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Utopia

Sir Thomas More

Further Disagreements

The Fool and the Friar

Common Property

Summary

More states that the insight Hythloday has displayed in his story only emphasizes what a superior job Hythloday would do as a King's counselor. Hythloday disagrees once more, stating that until Plato's prediction that Kings will be philosophers becomes true, no king will be impressed with the advice given by philosophers.

Hythloday gives another example, imagining himself a counselor in the French court. The French King wants to maintain his control of Milan and recover the area around Naples, and the courtiers are coming up with plans. He describes a number of possible plans involving playing different states against each other and numerous secret treaties, and then describes the reaction of the other courtiers when he, Hythloday, proposes that they should forget about expanding French territory and concentrate instead on governing well the territory France already holds. More concedes that Hythloday would be laughed at. Hythloday, in a groove, gives another example, describing a King and his counselors coming up with the best means for the king to raise money. Hythloday wonders what would be the response to his proposal that all of the proposed policies, no matter how intricate, are faulty because the assumptions behind them are faulty; the king's safety depends not on his own riches, but on the wealth of his subjects. What if, Hythloday asks, he explained that a ruler should rule according to the interests of the people, not his own?

More again concedes that Hythloday's advice would not be accepted. But More replies that Hythloday is taking a wrong-headed view. Instead of engaging in "ivory-tower theorizing, which makes no allowance for time and place," he should employ a form of philosophy that is better suited to politics, that adapts itself to the circumstances of a situation and tries to do what it can.

Hythloday responds to More by saying that to adopt such a malleable philosophy would be tantamount to lying, since he knows the speeches that he just delivered to be true. Hythloday comments that if it is necessary to suppress all policies or ideas that do not fit with the evil habits of human beings, then the teachings of Christ will also have to be suppressed, since even more than Hythloday's speeches, Christ's teachings are at odds with the customs of humankind. He notes that some cunning preachers have in fact molded the teachings of Christ, but that such an action only allows people to be bad without troubling their consciences. Hythloday insists he could accomplish nothing as a counselor: he would either disagree with the policies of other advisors and be ignored, or agree with them and support the ludicrous status quo.

Commentary

The extended discussion between More and Hythloday has a double purpose. The examples provided by Hythloday are social commentary and criticism of European political practices. The examples--which are supported as being valid representations of European politics by the fact that More does not disagree--demonstrate the extent to which personal greed and pride warps politics. In showing how advice designed to create a well-governed and wealthy state for all inhabitants would not be accepted, Hythloday demonstrates the extreme corruption and irrationality of European politics. He further shows that in its emphasis on greed and money, these Christian societies in fact show very little resemblance to Christian doctrine. Hythloday will soon develop the theme of the corruption of European society from Christian values by illustrating exactly how Utopians avoided such a thing from happening.

The argument also elaborates the relation between the worldly pragmatic More and the idealist philosopher Hythloday. Hythloday claims that his proposals, though rational and beneficial, will not be accepted and so there is no use in joining a King's counsel. More argues that though the ideal will never be accepted, the only way to make any sort of beneficial social change is through interaction with the apparatus of power and piecemeal compromise. Each has a valid point, but what is most evident is that neither can convince the other of his position. More and Hythloday truly offer two separate alternatives, with very little room for compromise between them. The choice for one seems a choice against the other.

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