Thomas More's Utopia Essay

1396 words - 6 pages

Thomas More’s Utopia is a work of ambiguous dualities that forces the reader to question More’s real view on the concept of a utopian society. However, evidence throughout the novel suggests that More did intend Utopia to be the “best state of the commonwealth.” The detailed description of Utopia acts as Mores mode of expressing his humanistic views, commenting on the fundamentals of human nature and the importance of reason and natural law, while gracefully combining the two seemingly conflicting ideals of communism and liberalism. The presence of satirical irony and contradiction clearly defines Utopia as an unobtainable goal, though goal that all societies must pursue nonetheless.

In essence, Utopia is a written manifestation of More’s humanist beliefs. Many of these views are vicariously present in the character of Raphael Hythloday. For example, Hythloday comments on the unwillingness of Kings to take advice from others, claiming they are “drenched as they are and infected with false values from boyhood and on” (More, 2011, p. 28). The idea of “infection” implies that a man is not naturally corrupt or sinful, but rather pure at heart and simply influenced by the environment an individual is exposed to. This is a key humanist concept, which suggests that human nature is malleable and inconstant, and therefore can be positively influenced to do good. Raphael later states, “Pride is too deeply fixed in human nature to be easily plucked out” (More, 2011, p. 98) Though this may seem contradictory to his previous statement, Hythloday still suggests that human nature can be changed, though he candidly admits that it is difficult. More is attempting to illustrate his own hesitations of serving the King through the conversation between the fictional More and Hythloday, which serves as a representation of More’s conflict between his beliefs as a humanist and a servant of the King.

Another facet of the Renaissance humanist values includes the importance of reason and intellectual exploration. More seems to specifically highlight this when describing his Utopian society. For example, More describes Utopians spending idle time participating in scholarly activities, such as attending public lectures and their natural enjoyment of learning. However, More clearly asserts the significance of reason when describing the religions of Utopia. In Utopia, each religion is fundamentally the same, each guided of nature and what is natural. Doing what nature intends, which is established through reason, is the true way of worshipping God, according to the Utopians (More, 2011, p. 2011). This is consistent with the humanist theory of a higher, absolute natural law created by God and thus must be followed by man. In order discover this natural law, one must use reason. With this in consideration, it apparent that More intentionally created Utopia to represent a society of humanists, one that is adheres to all aspects of Renaissance humanism without fault.

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