1. What genres are intermingled in More’s treatise? (political treatise on the ideal state, travel narrative, fantasy, philosophical dialogue, colloquy between friends) Is the mingling of genres effective?
2. What are some ways in which More’s treatise resembles sections of Plato’s Republic? (emphasis on communism as the basis of society; regulation of family life and passions, regulation of greed, a heavily controlled society)
3. What are some striking differences from Plato, for example, in More’s views of universal education, governance, and war? (All will be educated, all will engage in manual labor—not a class stratified society; in politics, a democratic republic, with governors elected annually; the Republic is a military state, whereas the Utopians abhor war)
4. For its time (or ours), what seem radical aspects of More’s thought and prescriptions? (e. g., radical equality in labor—all must participate in manual work, cmp. Maoism)
5. In More's Utopia, what purpose is served by the careful accounts of dozens of practical features of life? Have these influenced the structure and content of later utopias? (the topics considered have formed basis of discussion for utopias by Morris, Bellamy, and many others)
6. Book I was written last; why may the introduction of a frame have seemed expedient? (distances More’s potentially dangerous views)
7. Does the frame narrative of Book I alter or complicate our interpretation of Book II? (lays out the social conditions which require radical change; emphasizes the distance between Utopia and More’s/our own society; the reader also understands that the society presented is only one of many alternatives)
8. What role is served by the figure of Raphael Hythloday? What does his last name mean? (purveyor of nonsense) (philosophical in interests, an honest traveler) Is it also significant that his first name is Raphael? (an angel, messenger of God) Why do you think More chose to present his chief exponent of an ideal state as an angelic purveyor of “nonsense”? (his ideals seem nonsensical to those accustomed to our world)
8. Why is Raphael unwilling to enter the king’s service? (princes study the arts of war, require flattery, listen only to counsel which appeals to their greed) What does this indicate about More’s feeling about courts? (compare Plato’s concern that kings should be philosophers)
9. What purpose is served by the example of Cardinal Morton? (provides moral ideal of Book I; he is willing to listen to new arguments)
10. What purpose is served by the conversation between the friends and Hythloday on the severity of punishments? According to Hythloday, what social conditions of the day degrade morality and reduce many to indigence?
- people unable to earn their livings;
- enclosure removes the commons for grazing and food;
- idle servants of the aristocratic class consume public wealth;
- war promotes a vicious character in the soldiery;
- rich men control the markets and create monopolies;
- national self-sufficiency is destroyed by the importation of foreign goods;
- many live in wanton luxury and others in empty idleness;
- decisions are made for personal profit rather than the good of the wider economy and the people.
- society creates thieves and then punishes them for what it has made them
Are any/all of these issues still relevant today?
11. What are some remedies which Hythloday would propose? (laws to restrain monopolies by the rich, regulation of autocratic power, establishment of communal and more democratic social system)
12. What forms of pedantry does More parody through his speaker?
13. What are some of Raphael’s arguments against the death penalty for theft?
- those who steal should instead be given enforced labor and the chance to reform;
- God is merciful;
- the death penalty encourages murder to conceal the crime.
Are these good arguments? Is capital punishment still a controversial issue?
14. What function is served by presenting several alternate utopias? (gives sense of other possibilities) What are their features?
- Polylerites—“land of much nonsense”—instead of enforcing the death penalty, they require restitution
- Anchorians—have given up their former imperialist ambitions and live in peace
- Macarians—limit the power of their king to accumulate wealth and thus wage war
15. What is the significance of the feud between the fool and the friar? (by contrast the Cardinal is peaceable)
16. Why does Hythloday believe that it is impossible to give counsel to kings? (his counsel would be rejected; realpolitik prevents honesty; even the narrator advises Raphael to temporize—is this satirical?) Would this opinion have had personal meaning for More?
17. Why is accommodation to the status quo counterproductive? (palliatives will be insufficient; an entirely new basis of property relations is needed)
18. Would More have found any antecedents for his communitarian, social-ethical views in Catholic beliefs or practice? (monks lived communally and engaged in both manual labor and prayer)
19. Why is unequal distribution harmful? (private property leads to hoarding and poverty—the worst people become the richest—a point later made by John Ruskin in Unto This Last)
20. How does Hythloday answer the objections of his listeners? (by recounting the mode of life in Utopia)
Utopia, Book II
What are the country’s geographical and physical qualities?
How are cities arranged? (equal in size and plan—anticipates the late 19th century movement towards town planning—in particular, compare the later Garden City designs of Ebenezer Howard)
What purpose is served by the two year rotation between country and city?
How many persons live in each country household? (no fewer than 40 men and women and 2 slaves) Why do you think the number is so large? (several persons are needed to work a large farm)
Does the mention of slaves startle? Why the number of 2? (More intends for most labor to be performed by citizens)
Who are the slaves? (captives, also criminals--still a two-tiered system, outsiders vs. themselves, contrast Morris)
How are goods distributed?
How many Utopian cities are there, and what are some of their features? (54) What actual metropole corresponds to the Utopian Amaurot, situated in the country’s center? (London)
How are dwelling places determined? (houses are rotated by lot; remain unlocked; contain gardens) What would be the effect of these practices? (no one would feel possessiveness about a soon-to-be vacated building, would feel responsibility for other homes as well; could use gardens for food)
What kind of persons are the Utopians?
--agile, sprightly, strong beyond their height A74
--curb diseases, study medicine, A75 [a different emphasis than in News from Nowhere]
--employ planned agriculture--transplant forests
--admire God who created natural organisms
--easy-going, good-tempered, creative 74 (compare Morris)
--related to Greeks, a wise people
--ardent printers A76
--absorb new inventions immediately
--a shipping power--cmp. England, A76
--restrict outsourcing--all goods must be carried in their own ships, A76
--great explorers, A76
What do the Utopians believe is the basis of happiness?
--Their morality is based on a rational desire for happiness. This is not however hedonistic; happiness consists not in pleasures but in doing what is good and just
--reason enjoins mutual help--cmp. Morris again, compassion and helpfulness are rational.
--anti-monastic in his approval of pleasure, A70
What does the narrator argue is the advantage of giving to others? A70 gives happiness to self
What value do the Utopians place on honors? (deceptive and illusory, N57) aristocratic birth? (valueless, N57) wealth? (large accumulations are useless, N57)
According to the narrator, what are the two basic types of pleasures?
--physical and mental
What is More's view of the physical pleasures?
--eliminates puritan disapproval of physical pleasures; the "passions" measured by their consequences. How would this view have seemed radical or immoral at the time?
--eschew self-destruction except for some higher cause, A74
--pleasures of the body include sweet sensations and the delectable inner movement of music [would seem more than physical--also mental
--highest physical pleasure is health; Utopians are healthy and agil, A74
--Utopians are conscious of their well-being in daily life; a significant aspect of a good utopia is that its denizens are not static but healthy and active
--other bodily pleasures important only to maintain health
What are pleasures of the mind? (memory and anticipation; contrast Plato; More here introduces a psychological view of human life)
--happiness of life consists of cultural activities. How is this a contrast to Plato's Republic? (in Plato, most elite citizens spent their time in abstract contemplation; in News from Nowhere all citizens spend time in active artwork, manual labor, and creative achievements
What views do the Utopians hold of Christianity? (radical in origins but compromised in practice) To what extent are they unorthodox in belief and practice? Of religion in general?
Are they completely tolerant toward those of other beliefs and religions? (no, but considerably more tolerant than the norms of the period and long afterwards)
How are religious leaders--"priests"--chosen? 84 (elected) Is this astoundingly radical for its time? What Protestant group would later name itself after the practice of congregational choice of a minister? (Congregationalists, Presbyterians--other Dissenting sects similar permitted congregational choice)
Does More lay out clearly the Utopian relationship between the civil and clerical authorities?
What form of education do the Utopians receive?
--educated in their own tongue (that is, not Latin, as was then common)
--trained in music, logic, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, weather forecasting
Would this have been a typical curriculum of the day?
What are unusual features of Utopian education? (emphasizes need to discover for oneself) What later educational theorists have prescribed "learning by doing"? (Dewey and others)
What features of a then-standard education did More wish to be eliminated? (formal logic and rhetoric) What is startling about these views? (formal logic and rhetoric were the basis of ecclesiastical training, the tools of the law and church--his is a radically anti-establishmentarian position)
What is More's view of the mercantile faith in the inherent value of a gold standard? (gold not used for exchange; economy functions through exchange) Were these views advanced for More's day? What excesses were they designed to curb? (hoarding, refusal to contribute resources for the common good)
What habits do the Utopians practice to ensure that gold is not overly valued in their society?
--they adorn slaves and chamberpots with gold, and so it becomes associated with the more degraded aspects of society (cmp. the gaudy dress of Boffin the Dustman in Morris's News from Nowhere)
--Cmp. Ruskin's view of gold in Unto This Last--should be purely ornamental.)
What has happened to the regard for jewels? --These are now considered baubles for children. Why does More make this point? (Jewels collected and used by nobility and others as trappings of wealth; monarchy hoarded wealth.) What story reinforces his point that the values ascribed to objects may vary from culture to culture? (When the Anenolians appear from afar dressed in golden and jewel-adorned array, the Utopians view them with surprise and contempt.)
Why are the Utopians surprised that jewels should be so valued? (stars and other natural phenomena are of far greater beauty and less prized)
What view do the Utopians hold of societies in which personal well-being is subordinated to wealth/possession of gold? (marvel at something so strange)
Who has authority in civil/domestic life?
--in each unit, the oldest parent rules--rule by unelected husbands and elders; strict rule by age and sex--patriarchal senocracy?
Would this form of domestic organization have seemed unusual at the time? (actually existing practice, to some degree)
What do you think might be difficulties of this system? (oldest might be entirely foolish, selfish, or arbitrary; doesn't allow for mental limitations sometimes present in old age) Is it consistent with the representative government practiced by the Utopians in matters of government and religion?
How is Utopia governed? How are magistrates chosen and what are their duties?
--30 households elect a phylarch--every 10 phylarchs ruled by a head phylarch
--elected by secret ballot
--representatives chosen for geographical distribution (as in parliament)_
--chief magistrates elected
--no secret negotiations permitted
--rule by popular assembly and senate, N39
--magistrates also work as an example to others
How radical would these prescriptions have seemed in 1516? (no precedents in Europe at the time! The secret ballot was not instituted in England until the 19th century)
What group of persons are exempted from other forms of duties?
--scholars; 500 in each city are exempted from work
--can be promoted to class of scholar
--head phylarchs and prince are chosen from this class
Does the formation of a scholarly or learned class suggest a form of class restriction? Had Plato suggested a similar caste of rulers? (cmp. later Fabianism, rule by informed meritocracy)
How much choice of occupation is allowed in Utopia?
--one is able to transfer households; a household serves as a kind of guild
How much labor is required? 6 hours daily; continued labor viewed as slavery (the current lot of humans)
How do the Utopians use their leisure? shared culture; adult education, moral recreation, N41
How do Utopians ensure that a sufficient quantity of goods is produced? N42
--no goods are produced for the luxury trade
--heads of households exchange goods at the marketplace; no one takes more than needed because nothing will be lacking [Are there limits to this confidence in self-policing?]
What distribution practices ensure that all have a sufficiency?
--excess goods are transferred to those who need them, so that all receive enough
--1/7 of exports are given to the poor of other countries -- Is this more generous than U. S. 21st century provision? (we mostly sell arms)
What production standards do the Utopians apply to the making of goods? (work must be true and natural, also concern with the nature of the work--compare Morris)
What shift in labor practices has increased the incentive to work? (no elaborate permissions or registrations needed and all have access to the common store; the openness of labor will be an incentive to work--all are able to see what others do)
Is the sharing of common goods and permission for all to work an instance of proto-socialism?
What views do the Utopians hold on war? Are these fully consistent? What relations do they hold with other countries? 78 Is this a commentary on the circumstances of his time? (constant feuding between England and France, English encroachments into Scotland and Wales, etc.)
What kind of clothing is worn by Utopians? (practical, 43)
How do the Utopians respond to older buildings? (practice restoration, 43--anticipates Ruskin and Morris)
How do the Utopians regard their relationship with animals? The practice of slaughtering animals? What practices of his day is More criticizing by these observations?
What characterizes their streets? (repaired--a crucial matter in Europe; compare similar incident in Morris)
How do the Utopians arrange the distribution of population?
--limitation on the number of households in each city, with 10-16 adults in a household
--population in urban areas controlled--30 x 200 households = 6000 households--city can't be above about 100,000 inhabitants
--found colonies; is this inconsistent with views of imperialism expressed elsewhere, as in discussing the alternate colonies?
Why would More have thought it desirable to limit population in urban areas? (London already center of filth and disease; no drainage systems, garbage collection, etc.) Is More a pioneer in considering the need for town planning? At what point in Britain's history would this become more common? (Garden City movement, model planned towns of 20th century!)
How do the Utopians manifest an understanding of potential pollution? (Plato had had no sense of specifically urban problems; cmp. Morris)
How do the Utopians regard death, and what are their practices regarding it?
--care for their dying, A77
--practice euthanasia, A77
Would the latter have been an unusual opinion in early sixteenth century England? Is euthansia legally permitted in the 21st century? (with rare exceptions, no)
Why may More have felt so strongly on this issue? (may have witnessed miserable deaths of hopeless cases, great human suffering)
What view do the Utopians hold toward suicide? (disapprove, A77)
What are some of their arrangements regarding sex and marriage? What premises may lie behind these?
--intercourse outside of marriage punished by a ban on marriage for the rest of life, A77; believes that few would marry except for sexual reasons--a terrible judgment on marriage, A77, and likely his own;
--exhibits fear of female physical infirmity, A78
Are these views consistent with his emphasis on temperate virtue and the shared higher pleasures? May they also reflect the very low literacy rate even for upper-class women of the day?
--"chastisement" of wife within marriage permitted, A79 Would this have accorded with British laws of the time which regarded wives as property?
Under what circumstances may a marriage be dissolved?
--a non-adulterer permitted remarriage after dissolution, A78
--mutual remarriage permitted, A78
--adultery punished by slavery
How might these views have affected Thomas More's attitudes toward the marital behavior of his monarch, Henry VIII, and his resignation in the face of the horrible fate of execution?
Why are cosmetics not used in Utopia? --no need for falsity; the Utopians prefer truth and naturalness, A79
What is different about the fact that in Utopia laws are written to be understood? What commentary does this make on the laws of the time? Is the complexity of the legal system (tax forms, legislation, etc.) still a continuing problem today?
On what grounds do the Utopians oppose international treaties? (80-81, these are never kept; mankind should be bound by nature, not words; peace is a matter of the heart)
In eschewing formal binding agreements, does More hearken back to any Biblical teachings? (Jesus: "Let your yea be yea and your nay be nay") Which religious or other groups caused themselves difficulties by their refusal to swear oaths? (Quakers, other Dissenters, agnostics who refused to swear oaths on the Bible; Jews who refused to swear oaths on the New Testament, etc.)
How are the disabled treated in Utopia? --with civility, A79; not ridiculed
What do these descriptions reveal about the treatment of the disabled in his day?
How do the Utopians care for their sick? Had a preoccupation with medicine and healing been present in Plato? (no) What attitude do the Utopians take toward nursing and the care of the sick? (honor nurses--this is new, not present in the Republic and omitted in most utopias until the advent of 20th century feminism)
What forms of hospitality are accorded to visitors? What provisions are made for travelers? (passports freely granted) Was this contrary to Renaissance practice?
Why would this have been such an important issue at the time? (dangerous to travel to new territories, no support system for travelers; elaborate passes were often needed to shift occupations and residences) Do we find analogies to this concern in Morris's News from Nowhere? (all are hospitable to Guest and presumably other visitors)
What are some forms of labor which are gender segregated? (women serve meals) What forms of difficult labor are left to slaves? (difficult serving of food--what forms of food serving might have been viewed as "difficult"?--possibly food preparation over open fires?)
What place do children take at dinner? Why does More consider it important to mention this?
What are the features of Utopian meals and conversation? (in conversation, omit sad and unpleasant topics; music and incense accompany meals) What may have been the motives for such prescriptions? (relaxation would help digestion)
Do you agree that it is best to avoid sad and unpleasant topics in conversation? (often it provides emotional relief to discuss the problems and sorrows of one's life)
How do the Utopians view gambling? (oppose, A71) Hunting? A72
What qualities do they ascribe to the finest music? (emotion not artifice) How is this a commentary on some of the music of More's day? (elaborate counterpoints, etc., more form than sweetness)
At the conclusion, what attitude is taken toward the Utopians by Hythloday? By the narrator?
What purpose is served by the final frame? Does this provide a kind of protective distancing, and would this have been necessary in its context?