In Utopia Thomas More overtly addresses philosophical ideas about how a perfect society would function. Many of the ideas are unrealistic for his time though and he acknowledges them as such. However, More does address issues in the England of his day in a more covert manner. This is mostly clearly laid out in More's first conversation with Raphael Hytholday in the book. Hytholday speaks of his time in England. While there he has a conversation with the current chancellor, Archbishop John Morton, and Morton's cronies. They speak on the subject thieves and their punishment.
Hytholday believes that English thieves, who are hanged for their crimes, are dealt with to severely. He articulates how poor Englishmen have all of their opportunities taken from them and are therefore forced in to the occupation of thieving. I his opinion the main cause for this happening is the injustice of enclosure. Enclosure is the practice by which the rich and noble of More's Britain were seizing land that peasants had been using to raises their crops and livestock. Prior to the large scale adoption of this practice in the 15th and 16th centuries, the land being taken had been common land under the open-field system.
As price of wool shot up during this era, sheep farming became both more popular and profitable. Shepherding however required more land than most other agricultural ventures of the time. Those with the means to afford it could seize land under the protection of Parliament, leaving the peasantry who had formerly worked said land destitute. More used his book Utopia to speak out against the English policy of enclosure which he perceived as unfair. In fact, his tactic was actually successful and Parliament began investigating the negative effects of enclosure soon after the publishing of the book.
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While Hytholday and Chancellor Morton's early conversation is the most easily perceived reference, the topic is broached more surreptitiously again throughout the work. One of the most distinctive features of the Utopians described within the work is their idea of common property. The Utopian system imitates the previously used English system with a more extreme approach. In Utopia there is no private property and the land is shared by everyone. This applies to everything on the island not just some farm land like in England. Raphael contends that this notion of shared land brings the Utopians their prosperity He states that "wherever you have private property ... it's all but impossible for a community to be just or prosperous" (More 51-52).
The direction that England heads in Thomas More's time seem to be opposite of this "just and prosperous ideal". Not every word written in this text advocates this communist ideal. More's avatar within the work argues against Hytholday on the merits of the English privatized system created by enclosure over the lofty Utopian system. The character of More contends that private gain motivates men. With common property and the sharing of land and resources by all men laborers will become lazy and let others work for them, resulting in the breakdown of society.
Furthermore he states that most of Hytholday's philosophical conjecture is not applicable in real world situations. He recalls the Greek philosopher Plato's observation that "wise men rightly steer clear of public affairs" (More 51). Hytholday defends the common property system (and therefore derides the English enclosure policy) through his description of how the system functions smoothly on the isle of Utopia. The final detail illustrating how Utopian society contrast the society of modern England is in the geography. The island of Utopia is roughly the same size and shape of that of the island of Great Britain.
The capital city of Amaurot has a layout and architecture very similar to that of London and the River Anyder takes the place of the English River Thames. More purposefully made the two locations similar to each other in order to more obviously draw comparisons between the two societies. Sir Thomas More wrote his book Utopia to express philosophical ideas. This, however, wasn't his only reason he also wished to address inequality in modern England through his tale. More addresses issues of inequality he sees in the enclosure system of his contemporary England through Utopia.
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The Philosophical Ideas of a Perfect Society in the Book, Utopia by Thomas More. (2022, Nov 09). Retrieved from https://phdessay.com/the-philosophical-ideas-of-a-perfect-society-in-the-book-utopia-by-thomas-more/
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