Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Utopia (4). Sir Thomas More. Conclusion.

1516. Trans. Peter K. Marshall. New York: Washington Square Press. 1965.

Why read it? Sir Thomas More wrote his fictional account of Utopia to demonstrate that the cure for all social evil—poverty, oppression, violence, cruelty, exploitation—is in abolishing private property. Eliminate private property, he said, and you eliminate social subordination and all of the evils that accompany it. And he describes Utopia as a place where private property has been eliminated.

Sample ideas and quotes:


Utopia: “But out of the gold and silver…they make chamber pots and all the most humble utensils.”

“Utopians…are amazed that any man can be pleased with the feeble glow of a little gem or stone, when he can gaze at a star and the very sun itself.” p. 69.

“Utopians…are also amazed that gold, of its own nature so useless, is now everywhere so highly valued that man himself, through whom and for whose use it gained its worth, is valued much less than gold itself.” p. 70.

Utopia: “For it [their language] has a rich vocabulary, a pleasant sound, and is an unsurpassed vehicle for expressing feelings.” p. 71.

“…she [Nature] repeatedly exhorts you to see to it that you do not follow your own advantages to the extent of producing disadvantages for others.” p. 74.

The Utopians on hunting: “But if you are held by the hope of slaughter and the expectation of seeing something torn to pieces before your eyes, it ought rather to move you to pity to see a little hare so weak, shy and harmless torn apart by a powerful, fierce and cruel dog…. The Utopians delegate this practice of hunting, as something unworthy of free men, to butchers….” p. 78.

The Utopians on hunting: “…the hunter seeks nothing but pleasure from the slaughter and dismembering of a poor little animal…. The constant experience of so savage a pleasure turns into cruelty.” p. 78.

“Almost all the Utopians claim that bodily health is a great pleasure, the foundation and basis of all others; for even alone it can produce a calm and delightful state of life.” p. 80.

“I have promised to tell you of their [Utopians’] practices, not defend them.” p. 83.

Utopia: “But usually the most serious crimes are punished with slavery…. They think this just as unpleasant for the criminals and more profitable for the state than if they hurried to execute the guilty and do away with them immediately. Their work brings more profit than their death.” p. 91.

“They [the Utopians] do not merely deter people from crimes by punishment; they also set up rewards to incite them to virtue.” p. 92.

“…they [the Utopians] exclude absolutely all lawyers since these plead cases with cunning and slyly dispute the laws. They think it is useful that each man should plead his own case. In Utopia every man has a good knowledge of law.” p. 93.

Utopia. “But by far the largest section of the population, and the wisest, too…thinks that there is a certain single divinity, unknown, eternal, boundless, inexplicable, beyond the understanding of the human mind, diffused through the whole of this universe in virtue, not bulk.” p. 108.

Comment: Think of the influence this book has had on society, the number of societies that have sprung up with the Utopian ideal of banishing private property and establishing communal effort and equal sharing of the rewards. Of course, these societies all fail because human nature is competitive, grasping, worshipping power and determined for personal success. I guess, from the Christian point of view, human nature is as it is because of Original Sin and the loss of Paradise. RayS.

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