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.
The optimistic views which the author held regarding the inevitable progress of human society were somewhat undermined by the events of World War I, as is demonstrated in his later writings. He came to question whether or not scientific progress would always achieve social improvement. His warning of the possibility of developing mind control through blatant advertising and through drugs is prophetic.
St. Augustine's famous De Civitate Dei (City of God, 413–26) is frequently cited as a source for Utopia. It was, of course, well known to More. He had delivered a series of lectures on the work, as has been mentioned. The basic plan of Augustine's book is different from the Republic, although Augustine was a devoted admirer of Plato. By the same token, More's work differs in basic concept from Augustine's, though inevitably echoes of Augustine are to be found in More.
Cicero's De republica (54–52 B.C.) is largely indebted to Plato, not only to the Republic but also to several other Platonic dialogues. Cicero discusses the attributes of various types of government — monarchy, aristocracy, democracy, and dictatorship — but without committing himself to a preference. One point, however, is clear. His concept of an ideal state is one based on reason and justice, where those who possess natural superiority rule over the inferiors.
A body of writings commonly associated with the utopian tradition even though the works seem to be in direct contradiction are variously referred to as anti-utopian or distopian. This group includes some distinguished books, the most famous being Samuel Butler's Erewhon, Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, and George Orwell's 1984. If it is remembered that the primary motivation for all utopian writing is a desire to attack the ills of existing society and to point directions for the amelioration of human society, we will recognize that these anti-utopian documents are not entirely remote from the traditional utopias. Indeed, the anti-utopian works purport to offer utopian solutions to social, economic, and political problems at the outset, but sooner or later — usually sooner — the reader discovers that the author's real purpose is satirical.
Slavery is a feature of Utopian life and it is reported that every household has two slaves. The slaves are either from other countries or are the Utopian criminals. These criminals are weighed down with chains made out of gold. The gold is part of the community wealth of the country, and fettering criminals with it or using it for shameful things like chamber pots gives the citizens a healthy dislike of it. It also makes it difficult to steal as it is in plain view. The wealth, though, is of little importance and is only good for buying commodities from foreign nations or bribing these nations to fight each other. Slaves are periodically released for good behaviour. Jewels are worn by children, who finally give them up as they mature.
(Hong Kong) China presents a spectacular array of historic traditions, stunning landscapes, and magnificent architecture including its vast and iconic Great Wall. Cultural opportunities are endless with the chance to meditate in a Tibetan monastery, converse with Buddhist monks, or practice the Chinese art of Tai Chi at sunrise while overlooking the bustling city of Shanghai. In Hong Kong, SAS students may partake in a junk boat project to aid in the recovery of plastic pollution in local, oceanic waters.
Aldous Huxley's Brave New World (1932) offers a projection of what life on earth might become in another 500 years if technology plays an increasingly dominant role and if government control of all aspects of human activity becomes absolute. Skyscrapers will become taller, factories will become more efficient, travel will be mainly by air, diseases will be virtually eliminated, and universal happiness will be provided through elaborate sports and entertainment programs and through a happiness pill called soma.
One of the first signs of renewed enlightenment in England, after the rude and bloody 15th century, was the appearance of a group of "humanist" scholars that flourished at Oxford and in London in the early decades of the 16th century, notably John Colet, William Latimer, Thomas Linacre, Reginald Pole, and Thomas More — a group that Erasmus pronounced both congenial and distinguished.
The features of Erewhonian society that surprise the author are those that differ from the England that he knew. According to the early impressions of the travelers, the people all appear to be exceptionally healthy, exceedingly handsome, and altogether contented. Their life style is characterized by simplicity and gracious manners, best described as Arcadian. Gradually, however, oddities, or what appear to be oddities to the visitor, begin to surface. Duplicity pervades every aspect of thought and action. The natives habitually profess agreement to a proposition although they do not believe in it, and their friends are perfectly aware that they do not mean what they say. There are two separate banking systems in operation and two sets of religions. The people give lip service to what they call the Musical Banks, but they transact all serious business with the currency of the other chain of banks. Similarly they recognize a group of deities representing the personification of human qualities — justice, hope, love, fear — and erect statues to them; but their pragmatic morality is evidently dictated by a goddess — Ydgrun (Grundy). More and more they reveal themselves to the traveler as victims of self-deception and inverted logic. Their universities are called Colleges of Unreason, and the principal course of study is Hypothetics.
A Traveler from Altruria (1894) by William Dean Howells is a utopian novel that describes the differences between the late 19th century US and fictional island of Altruria. During the novel, visitor from Altruria compares the lifestyle of those two countries, discovering that US is still lagging in the political, economic, cultural, or moral aspects of life. This critique of capitalism and its consequences was greatly influenced by the previous utopian works - The City of the Sun, New Atlantis, Looking Backward and News from Nowhere.
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.
Bellamy's optimism for the future of mankind is further revealed in his confidence that human ingenuity will continue to contribute inventions for comfort and convenience of mankind. Specifically, he predicts that there will be canopied sidewalks for the protection of pedestrians, and he describes piped-in home entertainment obtained by merely pressing buttons and turning knobs for sermons, lectures, or a wide selection of musical programs. He does not develop this aspect of modern living at length, his preoccupation being in the fields of economics and sociology; but he is clearly not in the camp of those later writers who fear the further advances of technology.
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.
It is a fundamental disposition of humankind to concoct imaginary Utopias, although their names for such places may differ. The word utopia, which has become the familiar designation for such states, was More's creation. It is inevitable that people, recognizing the manifold stupidities, corruptions, and inequities current in their society, should attempt to devise a better system for people living together. Omar Khayyam voiced the attitude admirably in The Rubaiyat.
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Wives are subject to their husbands and husbands are subject to their wives although women are restricted to conducting household tasks for the most part. Only few widowed women become priests. While all are trained in military arts, women confess their sins to their husbands once a month. Gambling, hunting, makeup and astrology are all discouraged in Utopia. The role allocated to women in Utopia might, however, have been seen as being more liberal from a contemporary point of view.
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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.
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.