U is for Utopia

| February 13, 2014

In St. Thomas More’s work, Utopia, More is an advocate for the sameness that is so condemned by James Conlon in his essay, “Cities and the Place of Philosophy.” Whereas Conlon explains that the presence of the other is necessary, More’s idea of a perfect society contains an identicalness among its inhabitants. The residents even “wear the same sort of clothes without any other distinction, except what is necessary to distinguish the two sexes, and the married and unmarried” (58). The society seems to control many aspects of its population, and there are many rules that must be followed. For example, “all the males, both children and grandchildren, live still in the same house, in great obedience to their common parent” (60). Furthermore, “No family may have less than ten and more than sixteen persons in it” (60). While I understand that More’s aim is to maximize productivity in establishing these laws, these people will nevertheless lose the flux that is obligatory for a spark in the city to occur. There will be no rush or excitement among the people of More’s ideal society. Thus, instead of this city being a place of discovery and learning, it will instead become a place for homogeneity to thrive. One aspect of More’s city that I do appreciate is in how it cares for its sick. All of those who are ill and are suffering from an infectious disease will “be kept so far from the rest that there can be no danger of contagion” (62). This alone, however, is not enough for me to agree that the city More illustrates in his text is a perfect society. The city is known and revered for its “inevitable encounter with the foreign,” as Conlon states. If this characteristic is removed, there is less chance that philosophy can occur.

Meagher, Sharon M., ed. Philosophy and the City: Classic to Contemporary Writings. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2008. Print.