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The first discussions with Raphael allow him to discuss some of the modern ills affecting Europe such as the tendency of kings to start wars and the subsequent loss of money on fruitless endeavours. He also criticises the use of execution to punish theft, saying thieves might as well murder whom they rob, to remove witnesses, if the punishment is going to be the same. He lays most of the problems of theft on the practice of enclosure—the enclosing of common land—and the subsequent poverty and starvation of people who are denied access to land because of sheep farming.
The publication of Utopia followed Columbus's first voyage to America by only 24 years. Utopia preceded by just one year Luther's publication of the Ninety-five Theses that fomented the Protestant Reformation. Michelangelo had completed his four years' labor on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in 1512. Henry VIII had recently come to the throne of England (1509), was still married to his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, and was being guided in his government by Cardinal Wolsey as his Lord Chancellor. Some of the principal literary figures of More's generation were Erasmus, Ariosto, Machiavelli, and Castiglione, along with More himself. One of the great periods in Western art was in full swing with Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Michelangelo, and Titian heading a long list. The chief explorers in the first decades after Columbus were Vasco da Gama, John Cabot, Amerigo Vespucci, and Balboa.
Thomas More's Utopia has spurred debate, reflection, and critical thinking since its original publication in the 16th Century. More's fictional island of Utopia provides an exploration of issues that shook him and his contemporaries and continue to be problematic in the modern day; the details of More's utopian society, such as the permissibility of euthanasia and comments on chastity in the priesthood, combine with proposals of coexisting varied religions to put forth a work that incorporates the totality of More's religious, sociological, and philosophical talents.
The section of the book dealing with the outlawing of machinery has attracted special attention from students of utopian literature because of its possible bearing on the attitude of certain philosophers who viewed the industrial revolution with alarm and warned of the menace of the machine age. It can hardly be concluded that Butler meant to advocate the elimination of machinery, as some later utopists did, for he treats this attitude as one more example of the susceptibility of the natives to outlandish arguments. Nevertheless, he sets forth the arguments in such a fashion that the reader is obliged to reflect seriously on the issue and recognize in advancing technology some serious threats to human values.
The history of utopian literature is extensive, even if we take the term in the strict sense of a detailed description of a nation or commonwealth ordered according to a system which the author proposes as a better way of life than any known to exist, a system that could be instituted if the present one could be cancelled and people could start over. Before More's 1516 Utopia, the number of elaborately designed utopian commonwealths is small. Most of the writings along these lines are brief and many are misty, nostalgic, backward glances at an imagined primitive life in the "Golden Age." There is, of course, no lack of earlier literature criticizing the status quo. The great outpouring of utopian literature, however, came after More; and it cannot be doubted that his work gave great impetus to the movement.
In time is a utopian movie directed by Andrew Niccol and starring Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried. In the mid 22nd-century, people turn off the aging gene at their 25th birthday. To avoid overpopulation, when people stop aging, their clock begins to count down from 1 year. When their clock reaches 0, that person dies. However, this remaining time can be transferred from person to person. Classes of people form, with "time rich" who has centuries on their clock, to individuals who are trying to make ends meet, by just having a next day to live.
Denis Diderot's Supplement to Bougainville's "Voyage" (1772) is a prime example of the eighteenth-century vogue of primitivism which was spurred by Rousseau's thesis of the "noble savage" and which generated such novels as St. Pierre's Paul and Virginia and Chateaubriand's Atala. Diderot's book makes a case for the simple, natural ways of a South Sea Island culture as reported by Bougainville, a French explorer. The central portion of the story presents an imaginary dialogue between a French chaplain and a native of Tahiti (Orou) in which a comparison is made between the customs and institutions of Europe and those of Tahiti. The way of life of the islanders is eloquently defended, and that of the Europeans discredited. According to the Tahitian, man's natural instincts, which are equated with the laws of nature, are interpreted as justifying complete freedom in sexual relations. Their observance of community property is defended as minimizing personal conflicts and legal entanglements and promoting a general concern for the welfare of the community as a whole.
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