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 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.

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The one major work preceding More's in the field was Plato's Republic. Its influence on Utopia is extensive and unmistakable. To begin with, the central theme of both works is the search for justice. In the Republic, the rulers are to be a group of intelligent, unselfish men called the guardians or philosopher-kings, who conduct public affairs for the good of the whole nation. The principle of community of property is in effect: "No man calls anything his own." Gold and silver coinage is outlawed, and there is a rigid proscription against luxury and ostentation. Throughout the society, life is directed by a highly moral code of conduct. An educational system for the intelligentsia is elaborately and idealistically designed. Equality of men and women is proposed in both works, though with certain qualifications. There is allowance made in Plato's scheme for the practice of slavery, as there is in More's. There are, on the other hand, departures from Plato in Utopia, some quite radical. The Republic establishes sharply defined class distinctions — the ruling intelligentsia; the warrior class; commoners, consisting of merchants, artisans, and laborers; and finally, at the lowest level, the slaves. Utopians recognize no such gradations among their citizens. The religious beliefs and practices in the two books are, of course, quite different. There is also a sharp difference in the treatment of families. In the Republic, women and children are held in common — "there is no marrying nor giving in marriage" — and mating is regulated to serve eugenic ends; whereas in Utopia, the family unit is the core of the entire social structure.
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Another complication comes from the Greek meanings of the names of people and places in the work. Apart from Utopia, meaning "Noplace," several other lands are mentioned: Achora meaning "Nolandia", Polyleritae meaning "Muchnonsense", Macarenses meaning "Happiland," and the river Anydrus meaning "Nowater". Raphael's last name, Hythlodaeus means "dispenser of nonsense" surely implying that the whole of the Utopian text is 'nonsense'. Additionally the Latin rendering of More's name, Morus, is similar to the word for a fool in Greek (μωρός). It is unclear whether More is simply being ironic, an in-joke for those who know Greek, seeing as the place he is talking about does not actually exist or whether there is actually a sense of distancing of Hythlodaeus' and the More's ("Morus") views in the text from his own.
Yet, the puzzle is that some of the practices and institutions of the Utopians, such as the ease of divorce, euthanasia and both married priests and female priests, seem to be polar opposites of More's beliefs and the teachings of the Catholic Church of which he was a devout member. Another often cited apparent contradiction is that of the religious tolerance of Utopia contrasted with his persecution of Protestants as Lord Chancellor. Similarly, the criticism of lawyers comes from a writer who, as Lord Chancellor, was arguably the most influential lawyer in England. It can be answered, however, that as a pagan society Utopians had the best ethics that could be reached through reason alone, or that More changed from his early life to his later when he was Lord Chancellor.[8]
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