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MonkeyNotes-Utopia by Sir Thomas More
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Of Learning and Philosophy

Utopians are a learned people and their language is advanced. They continue their studies even in adulthood although only a few become scholars. Like many learned Westerners, they have studied logic and astronomy but abhor astrology. This is not just an article of faith with them but the product of sound reasoning. They had not heard of any great thinkers outside their world until Hythloday visited them. Yet they are as well versed in the arts and sciences as the ancient Greeks and have an appreciation for music.

The Utopians' morality concerns the question of happiness and how to acquire it. They do not believe in austerity because they think it is against God's commandment. Too much austerity is also not natural. According to the Utopia, pleasure is the basis of happiness. They are an honest and pleasure-loving people, but their pleasures are natural, not unnatural ones like gambling and hunting. Their pleasures are two-fold -- those of the soul and those of the body. Pleasures of the mind are very important to them and eclipse those of the mind. Hythloday introduced them to many great Western thinkers, which engaged them.

Their morality is based on a concept of heaven and hell much like Christianity. They believe in the afterlife and think that good deeds will be rewarded and evil deeds punished. They try to live by reason even though they also promote pleasurable activities and attempt to live by the rules of nature as long as they do not hinder or deprive others' pleasure.

They are very fond of learning and Hythloday reports that they held him in high esteem because of his learning. They are ever willing to learn new things and improve on all that they learn. They are very healthy and interested in medicine and health matters. They also learned how to print while Hythloday was there and began to reproduce books for mass distribution.


Notes

The Utopian view of education is that all must strive to learn but only a few will actually be scholars. This liberal view that all citizens must be educated and continue to learn was a far cry from England where education was given to only a few. Here education is equated with pleasure, one of the main tenets of Utopian philosophy. One's educational pursuits often result in pleasurable activity such as reading, doing math, and studying the stars. This idea is heavily aligned with a humanist view of the world where earthly matters take precedence over spiritual ones. Yet there is an emphasis on how far to take these pleasurable activities. It is curbed by how one's own pleasures affect another persons. If they hurt or hinder someone else, they should be abandoned. Also the Utopian concept of right and wrong mirrors the Christian one. Although they eschew penance, they do believe that how one acts on earth will affect one's afterlife.

Therefore even though one can enjoy and pursue bodily and intellectual pleasures, one must also attempt to circumvent indiscretions that may lead to excessiveness and injuring others by using one's reason. This concept is one that was readily circulated in the Renaissance and so it is no surprise that it is part of Utopian philosophy.

The inclusion of the Greek authors into Utopia reveals the influence they had on Hythloday and all Renaissance thinkers.

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