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Utopia

Sir Thomas More

Conclusion

Religion

Study Questions

Summary

Hythloday believes Utopia to be the greatest social order in the world. As he says, "Everywhere else people talk about the public good but pay attention to their own private interests. In Utopia, where there is no private property, everyone is seriously concerned with pursuing the public welfare." In Utopia, no man worries about food or impoverishment for themselves or any of their descendants. Unlike the rest of the world, where men who do nothing productive live in luxury, in Utopia, all people work and all live well. Only this, in Hythloday's mind, is truly just. Hythloday believes societies other than Utopia are merely conspiracies of the rich, "whose objective is to increase their own wealth while the government they control claims to be a commonwealth concerned with the common welfare." These societies are realms of greed and pride. And pride causes men to measure their welfare not by their well-being, but by having things that others lack, which is irrational and un-Christian. Only in Utopia has pride and all its attendant vices been eviscerated from society.

Hythloday finishes his narration and More comments that all three of them were too tired to discuss the portrait of Utopia that Hythloday had painted. They agree to get together soon in order to more fully analyze and argue over the merits of what was said. More does comment to the reader, however, that he thinks many of the Utopian ways of life are absurd, from their methods of warfare to religion, but most especially in the doctrine of communal property. It is from private property that all nobility, magnificence, splendor, and majesty spring, and it is these things, in More's view, that are the crowning glory of European society. Nevertheless, More also claims there are many Utopian policies (though which he leaves unidentified) that he would like to see employed in Europe, though he does not believe that wish will be soon fulfilled.

Commentary

Utopia ends, first with a rousing flourish by Hythloday in which he claims Utopia to be the most perfect of societies, followed by More's assessment that many Utopian policies are absurd, though some might be worthwhile to employ in Europe. The book gives very little indication of which of these two sides it most supports; More and Hythloday are interested by each other, but though More has learned much from Hythloday he has not been convinced that his initial position against communal property was wrong. In this ambiguous ending the book's overarching theme of worldly pragmatism versus philosophical idealism is crystallized: between the two a choice must be made. A choice for either comes with inherent limitations. Entering politics demands a sacrifice of idealism. Eschewing politics for the pure world of philosophy entails an inability to even try to push one's pure vision into reality. Utopia sits in the span between these two positions. It is a working society in which there is no evil, but the book can offer no means by which an existing society might be transformed into a Utopian model. But in the figure of the fool, of the patient figure of Christian Folly secure in the knowledge of the coming of the Kingdom of Christ, Utopia does offer a means out of the impasse it sees between More and Hythloday. Utopia offers a criticism of European society, offers a model against which that society can be measured and perhaps repaired, but the book ultimately concludes that the only way to perfection is through Christianity and the coming of Christ. One might argue that this is a journey Thomas More himself took, constantly mediating between the ideals of Humanist philosophy and service to his king and country. Ultimately, he became a martyr for religious convictions that few others shared, and for that he was beatified.

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