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Utopia

Summary

Education, Science, Philosophy

Summary Education, Science, Philosophy

Commentary

The Utopian belief in education as a right and a necessity is surprisingly familiar to modern readers but a far cry from the policies of Europe in which only the rich and powerful could hope to be educated. Utopian education, moreover, is systematized and uniform, unlike the European system that often involved independent private tutors and certainly differed from school to school. Through this rational educational system, Utopians felt they could shape the morality and values of their children, to instill in their children the ability to be good Utopians. Education, then, in Utopia is not just a means of intellectual enlightenment; it is a program of moral and cultural development designed to make sure that Utopia will always replenish itself through its children.

The reference to science is once again an effort to show the irrationality of Europe. Thomas More's Europe was a society rapidly expanding its scientific knowledge. Yet despite its scientific achievements Europe was filled with believers in astrology, which had no rational or scientific basis whatsoever. This contrast displays that while Europe has the means to think and act rationally, it often does not seem to have the commitment. Utopia, on the other hand, exists at almost exactly the same level of scientific understanding as Europe, but is committed to rational thought, and so astrology and other similar superstitions do not exist. Similarly, the discussion of Utopian philosophy, which pays no heed to the suppositions of the new European philosophers, is meant to be a biting criticism of the state of European thought. Thomas More's displeasure with the state of European philosophy was not unique to Utopia. During the period in which he wrote Book 2 of Utopia, Thomas More wrote a long letter disparaging the new European philosophers and logicians.

In the matter of the Utopian investigation into the nature of happiness, Utopian reason comes to the conclusion that it is ill-equipped to handle such an inquiry on its own. This seems a strange outcome for reason to come to, and this strangeness underlines a tension between reason and religion that became more evident as the Renaissance led eventually into the Enlightenment and beyond. However, for Thomas More and the Humanists, reason and religion went hand in hand. There simply was no question of the eternal truth of Christ and Christianity. The Utopian investigation of happiness, which begins by categorizing types of happiness and ends with the conclusion that happiness lies in acting virtuously because virtue will be rewarded in the afterlife, comes to much the same conclusion as Christianity. Also, Utopians believe that the only thing better than their philosophical investigation into the nature of things would be a divine revelation, which is exactly what Christianity conceives itself to be. By setting up this situation in which his ideal society, Utopia, venerates the religion of the European society he is trying to criticize, Thomas More manages to endorse the tenets of Christianity itself as the only outcome of rational thought while at the same time forcefully using the model of Utopia to criticize Europe. If the Utopians, with their inferior understanding of the nature of things, can act rationally and justly, then why can't the Europeans, who have the divine revelations of Christ, act similarly? The question is a damning one for Europe as a whole.

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