwealth of Oceana (1656) by James Harrington, is a philosophical novel that described the existence of an ideal constitution, one that is designed to allow for the existence of a utopian republic. It depicted the functions of everyone in this fictional republic - from the agrarian workers, to the low officials, al up to the rights of the ruling senate.
One highly influential interpretation of Utopia is that of intellectual historian Quentin Skinner. He has argued that More was taking part in the Renaissance humanist debate over true nobility, and that he was writing to prove the perfect commonwealth could not occur with private property. Crucially, Skinner sees Raphael Hythlodaeus as embodying the Platonic view that philosophers should not get involved in politics, while the character of More embodies the more pragmatic Ciceronian view. Thus the society Raphael proposes is the ideal More would want. But without communism, which he saw no possibility of occurring, it was wiser to take a more pragmatic view.
Utopians are ambivalent, in fact illogical if not morally arrogant, about killing for food or defense. They eat animals but "they do not allow their citizens to be accustomed to butchering animals" but rather have "bondsmen" do this because they believe that butchering animals for food "gradually eliminates compassion, the finest feeling of human nature." (68) Bondsmen are apparently immune to such a descent into moral corruption, or else they are bondsmen exactly because they are already morally degraded and so either immune to further corruption or they are beyond moral rectification, and therefore the moral consequences of killing for food cannot matter for their moral selves. So bondsmen who butcher animals either have no compassion, it having been gradually eliminated through butchering, or because their moral precondition, their qualification of moral impurity, includes diminished compassion from which their moral descent continues, or else they have compassion and, being bondsmen, they are somehow immune from the moral consequences of killing for food, either because of their moral deficiency or because bondsmen have a moral strength that the citizens of Utopia lack.
There is a kind of state religion in Utopia which includes high priests and public worship. "They invoke God by no other name than Mythras, a name they all apply to the one divine nature, whatever it may be. No prayers are devised which everyone cannot say without offending his own denomination." (126) "When the priest [...] comes out of the sacristy, everyone immediately prostrates himself on the ground out of reverence; on all sides the silence is so profound that the spectacle itself inspires a certain fear, as if in the presence of some divinity." (128) Priests are held in such high esteem that "even if they commit a crime they are not subject to a public tribunal but are left to God and their own consciences. [...] For it is unlikely that someone who is the cream of the crop and is elevated to a position of such dignity only because of his virtue should degenerate into corruption and vice." (124)
Margaret Cavendish, The Blazing World. Cavendish’s work is frequently interested in the idea of utopia, such as the all-female university she imagines in The Female Academy and The Convent of Pleasure, in which a group of women remove themselves from society in order to devote themselves to a life of pleasure. But The Blazing World, published in 1666 when London was quite literally ablaze with the Great Fire, is her most representative utopian work, a fictional account of a young woman’s fantastic voyage to an alternative world, which she accesses via the North Pole. Cavendish’s looking-glass utopia anticipates the world of Lewis Carroll’s Alice books in a number of startling ways.
Rollerball is 1975 cult British-American dystopian movie, based on a short story - "Roller Ball Murder". In 2018, in corporate-controlled states, rollerball a full-contact violent sport is a substitute for all current sports and warfare. When one of the star athletes refuses to retire, corporations will try everything to take him out, because they see his repetitive success as the strength of individualism.
Bergen has reported on al-Qaeda, Afghanistan, Pakistan, counterterrorism, homeland security and countries around the Middle East for a range of American newspapers and magazines. He is a contributing editor at The New Republic and writes a weekly column for CNN.com. He has also written for newspapers and magazines around the world, and he has worked as a correspondent or producer for multiple documentaries that have aired on National Geographic, Discovery and CNN.
In Book 2 Raphael Hythloday describes Utopia. The word `Raphael' means "God's healer", and the word `hythloday', from Greek, means "peddler of nonsense". The word `utopia' is a Greek pun that means both "good place" and "no place". If Hythloday is speaking nonsense motivated by the deepest moral compassion, where is the nonsense? Is Utopia a good place that is no place, or is it no place that is a good place? (The second reading can mean it is not a place that is a good place.)
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There are several religions on the island: moon-worshipers, sun-worshipers, planet-worshipers, ancestor-worshipers and monotheists, but each is tolerant of the others. Only atheists are despised (but allowed) in Utopia, as they are seen as representing a danger to the state: since they do not believe in any punishment or reward after this life, they have no reason to share the communistic life of Utopia, and will break the laws for their own gain. They are not banished, but are encouraged to talk out their erroneous beliefs with the priests until they are convinced of their error. Raphael says that through his teachings Christianity was beginning to take hold in Utopia. The toleration of all other religious ideas is enshrined in a universal prayer all the Utopians recite.
Utopia is placed in the New World and More links Raphael's travels in with Amerigo Vespucci's real life voyages of discovery. He suggests that Raphael is one of the 24 men Vespucci, in his Four Voyages of 1507, says he left for six months at Cabo Frio, Brazil. Raphael then travels further and finds the island of Utopia, where he spends five years observing the customs of the natives.