Utopia | Thomas More

Summary of: Utopia
By: Thomas More

Introduction

Embark on a journey to an extraordinary island where harmony, reason, and equality are valued above all else – the island of Utopia. In Thomas More’s groundbreaking work, ‘Utopia’, readers will discover an alternate society far removed from the corruption, social orders, and power struggles of European countries. More’s vivid account is narrated through the lens of Raphael Hythloday, a Portuguese explorer who shares the customs, beliefs, and practices of the Utopians with great admiration. Immerse yourself in this engaging exploration of an incredibly advanced civilization, where everyone has a place, work is shared equally, and the pursuit of knowledge is paramount.

Uncovering Utopia

Thomas More, in a letter to Peter Giles, shares an oral travelogue transcript about the Utopian state by Raphael Hythloday. More asks Giles to review it for completeness and provides additional information he forgot to ask. More feels the report may offend people with its wit, spirit, and scorn, and worries it may be too difficult or trivial. He seeks Giles’ advice on whether to publish it.

Hythloday’s Reforms

In “Utopia,” Thomas More shares the philosophical journey of a conversation between himself, an English lawyer, and a Portuguese traveler named Raphael Hythloday. Hythloday presents controversial ideas regarding reforms in European society, including the reconstruction of farming villages and the replacement of punishment with restitution. He also criticizes kings and their counsels for not caring about the welfare of their people, citing the corrupt education and social orders as leading causes of crime. Although his ideas were initially met with resistance, they eventually gained support at a dinner with Cardinal John Morton.

The Utopian Philosophy

Hythloday shares his philosophical insights with More, suggesting that rulers give up excess power and wealth for the sake of their people’s happiness. He argues that private property is the root of evil and that only equality can bring happiness. More disagrees, emphasizing the importance of gradual change and incentivizing individuals to work and create value.

Utopia’s Equal Society

In “Utopia,” each citizen has access to everything, and there is no poverty. The book explores the island’s well-built cities, land distribution, and advanced technology. The Utopians practice crop cultivation, animal husbandry, and have a surplus of food. The government system consists of Philarchs, the Archphilarch, and the Prince. The Prince holds the office for life, unless they attempt to establish a dictatorship. The people of Utopia decide everything through the senate, where issues are not debated on the day they are first proposed to avoid ill-considered actions.

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