More Utopia's?

July 2024 Forums General discussion More Utopia's?

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    Dave B

    Whilst reading Thomas More’s “Utopia”.


    and “In Praise of Folly” by Erasmus




    I think the two need to be read together; they are intimately connected.



    I was informed about the following from an Italian nurse of another Utopian book.





    Which I have not heard of before


    but looks equally interesting.


    I think there is some doubt as to whether or not Thomas More was taking the piss out of Utopian society or that it was a ‘joke’?



    I thought generally it was a highly seditious and bold attack on the nature of society as it was then; as with in Praise of Folly.


    And that they introduced ‘ambiguities’ to protect themselves.


    I think the clue as to what both More and Erasmus were doing is in a letter from Erasmus to Maaten Van Dorf about in Praise of Folly.


    “…And Horace thinks that joking advice does as much good as serious. ‘What stops a man who can laugh,’ he says, ‘from speaking the truth?’ This was surely well understood by the famous sages of antiquity who chose to present the most salutary counsel for life in the form of amusing and apparently childish fables, because truth can seem harsh if unadorned, but with something pleasurable to recommend it can penetrate more easily the minds of mortals. No doubt this is the honey which doctors in Lucretius smear on the rim of a cup of wormwood which they prescribe for children…..”




    Utopia is criticised for having slaves but is omitted that was a punishment for a recalcitrant minority rather than any kind of economic necessity.


    Of note in ‘Utopia’,which is also overlooked, is the suggestion that ‘the sincerest sort of Christians’ and early Christianity were communist.








    “After they had heard from us an account of the doctrine, the course of life, and the miracles of Christ, and of the wonderful constancy of so many martyrs, whose blood, so willingly offered up by them, was the chief occasion of spreading their religion over a vast number of nations, it is not to be imagined how inclined they were to receive it.  I shall not determine whether this proceeded from any secret inspiration of God, or whether it was because it seemed so favourable to that community of goods, which is an opinion so particular as well as so dear to them; since they perceived that Christ and His followers lived by that rule, and that it was still kept up in some communities among the sincerest sort of Christians. 




    As translators and students of Lucian, More and Erasmus would been familiar with Christian communist passage in ‘The Passing of Peregrinus’.




    Here’s how Lucian described the Christians of his day (the second century);

    “The poor wretches have convinced themselves, first and foremost, that they are going to be immortal and live for all time, in consequence of which they despise death and even willingly give themselves into custody; most of them. Furthermore, their first lawgiver persuaded them that they are all brothers of one another after they have transgressed once, for all by denying the Greek gods and by worshipping that crucified sophist himself and living under his laws. Therefore they despise all things indiscriminately and consider them common property, receiving such doctrines traditionally without any definite evidence. So if any charlatan and trickster, able to profit by occasions, comes among them, he quickly acquires sudden wealth by imposing upon simple folk.”

    No wonder their views appeared outlandish to the educated people of the time. Unfortunately they had the last laugh and suppressed the views of people like Lucian until they were rediscovered by Erasmus and others.

    Lucian’s short satires are still worth reading today with his merciless denunciation of superstitions and the charlatans who peddled them whose equivalents still exist today.

    The Passing of Peregrinus is a good example and can be found here

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