Utopia By Thomas More: Understanding Of Truth
There is no denying Thomas More’s Utopia is a product of fiction, it is evident by his use of combining fictional characters and places, with characters and places that are in fact, real. Aside from the genera of literature, in More’s letter to Peter Giles, More emphasises the sentiment of truth in which the book belongs, quoting he “would rather tell an objective falsehood than an intentional lie. In short I’d rather be honest than clever”.
There is one other place where More plays with the understanding of truth, in which he wants Peter Giles to reach out to a fictional character to make sure Utopia “includes nothing false and omits nothing true”. The letter More is writing to Peter Giles is also a fictional piece which leads one to ask, what might More be saying about human nature, honesty, the state of truth, and the objective goal to his audience? From the very first word, to the very last, More is writing a fictional piece but in this, More sets up an almost realistic setting for his audience using the letters he “sends” to real people, and a specific dialogue called Platonic dialogue. But the “truth” in More’s Utopia is not to be found in the setting, the characters, nor the type of dialogue he uses, but in the idea’s he is trying to convey. This is portrayed at the end of the book, how More, and his character, choose to end it in this quote, “-I cannot agree with everything he said. Yet I freely confess there are many things in Utopian commonwealth that in our own societies I would wish rather than expect to see. ” With this quote More’s character is touching on a subjective truth, that although he may not agree with everything Hythloday had to say, there is still a certain aspect of his ideas that rang true to him, which he would wish to see in our societies but does not expect to see them.
The reason I found More to end his book in such a way, was to have his audience, in a sense, do the same thing, pull idea’s that they found to be true in the book and take a conscious look at our own societies and see where they might fit best. This gives his audience a sense of hope, that if they wish to see things change in their society they would go out and try and change them using the ideas More explored. More does not want his audience to be like his character at the end of the book, to merely wish for change, but he wants his audience to be that change. This touches back to what More had said in the first part of his book, when he talks about men with experience and knowledge should put them to use at court and for public benefit, but they should do this with, “an indirect approach and with covert suggestions”.
At the end of the book, and more so in the reiteration of the last paragraph, More accomplishes his very own ideal. More gives his audience a world that is, debatably, near perfection, and wants his audience to use the truths they found in his ideas to change the world around them. In one way or another, More is educating his audience to be, “men with experience and knowledge” so that they can use what he has taught them to put them to use at court or public benefit. But More cannot induce this onto his audience without doing it himself in a “indirect approach and with covert suggestions”. More does not directly tell his audience to adopt his ideas, instead he sets up a story which shows his ideas put to the test and applied to society and its individuals, then has his audience choose for themselves which parts worked and which parts need improving. More’s influence on his audience portrays his view of human nature, which is, human nature at its core is good. He argues this by pointing out that having a death penalty for theft would ultimately be killing off good people. Through his persona of Raphael Hythloday he states, “When that little money is at an end (and it soon spent in wandering from place to place), what is left for them to do but either to steal, and so to be hanged (God knows how justly!), or to go about and beg?. This quote ultimately means that people are forced into doing bad things; this is made especially clear with the statement of “When that little money is at an end”, this provides reason for an otherwise good person to commit theft because they are pushed to an any means necessary scenario. But what else does More show us about human nature in the cross comparison between England and Utopia? If all men are good at their core, then what stops them from being good all the time?
More portrayed to his audience that the answer was quite simple; greed and pride. In Utopia there is no sense of private property and because no one can pride themselves with one piece of property, that is better or worse than others in comparison, there is a reduction of pride, greed, poverty, irrationality, and exploitation of the poor by the wealthy. More’s character disagrees with this proposition on the notion that claiming a country with communal property will have no prosperity. The people will have no incentive to work, since they will be fed by the labor of others. In More’s eyes, the lack of private property will also eliminate all respect for authority, and with this loss the chance at bloodshed and conflict will increase. Utopia, in a general sense, agrees with Hythloday, that if there were to be a commonwealth then there would be a reduction of a societal need to operate strictly under consumerism. More wants his audience to contemplate the ideas in which he brought to life through Utopia. His goal was not for everyone to find truth in every single idea he explored but to find, even just one, truth in his ideas of what a Utopia should look like. This can be illustrated through the very last sentence, “I cannot agree with everything he said. Yet I freely confess there are many things in Utopian commonwealth that in our own societies I would wish rather than expect to see”, even More’s character does not agree with everything that Hythloday has said, and More does not expect his audience to do the same. But with that being said, More is alluding to something even greater than having people agree with every single one of his ideas, More is indirectly telling his audience what to do with the truths they did find in his ideas, and that is to be the change they want to see in the world.
More portrayed an idealized world and urges his audience to strive, even one step closer, to his Utopia. Being conscious of a Utopia to strive for is not enough, and More is cognizant of this fact that knowing is not enough; that we need to apply, that willing is not enough; but we must do. More’s goal is for his audience is to be, after exploring his ideas, men with experience and knowledge and now with their experience and knowledge, of his very own ideas, he want them to use them at court and for public benefit, so that one day our world could be, even one step closer, to a Utopia.
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