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Response Paper 4


Explain what Bradshaw argues in his article – quote the argument directly, and show the steps that he takes to explain his argument it in your own words.

            In his work, “More on Utopia,” Brendan Bradshaw argues that J. H. Hexter’s interpretation of More’s “Utopia,” is flawed. He claims that “…despite all the light which Hexter’s analysis throws on the text, it is founded on an unsustainable hypothesis” (Bradshaw 2). However, it is important to understand that the primary objective of Bradshaw’s argument is not to “refute Hexter” (2), but to set forth a more accurate interpretation of More’s work, or in his words, to “attempt the hazardous voyage to Utopia again” (2).

To present his argument, Bradshaw first highlights Hexter’s two main conclusions. One, that More’s work is a critique of medieval Christianity in Europe, and two, that More emphasizes how the social and political system must change (thus sets forth “political theory” (3)). Bradshaw begins challenging such conclusions by making reference to Dr. Fenlon, another critic of Hexter, and shows agreement with his statement that “Utopia” is not an attempt to improve the “humanist scheme” (4) by reformulating it, but that it is only a “critique of humanism itself” (4). Before he has even introduced his in-depth explanation then, Bradshaw confirms that his views against Hexter’s interpretation are supported by other intellectuals.

Moreover, Bradshaw sets forth the two main issues of Hexter’s interpretation: he misinterpreted the “nature of human ideology in its religious aspect” (6) and he failed to take “sufficient account” (6), or evidence, from the text. In order to show the “misinterpretation” of the purpose of “Utopia” in regards to its religious “lessons,” Bradshaw sets forth the claims that Hexter uses, and then he counter-argues them with his own. He explains how Hexter claims that “Christianity for the individual consists in virtuous living, not in ritual observances,” and that Utopians then, even lacking the “ritual observances,” are true Christians as they live virtuously. Bradshaw explains how according to Hexter, More criticizes Europeans who do only perform religious rituals but do not live by religious morality. However, Bradshaw claims that this is a flawed interpretation, as by the teachings of “Enchiridion,” “…true christianity” depends on “true knowledge of Christianity —the life and teaching of Jesus revealed in scripture” (11). Hence, Bradshaw shows how Utopians could never be true Christians, as they did not have the “knowledge of Christianity.” According to Bradshaw then, a “Utopia” cannot be a model of true Christianity (which Hexter claims is). Bradshaw continues using the teachings of “Enchiridion,” to state that true christians must use “prayer and knowledge,” (16), which Utopians do not use. It is evident then, that the incorporation of the teachings of Erasmus, commonly known as a credible source, are Bradshaw’s tool to substantiate his arguments with evidence and weaken Hexter’s.

Bradshaw continues to explain that Hexter also misrepresents More with “regard to social justice” (19). Hexter is said to explain the idea of communism in “Utopia” as a “radical” criticism towards Christianity, as More supposedly approaches it more pragmatically more than theoretically. However, according to Bradhsaw, Hexter ignores the fact that the “New Testament” holds ideas that resemble those of communism. Hence, because ideas of communism can be found in Christian scripture as well, Bradshaw weakens Hexter’s interpretation that More is critical towards religion.

Furthermore, Bradshaw devaluates Hexter’s claim that “Utopia” in itself calls for reform by analyzing the very allusions to Plato within More’s work. He claims that by alluding to philosophy, More paints an “impossible” world. More is only further expanding an idea of a paradigm which “no particular commonwealth existing in historical reality can successfully reproduce” (24). Bradhsaw then, uses the same sources used in More’s work (Plato) to add credibility to his claims that “Utopia” is not a call for reform in society, but only a model. To this he adds that the book ends with unfinished dialogue, thus More could have not possibly present a criticism towards the status-quo that incites reform, but only philosophical arguments to think about. It is a combination of references to external sources, a structured presentation of arguments and counterarguments that lead Bradshaw to successfully challenge Hexter’s interpretation of “Utopia”.



“I have neither received nor given unauthorized assistance during the completion of this work.”

x.Daniel Majluf




Works Cited

            Reeve, C. D. C. Plato Republic. Indianapolis, Indiana: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc, 2004. Print.