"Utopia" is a work of fiction and political philosophy by Thomas More (1478–1535) published in 1516 in Latin. The book is a frame narrative primarily depicting a fictional island society and its religious, social and political customs. (From feedbooks.com)
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Chapter 1 - Discourses of Raphael Hythloday, of the Best State of a Commonwealth
As you read the text, consider the tone of the piece. (Please view the video below to review tone). Some critics believe the tone is almost sarcastic, skeptical and satirical. A satire is a piece of literature that uses humor, irony, or exaggeration to criticize a group of people's values or vices. Considering More was a devout Catholic and Utopia is a society based on logic and reasoning, many critics find it hard to believe More was promoting the Utopian lifestyle. (This annotation contains a video)
What do Hythloday's education and travels imply about his character?
The narrator mentions the technological advancements such as the compass in his account of Hythloday's travels. This is important in developing the exposition of the text. More's piece is published in 1516 which is in the middle of the Renaissance. To review the Renaissance and its impact, please view the video clip below. You only need to watch the only first eight minutes of the video. (This annotation contains a video)
More contends that Hythloday would do a great deal of good as an advisor to a king. Hythloday argues that kings and princes do not need advisors because their actions are motivated by
Based on the highlighted passage, you can infer that Hythloday is arguing AGAINST
Hythloday argues that another cause of theft is an imbalance of wealth and property. He believes that because the wealthy are a smaller part of the population but control the majority of the land and its outputs, there is a discord among the poorer classes. He believes a solution is to spread the wealth, land, and goods throughout the social classes and essentially eliminating social classes based on economic status. Which socioeconomic system does it sound as if Hythloday supports?
Hythloday has an issue with condemning a man to death because he is convicted of robbery. He makes several points about what motivates a person to commit a crime and also the relationship between crime and punishment. This helps to develop the emerging themes of society and government. Please click on the link below to review emerging theme. (This annotation contains a video)
Hythloday argues that God's intentions and laws are misconstrued and manipulated by man to serve their own purposes. He states that if that occurs, "it frees people from the obligation of the divine law." In which ways does More's own beliefs influence this aspect Hythloday's argument? Use historical and biographical evidence to support your response.
What do you think of the Polylerits form of punishment for thieves? Do you think it is fair and can be applied to a real society?
According to Hythloday, the purpose of the Polylerits punishment is to ___________ the criminals.
The "Fool" was an actual person in the royal court. The Fool's function was twofold: to entertain the court with silliness and to entertain the court with brutally honest (but humorous) observations. The Fool was not punished for his observations, and as a result could criticize members and guest of the court (such as the King or members of the clergy) without worry of retribution. Below is an image of "the Fool." (This annotation contains an image)
More is referring to Plato's Republic. The text was written in ancient Greece and proposes how a perfect city state would run and be run by philosophers. Some believe that More based this text on Plato's Republic. To view a video summary of the Republic, please click on the link below. (This annotation contains a video)
What does Hythloday imply in his story about the Achorians?
What does the highlighted statement imply about kings seek to keep their subjects weak and poor?
Hythloday's second scenario is an attempt to illustrate how a king should rule his subjects in order to preserve his authority. His central claim is that a king should not rule oppressively but with the cares and concerns of his subjects as the motivation for his decisions. In theory, this sounds ideal and logical, but as you read, can you think of any rebuttals to Hythloday's argument?
Though Hythloday argues that the government leaders do not respect or respond to philosophy, More argues that his attitude is defeatist citing that "you should not forsake the ship in a storm because you cannot command the winds."
What does the highlighted passage imply about advisors or philosophers who try to work alongside heads of state?
In what tone does More implore Hythloday to tell him more about Utopia?
Hythloday contends that private property is the root of society's ails. More argues that without the motivation that personal gain provides, society will become lazy. This develops the theme of society.
It is important to discuss the etymology and denotation of the term utopia. It is from the Greek meaning "no place." The connotation in contemporary language is a perfect place free from societal ills. What do you think More was trying to convey by naming Hythloday's land "no place"?
Chapter 2 - Of Their Towns, Particularly of Amaurot
What is ironic about the highlighted statement?
According to Hythloday, everything in Utopia is superior to anything he has seen in Europe.
Chapter 3 - Of Their Magistrates
Based on Hythloday's description of the Utopian form of government, you can infer that he is critical of ALL of the following elements of European monarchies EXCEPT
Chapter 4 - Of Their Trades, and Manner of Life
There is an interesting argument that Hythloday presents in his description about the Utopians and their occupations. First, Hythloday notes that even women work. Second, the Utopians only work six hours a day. This may lead you to believe that they don't accomplish much in one day, but if you consider that everyone works, they probably get a lot accomplished. Remember, this society has no elite and no poor class, so no one is truly exempt from working based on economic status.
Hythloday states, "The magistrates never engage the people in unnecessary labour..." What does the description of the Utopian work philosophy imply about the relationship between the state and the people?
Chapter 5 - Of Their Traffic
As you read, consider some of Hythloday's claims about Utopia. Though they are ideal, they are not totally believable because Hythloday fails to account for human nature. For example, would you and your family move to an unknown city and uproot your lives simply because the government asked you to? Why or why not? (Remember there is no financial or personal gain associated with this request).
In addition to lack of personal and private property, what does the highlighted passage imply about hereditary bonds?
Chapter 6 - Of the Travelling of the Utopians
Utopia is not without boundaries and limitations. If you travel without permission, you are "punished as a fugative" and a second offense results in slavery. In a Communist state, population control is necessary to insure that everyone is fed and can be monitored. Do you think that plays a role in Utopia as well?
The people of Utopia do not value gold and silver but value iron because "men can no more lie without iron than without fire or water." Hythloday believes this illustrates how the Utopians are not plagued by greed and wealth. Why is this ironic? Use textual examples to support your response.
In Utopia the slaves' chains are forged using gold and silver. What does this symbolize?
Though the Utopian have religious values that were "conveyed down among them by tradition," which value is paramount in their society?
There are a couple of things to note here: 1. The majority of More's readers are Christians or Catholics. They would innately be critical of someone who values logic and reason above faith. 2. Consider how Hythloday's description of the Utopian's value system develops the theme of religion. Ultimately, the Utopians believe in God as a "tradition" but not a source of judgement or authority. What are the ramifications for a society that does not answer to a higher power?
According to Hythloday, the Utopians find hunting barbaric. However, they do allow and "turn over" the responsibility of hunting to their slaves. Which term best describes the Utopians attitude and actions about hunting?
Read the passage about Utopians believes about pleasure and pain carefully. Do you think that it is human nature to indulge in pleasure? If so, by limiting pleasurable moments, do you think the Utopians are also inhibiting human nature?
Hythloday is a fan of the Greeks. Do you think he demonstrates his bias by claiming the Utopians were probably a colony of the Greeks?
Chapter 7 - Of Their Slaves, and of Their Marriages
In a country that purports a society that is not based on economic or social status, Utopia has slaves. This is an example of
In the beginning of the text, we noted that the tone of text was believed to be sardonic. Hythloday's description of Utopia's belief in divorce supports this claim. It is believed that More was sentenced to die because he would not support Henry VIII's bid to have a divorce granted by the Catholic Church.
Do you agree with Hythloday's assertion that the Utopians have "but few laws" because "such is their constitution that they need not many"? Or do you believe that laws are made in order to prevent the natural inclination of people? Cite textual and real world evidence to support your response.
Hythloday argues that the Utopians have no need for treaties because they are always broken. He explains that if you need a treaty to prove your integrity, then you are probably lacking integrity. This is similar to the scene in Julius Ceasar where Cassius and the other conspirators meeting in Brutus' garden. Though they suggest swearing a oath, Brutus declines. Please click on the link below and scroll down to Line 732 to read Brutus' response. (This annotation contains a link)
Chapter 8 - Of Their Military Discipline
According to Hythloday, the Utopians rarely have to engage in a physical war because they deftly use _______ to surmount force and threats.
Though the Utopians do not believe in material wealth or engaging in war, they have no issue with hiring someone to fight their battles for them (literally). The examples of the hypocrisy of Utopia are latent criticisms of Hythloday's tale and the Utopian ideals.
When a Utopian is actually engaged in war, he will have his wife, children, extended family, and "those that are mutually allied" placed in the battlefield with him. This insures the soldiers will fight to the death in order to
Hythloday claims that when Utopia conquers a land or wins a battle, "they themselves take no share of the spoil." He is referring to the conquered land's goods, but in which other ways does Utopia "share the spoil" of its victory?
Chapter 9 - Of the Religions of the Utopians
One of the Utopians "most ancient laws" is that "no man ought to be punished for his religion." This is similar to which provision in the United States?
Though the Utopians allow any religion to be practiced within their country and they admire some aspects of other faiths, they "despise and laugh at auguries." An augur was a priest who interpreted omens and signs. This reinforces the idea that the Utopians' reliance on reason and logic is paramount in their society.
If a priest commits a crime in Utopia he is not punished. His punishment is left in the hands of God. Do you agree with this idea? What are the ramifications of allowing a person who is held in such high-regard to go unpunished for a crime he or she commits? Use textual and real world examples to support your response.
In Utopian temples, there are no images of God because each worshipper may imagine what their deity looks like. This is interesting because in 1517, Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses and marked a change in Christianity forever. Until that time, Christianity and Catholicism were synonymous. Lutheran (and later Protestant) beliefs varied from the Catholic Church. One element of discord was the belief in Saints and iconoclastic images. Protestants did not believe in praying to the saints or in ornate images of Christ and his deeds. Though this post-dates More's Utopia, it is an interesting similarity.
Base your response on the highlighted passage. How does a typical Utopian's relationship with his religion differ from More's relationship with Catholicism?
Based on the highlighted passage, Hythloday is arguing against capitalism.
What does Hythloday blame for the inability of the Utopian ideals to be accepted worldwide?