utopia: naturally good but prone to mischief

Today, Thomas More’s Utopia, written in 1516, is interpreted as a reflection on the ideal state with More a representative of a humanistic and expansive outlook that embodied the Renaissance intellectual milieu. This may be a mistaken assumption; with More actually a defender of the faith, the existing status-quo. His work was predominantly a contribution to the cultural and spiritual heritage of the medieval Christianity of the time with More as a producer of the heritage and not the page turning towards Renaissance thought. He stood at the threshold of this beckoning yet perplexing new world but chose to internalize the spiritual universe of Christendom instead. Still, he measured the damage of an acquisitive society, the society of rising expectations and the behaviors this generated.

Antoine Caron. Execution of Henry More. ---Whether Adam Smith, Ricardo, Bentham or Mill, classical political economy was a pseudo-science of human relationships emptied of moral content, and so today its descendants, whether Marxist Communism or Capitalist Democracy, are founded upon amoral assumptions. But there are no such things as amoral societies. A value-neuter philosophy or science of man is a contradiction in terms. Therefore a society guided by value-neuter principles and amoral in the assumptions which underlie the action of its social mechanisms simply becomes ever-increasingly immoral until the acceleration of the destruction of human values drives its best minds from it in dismay. This is More’s argument in his criticism of sixteenth-century Europe, and of course it is also the argument of artists, writers, philosophers, even economists, on both sides of the Iron Curtain today. It is also the argument of Christianity, even at its most institutionalized and compromised, but it is an ever-mounting experiential, existential realization in the very guts of the most articulate Christian leadership. Read More:http://www.cddc.vt.edu/bps/rexroth/essays/thomas-more.htm

Whether interpreted as a scholastic defense of monasticism or evident proof of the righteousness of socialist cant, More was not aware of these contexts to which he is today embroiled. More was one of the few thinkers to try to construct a model of a community of love while comprehending human fragility and unwillingness for his subject, the individual to embark on such a venture.The statement of injustice is evident, but the means for rectifying injustice through a transformation of consciousness on a collective and coherent level remains pertinent and the source of contemporary fascination.  The antagonism of his Raphael toward Morus in the book is an example of this struggle between the internal and external.

More by Hans Holbein the Younger. ---Rexroth:This is the relevance of More’s Utopia. Of course, it would not work. It is only a schematic model constructed long ago in a different economic era, but it correctly diagnoses the ill, and the remedies will only be found by seeking to improve and develop its prescriptions. Will this happen? image:This is the relevance of More’s Utopia. Of course, it would not work. It is only a schematic model constructed long ago in a different economic era, but it correctly diagnoses the ill, and the remedies will only be found by seeking to improve and develop its prescriptions. Will this happen? No. image:http://tudorhistory.org/people/more/gallery.html

As Kenneth Rexroth has asserted, More did not believe that man was naturally evil. He believed that man was naturally good but prone to mischief. He did not believe that tinkering with the economy and the environment would ensure the automatic release of universal benignity. He did believe that it might be possible to construct an environment and an economy based purely upon natural law as distinguished in his mind from revelation -his Utopians are pagan- which would inhibit tendencies to social destructiveness and enable tendencies toward social peace, joy, creativity and familial community. aaa aaa

The Family of Sir Thomas More, 1530 / 1593 By Hans Holbein the Younger, Rowland Lockey © The National Trust Photographic Library Description Hangs at Nostell Priory. Read More:http://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/happy-birthday-sir-thomas-more/4179/


Kautsky: Compared with this bold criticism, which attacks society at its roots, how limited does not the much belauded action of Luther appear, who commenced a year after the appearance of Utopia to preach against, not indulgences themselves, but the abuse of indulgences, and was impelled to take further steps not by a logical process going on in his mind, but by the logic of facts! And yet while the whole might of Rome was eventually summoned against the man who attacked the abuse of indulgences, without purposing to make any change in the ecclesiastical organisation, no molestation was offered to the man whose doctrines tended to sap the very foundations of society; and the advocate of a Church who was as uncatholic, and in many respects even unchristian, as any one of the reformed churches, became a martyr of the Catholic religion.

Strange as this difference in treatment appears, there was good reason for it. Luther addressed himself to the masses; he expressed the interests of powerful classes and parties. More, with his aspirations, stood alone; he addressed only a small circle of scholars, the people did not understand him and he did not desire to be understood by the people. He therefore wrote his Utopia in Latin, and concealed his thoughts in the garment of satire, which to be sure permitted him greater freedom in the expression of his opinions. …

---Sir Thomas More and Bishop Fisher, 17th-c. Unknown artist. ©Philip Mould, Ltd.---

This brin

s to the last question which remains tc be answered: What did More aim at in his Utopia?

We know that some regard it merely as an imitation of the Platonic Republic, while others declare it to be an idle fantasy.

We believe, however, that we have sufficiently shown that More’s Communism differs essentially from that of Plato, and instead of being “a splendid fruit of the study of antiquity,” as Rudhart would have us believe in his Thomas Morus, it is the product of the social evils and incipient economic tendencies of the Renascence; and that it is based on living actualities, and not on antiquarian book wisdom. Read More:http://www.marxists.org/archive/kautsky/1888/more/ch13.htm

Read More:http://thomasmorestudies.org/g-a3.html

This entry was posted in Art History/Antiquity/Anthropology, Feature Article, Ideas/Opinion, Literature/poetry/spoken word and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>