Utopia (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

Utopia (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781593082444
Publisher: Barnes & Noble
Publication date: 04/25/2005
Series: Barnes & Noble Classics Series
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 36,854
Product dimensions: 7.98(w) x 5.28(h) x 0.81(d)

Read an Excerpt



From Wayne A. Rebhorn’s Introduction to Utopia

Omnium horarum homo: a “man for all hours.” That’s what Desiderius Erasmus calls his friend Thomas More. The phrase appears in the letter that serves as the preface for Erasmus’s masterpiece, The Praise of Folly, and is also the source of Robert Bolt’s title for his play and movie about More, A Man for All Seasons. Bolt’s title transforms More into a secular saint, a model of individual integrity, a man “for all seasons”—that is, for all of history. Indeed, the French translated the title of Bolt’s film as Un Homme pour l’éternité, making More into “A Man for Eternity.” This is not, however, what Erasmus meant by the words he penned in 1511, long before More achieved martyrdom, suffering death rather than accept Henry VIII as the head of the Church. Erasmus is actually praising More for being able “to play the man for all hours with everyone.” More is an ideal figure, in other words, because he is adaptable, able to get along with all sorts of people in all sorts of situations and as circumstances change from hour to hour, what Erasmus means by “folly”—that is, a supreme versatility in living life in this world. The historical More certainly possessed such versatility, so that when Erasmus decided to praise “Folly,” or Moria in Greek, it is not surprising that the name of More, Morus in Latin, should have popped into his head not just as an appropriate dedicatee, but as someone who epitomized all the best meanings he attributed to folly in his work.

Erasmus’s compliment to More makes More into a player, someone who knows how “to play—or act—the man” (hominem agere) in every situation. Indeed, in his biography of More, almost the very first thing his son-in-law William Roper does is to praise More’s success at improvisational acting when he was still a young page in the household of the learned John Cardinal Morton: “Though he was young of years, yet would he at Christmastide suddenly sometimes step in among the players, and never studying for the matter, make a part of his own there presently among them, which made the lookers-on more sport than all the players beside.” Even a cursory review of More’s life and works reveals his ability to play many incredibly varied roles, some of which were even opposed to one another. For example, More was a faithful husband and devoted father, but also an ascetic who seriously considered entering a monastery. He was a learned humanist scholar and translator of the classics, but also a propagandist for the Tudor regime and a mud-slinging critic of Luther. More won cases as a clever lawyer and fought to preserve his economic, social, and political status, but he was also a deeply religious devotional writer who looked down on attachments to this world. An impartial and fair-minded negotiator, civil servant, and magistrate, he became an implacable opponent and persecutor of heretics; best known for his role as a lord chancellor who willingly implemented Henry’s policies and paid his royal master almost servile deference, he was also, at the end, a defender of his own conscience against monarchical tyranny. Finally, More stands on the world stage as an unfettered genius capable of imagining brave new worlds in his greatest literary and philosophical achievement, even though he was also an uncompromising defender of received traditions and of an ancient, long-established institution that was deeply opposed to change. Luther once said of Erasmus, complaining of the Dutch humanist’s mutability and contradictoriness, “Erasmus of Rotterdam, where will you stand fast?” He could almost have said the same thing about Thomas More.

More’s complexities and contradictions go to the heart of the Renaissance and the Reformation, the two great cultural upheavals England, like the rest of Europe, experienced in the early decades of the sixteenth century—and would continue to experience for many years after More’s death in 1535. In these two social transformations More played a key role both in what he did and in what he said or wrote. Nor was More merely an important English figure; he was also well known on the European continent, respected everywhere as a humanist writer and political thinker, and, finally, either admired as a martyr for the true faith or disparaged as a fool for not seeing the insufficiency of the Catholic Church.

More’s reputation in the last century has been equally complex and contradictory. The Catholic Church finally beatified him in 1886 and made him a saint in 1935, and many scholars and historians, some Catholic and some not, have admired his deep commitment to his religious faith. His Utopia has been celebrated by others for its relatively egalitarian social structure, its religious tolerance, and its economic system—a system in which all things are held in common and which thus seems to anticipate the ideals of socialism and communism. Indeed, Utopia was one of the first books authorized for translation into Russian after the Communist Revolution in 1917. By contrast, in Bolt’s 1960 A Man for All Seasons, More has turned into a secular saint who defends his “self,” not his “soul,” against tyrannical political authority. Finally, More has been attacked by others as a mediocre statesman and condemned for his servile relationship to Henry, a servility best seen in the exaggerated expressions of deference he made to the King, as recorded in Roper’s Life, while Protestant polemicists have objected to the largely popular press he has enjoyed and have stressed his persecution of heretics, instead.

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Utopia 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 65 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I just finished this book and talked about it with my college philosophy professor. It is an amazing book that will force you to think on human nature. This book however can not be taken for face value it is not a suggested form of government it is a tale of a world that will never be. Many readers assume it is meant to glorify communism but it is not. In direct translation from latin "utopia" means a nonexistent place. Also, the narrator "Hythloday" means speaker of nonsense or liar. So do not think of government or face value think on the insight into human nature and what we long for but can never be and I promise this will be a true eye opener.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It is a fool who reads Utopia and thinks More a devoted communist. Analyze the names of those involved, the problems of Utopia, and More's as well as Erasmus' humanistic works and it becomes an analysis of the nature of man. The structure of poverty, the effects of property and patronage all create a cycle of despair. Most important of all, his relation to Plato's Republic. Does the philosopher advise the king, or is that a futile endeavor of compromise and corruption. Decide for yourself, but realize that Utopia is a staggering and insightful work, full of wit and humor. It should be read by all philosophers, historians and interested readers.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book from begining to end. It is such an insightful look at the human spirt and desires. Moore wrights of a perfect world that is in truth, not perfect. Those that missed the point of the story, that this is a satire of human life, need to reread the story and discuss it with others. The point of the story is to show that even in a perfect world there are inperfections, and no matter how we justify them, someone will always be unhappy. Loved the book, definetly a story high school seniors need to read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In Utopia Thomas More inspired me in his descriptions of a perfect society, and how he later influenced such thinkers as Karl Marx and the Utopian socialist of the 19th century. It is my belief that some thinkers may have mis-interpreted Utopia as somthing it isn't, what it certainly is not, is an outline for goverment, and More attempts to tell us that with his outlandish names for the main characters. If u are not sure on weather or not to buy Utopia i highly reccomend it, for it tells us a story about a place we will never see, but i still dominates our imaginations.
Adanos More than 1 year ago
I must say the translation of Utopia by Paul Turner is the best out of all Utopia books out there. Very easy to read, not lengthy and manages to maintain some humor that the original author intended in his book. I would recommend this version of Utopia to anyone who would want to read it for the first time.
streets913 More than 1 year ago
The book, Utopia, by Thomas Moore, is a book of great interest to the knowledgeable reader. In order to fully understand the concepts of this book, you must understand the time period and have some notion of government. In some ways the country described is flawed in our sense of today's culture.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The first half of 'Utopia' is but a history lesson - teaching us 16th-17th century English laws and its obsurdities. The second half of 'Utopia' talks about... Utopia! A world where an idealist lives and an existenlist goes insane (again). To call 'Utopia' the 'best philosophical work ever written', as some other reviewers of this title did; I can't but wonder how many 'philosophical works' has this person actually read.
TineOliver on LibraryThing 4 days ago
I'm sure Utopia has lost much of its meaning through the translation from its native Latin (By no means is this comment directed at the translation - I think much of the difficulty lies in the inherent limitations of English).For the rating I have given, I considered three things: the general enjoyment from reading the book, the ideas contained within and the historic importance (and context) of the work. Immediately after I finished reading the book, I determined that I didn¿t enjoy it. After giving it much thought, I¿m still not sure why that is ¿ possibly the difficulty I have with the concept that all men are created equal, yet women are subservient to men (although, given the historical context, Moore can hardly be chastised for that), the inherent flaws I see in the ability of any society to function as described, or even some of the other more subtle difficulties I see with the novel (such as attempting to applying logical debate to religion).The difficulty I¿m also faced with is the degree to which Moore is suggesting that Utopia would be the perfect society (particularly since he states within the text that he does not agree with all of the Utopian ideals) and the degree to which it is a work of satire (a highly debated topic among academics - see for example the introduction in the Penguin Classics edition).
Zare on LibraryThing 4 days ago
In a very interesting way More paints his ideal state - state of Utopia. Here, all the virtues of men are cherished while all foolishness and - well, let us call them - all the bad things in society are non-existent, due to the very nature of Utopians, their state and the very way of their educational system.Interesting book, a rather subtle critique of the European states of the time (especially when it comes to vanity of the rich and uneven distribution of wealth among the populace - again some virtues glorified in the book may prove obsolete today [because of that ever-lasting temporal element that stands between writer and the reader or maybe some political reasons] but were focus of many a debate at the time). Man cannot but agree with many aspects of Utopia to be the very ideal - dedication to knowledge and constant strive to be better human being - but the required level of social maturity is so high that even today (maybe especially today) it may be considered to be way too high.Again, society itself is not peace loving as it may seem at the beginning - when faced with conflict (forced upon them or caused by them - for territory e.g) Utopians won't hesitate to fight, but first they will extensively use their allies (motivated by political means - sounds familiar does not it) to end the conflict rarely entering the fray themselves. This makes them very modern and in my opinion less ideal society. Again, those societies that reach the level of Utopians can be forgiven to feel supreme to every other nation/society and to behave in the manner they do - but nevertheless this stains their reputation.Very questions that arise in this book - like is it better to have free roaming citizenry without any restraints thus causing havoc on most on behalf of few, or to have ordered and disciplined society that will have limited liberties but live freely and under the benevolent government - are very common themes in SF literature (there exists no better example than Heinlein's "Starship Troopers").Writing style may be difficult but don't give up - book gives a rather good view of human nature and a lot can be learned from it.
Sourire on LibraryThing 4 days ago
This is the kind of book that wouldn't be done justice with just one read-through. One should carefully read, reread, analyze, take a break from, and read again. Every time I read it, I pick up on something new or come to a different conclusion about what More might have meant. It's truly fascinating, especially for the fact that the reaction upon reading may in fact reveal more about the reader than it does about More or the work itself. I've never met anyone who takes exactly the same thing away from it as someone else, and have been constantly amazed at the various insights people have that never occurred to me. To hear one's impressions of the book is to have a small window into their mind. For the sheer amount of thought and introspection Utopia provokes, I feel it is a must-read. Much is said about the actual description of Utopia, but I would encourage readers to pay just as much attention to the first portion of the book, where Raphael is introduced and speaks with his companions (the character versions of More and Giles). One might also want to keep in mind that Utopia (as opposed to Eutopia- "good place"), despite modern usage, means "no place" rather than some sort of ideal. Just as Raphael Hythlodaeus/Hythloday is a "speaker of nonsense", Utopia/"no place" is not so simple as to be the description of a perfect society. Or is it? That ambiguity is the beauty of More's work.
aethercowboy on LibraryThing 4 days ago
Utopia is the book that put the word "utopia" in our lexicon. Utopia, the word, is generally used to describe a place in which everything is a happy land where everybody is happy, and life is relatively easy. Like most children's fiction, where even the most dastardly of villains is just a litterbug or a liar, and he or she learns a valuable lesson before too many pages have passed.The book itself is written as a frame story in which More is telling others about his visit of a man named Raphael (though his last name depends on which translation you're reading), who told him about this wonderful island in the New World called Utopia, in which everybody is happy, even the slaves!Raphael goes on to explain the aspects of this island, and how it works, presenting a sort of proof-of-concept for better living (hint, hint, you new, developing nations in the New World!).No study of utopian writing is complete without at least starting here, so this book is highly recommended to any utopian (or even dystopian) reading schedule. It's also highly recommend if you like philosophical writing, and are looking for some great new ideas to consider.
AlexTheHunn on LibraryThing 3 months ago
Thomas More brought his considerable skills from numerous fields to bear when he created Utopia. His intimate knowledge of the workings of the English legal system, government and politics enabled him to posit an ideal society, wherein, More corrected the ills which plagued sixteenth century England and Europe.People in Utopia held few possessions privately. The government organ-ized the economy, the methods of producing food and most other goods and ser-vices. Work and hardships were shared as equitably as possible. Similarly, all people partook of the bounty of the food, shelter and goods, with few exceptions.More anticipated the objections that this idealized society would raise; and he answered them at length. He explained how Utopians dealt with criminals, showing a means of isolating society from harmful individuals, while yet deriving benefit from their existence and providing deterrent examples to those teetering on the verge of crime. In an age where torture and mutilation were common and executions were routine, More offered a voice of reason and humanity. Signifi-cantly, his methods of dealing with crime did not mete out the same punishment for all offenses, both severe and trivial.More¿s world was based on his well-considered principles, humanistic be-liefs and plain common sense. He was not one-dimensional like Niccolo Machia-velli; More was not driven by desire for power, fame or wealth. He wanted to show a means of organizing a well-ordered society in which the people, not the prince, would live happy and productive lives. On the other hand, More did not set his culture in a world where all was roses and problems did not exist. Whereas Erasmus was strong on encouraging upright and moral behavior, he seemed light on the realization that, in the real world, people often fail to live up to his high ideals. More¿s society took man¿s frailties into account. More pro-vided means for dealing with crime and war, as well as, with personal envy and greed. More understood that his argument would be the stronger if he could head off objections by answering them in advance.In addition, More¿s work showed his love of humor. His organization of the material, arranged as if he had genuinely talked to someone who had been to Utopia, and the overall pains More took to imbue the work with as much authen-ticity as possible, must have been a source of great pleasure to him.Besides giving him a private chuckle at putting over his joke, More had a more serious level in mind in Utopia. Placing his society in an imaginary or dis-tant land, allowed him the freedom to address a variety of political and social is-sues with impunity. Had More directly criticized Henry VIII¿s spending, his readi-ness to dispense executions, his policy of war, or the ostentatious court, More would have faced serious charges. By using the oblique approach, besides al-lowing More to indulge his love of irony and satire, he was able to elude charges of treason or sedition. More showed great courage in publishing this work, as in his life in gen-eral. He saw wrongs and dared to speak out about them. But with his fine mind and keen sense of balance, he also knew that to throw himself into championing a cause at the expense of his life would do neither him nor the cause any good. Although he ultimately was martyred for his beliefs, evidence suggests that More did not actively seek our martyrdom. He enjoyed life far too much to risk death needlessly. However, his personal belief in God and religion, as well as his per-sonal integrity, demanded that he not shrink away if death were his only accept-able recourse.Alex Hunnicutt
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As a RPer since 2012, I say this is good!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Yup this will be awesome!!!!
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Interesting work coming from the patron saint of lawyers and politicians.
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