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More's Humanist Utopia

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  1. Introduction.
  2. Utopia and the Christian tradition.
  3. More's communism.
  4. Jonathan Swift and more.
  5. Irony and modern Utopias.
  6. Conclusions.

Within the narrative, the Utopians undergo a shock of recognition when the little expedition of Europeans lead to the introduction of Christianity and then modern technology. A utopia is by definition an ideal society and therefore does not need to change. In fact, by the strictest standards of logic, such a state cannot change, because it represents perfection ? to change was not only introduce imperfection, it would betray a previously latent imperfection that allowed for the change. Paradoxically, no utopia can be perfected, because such a society--whether an imagined speculation or an existent state--must have been created by a fallible, limited human being

[...] 113) Utopia was not the solution to the problems of England, which were explicitly discussed in the first section of the book. Book Hytholoday's commentary on the problem of theft in England, sets the scene for entry into these debates. The context is one in which the enclosure of common land is having a profoundly alienating effect upon the income and stability of many livelihoods. Idle mercenaries added to this problem, as did rising food prices. Theft had become a social problem of some magnitude, and the penalty for theft was death. [...]


[...] As Gulliver describes more of the culture of the Houyhnhnms, the similarities to the simple-life utopia grow stronger. Although they use tools, have a very basic form of transport, and practice agriculture, they are still in the stone age technologically. And of course, clothing (which neither race wears; only Gulliver is clothed) is a source of confusion. The Houyhnhnm finds this most peculiar "for he could not understand why Nature should teach us to conceal what Nature had given neither himself nor Family were ashamed of any Parts of their Bodies." (Swift, p. [...]


[...] Ultimately, "the dramatic emphasis in Utopia does not depend on any philosophical or political system. Rather the two books form a self-contained literary unit whose consistent theme is the importance of open-mindedness for the improvement of the social order. The ability to experiment, learn, and change is more important to Utopia than any particular new institution or custom presented" (Kanna, p. 91). In More's fiction, the society of his own day is judged and found wanting, not in the light of absolute and divinely ordained moral standards, but rather in comparison to specific (if hypothetical) instances of other human societies doing things differently? and better. [...]

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