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.
Samuel Butler, Erewhon. This hugely inventive 1872 satire by the author of the anti-Victorian novel The Way of All Flesh is perhaps more accurately described as ‘anti-utopian’, though it follows the utopian narrative structure. The fictional land of Erewhon – almost ‘nowhere’ backwards – is the setting for this novel. Among the things satirised by Butler in this book is the rise of the machines, which Butler argues will evolve at an ever-faster rate – along the lines of Darwinian evolution – until the machines eventually overtake humans.
Augustine's work set out to defend Christianity against the criticism of proponents of traditional pagan worship. It launches an attack on the pattern of immorality in Roman life under the worship of the pagan gods and offers, in contrast, the way of life taught by Christianity. His arguments are based on his interpretation of history, both Old Testament history and Roman. There is not a specific practical plan for the government of his imaginary ideal state but rather a distinction drawn on philosophical lines between two guiding principles. In the "City of Earth," the love of self holds precedence over love of God; in the "City of God," the love of God holds precedence over the love of self.
Edward Bellamy, Looking Backward: 2000-1887. Published in 1888, Bellamy’s novel imagining a perfect future society spawned a nationwide movement in America. (It also predicted electronic broadcasting and credit cards.) Bellamy’s plan for a ‘cloud palace for an ideal humanity’ also helped to inspire the garden city movement in the US and the UK. The best edition is Looking Backward 2000-1887 (Oxford World’s Classics).
In this lecture, Moody will describe the common elements of near-death experiences, as medical doctors in many countries have studied them. Also, he will describe shared death experiences, an identical phenomenon reported by bystanders at the death of some other person. Moody traces debates on these topics back to Plato and Democritus, who argued about whether near-death experiences indicate an afterlife, or just a dying brain. Moody will discuss fascinating new ways of studying such experiences and their relationship to humanity's biggest question: what happens when we die?
H. G. Wells, A Modern Utopia. Wells was repeatedly drawn to utopias and dystopias, as is evident right from the beginning of his career and his first novel, The Time Machine (1895). The 1905 novel A Modern Utopia posits the existence of an alternate Earth, very much like our own world and populated with doubles of every human being on our own planet. The rule of law is maintained by the Samurai, a voluntary noble order.
Francis Bacon's New Atlantis was probably written in 1624, but was not published until 1627, a year after the author's death. Like the work of his contemporaries, Campanella and Andreae, Bacon's book shows the influence of More in certain broad aspects. It purports to relate the discovery by an exploring expedition in the Pacific Ocean of an island where the natives have developed a society offering much to admire. The goal of the common good is sought through learning and justice. The principal attention of the account is focused on an elaborate academy of science. Bacon has incorporated in this society the basic ideas that he developed more elaborately in his longer philosophical and scholarly treatises; namely, that the advancement of human welfare can best be achieved through the systematic exploration of nature. His famous "scientific method" is founded on painstaking observation of natural phenomena and constructing, through inductive reasoning, a body of knowledge based on those observations. He urges experimentation to improve general knowledge and to develop inventions for human comfort and pleasure. The central institute in the capital of New Atlantis, called Solomon's House, is a huge academy which foreshadows the later creation of scientific laboratories and academies, such as the English Royal Society.
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 planning of their extensive program of amusements has two main purposes. First, it is intended to stimulate the economy. The games and feelies all require expensive equipment; that means more factories and also more opportunities for people to distribute their pay checks. Second, the government is concerned to keep everybody busy during waking hours to leave them no odd moments for thinking.
Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970) is a science fiction thriller film, which was adapted from the novel "Colossus" by Dennis Feltham Jones. This classic SF movie describes the events that happened when the powerful supercomputer (which controlled military defense capabilities of both Soviet Union and the USA) became sentient and held the entire world as a hostage in its quest to secure world peace.
Men Like Gods (1923) by H. G. Wells – Men and women in an alternative universe without world government in a perfected state of anarchy ("Our education is our government," a Utopian named Lion says;) sectarian religion, like politics, has died away, and advanced scientific research flourishes; life is governed by "the Five Principles of Liberty," which are privacy, freedom of movement, unlimited knowledge, truthfulness, and freedom of discussion and criticism.
The Islands of Wisdom (1922) by Alexander Moszkowski – In the novel various utopian and dystopian islands that embody social-political ideas of European philosophy are explored. The philosophies are taken to their extremes for their absurdities when they are put into practice. It also features an "island of technology" which anticipates mobile telephones, nuclear energy, a concentrated brief-language that saves discussion time and a thorough mechanization of life.
Sir Thomas More, Utopia. This 1516 work is the book that gave us the word ‘utopia’ – from the Greek meaning ‘no-place’, though with a pun on eu-topos, ‘good place’, implying that such an ideal society is too good to be true. More’s island utopia has variously been interpreted as a sincere description of the perfect world and as a satirical work poking fun at the world’s excessive idealists. Mind you, given that in Utopia adulterers are taken into slavery, and repeat offenders are executed, it makes you wonder whether More’s Utopia isn’t more dystopian than anything…
The rulers in the City of the Sun are men of superior intelligence and probity. The head of the government is called Hoh. His chief ministers are Pon, Sin, and Mor, which are translated Power, Wisdom, and Love. The requisites for the chief are a familiarity with the history of all kingdoms and their governments, a thorough knowledge of all sciences, and a mastery of metaphysics and theology. This concept of a head of state is clearly reminiscent of Plato's philosopher-king. The word Hoh means metaphysics.
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.
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In the treatment of education, Campanella reveals himself as a seventeenth-century thinker, placing great emphasis on the study of the sciences, all of the sciences. He has a plan for spreading information on all branches of knowledge through pictures displayed throughout the city on walls and in corridors of public buildings — visual aids to education for persons of all ages. Their leaders believe that the advancement of scientific knowledge is the principal key to the betterment of the race. The report claims that those people have developed not only the telescope but also such modern inventions as power-propelled ships and flying machines.
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.
In George Orwell's 1984 (1949), the society of the year 1984 which Orwell projects for us is based on the assumption that a "limited" nuclear war of the 1950s had left civilization severely crippled and that government controls were seized by well-organized opportunists employing the familiar methods of a police state to maintain power. London, the scene of the novel's action, is the capital of Oceania, one of three superpowers. The other superpowers are called Eastasia and Eurasia. The city of London contains a few enormous government buildings and a small number of fine apartment buildings, but the vast majority of the buildings are eighteenth- or nineteenth-century houses in dilapidated condition which provide shelter for the common people. There are also a good many neglected bombed-out areas. Certainly this is not a picture of somebody's dream city.
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.
Another surprising feature is the attitude toward machinery. Several centuries earlier, the Erewhonians had attained a remarkable stage of sophistication in the development of machinery, but through the teachings of a prophet they had been persuaded that machines might some day become masters over men, with the result that they destroyed all of the machinery having any degree of complexity and outlawed any further experimentation in the field. They retained only the simplest kinds of implements — spades and scythes — and horses and wagons.