Social Utopias: Will Saada Fall 2015

December 15, 2015

Response Paper 1: Take 2

Filed under: Portfolio — William Saada @ 4:39 pm

The Paradox of Utopia

Over the course of the class my idea of what a Utopia is has shifted more from a society where people work together and hold the needs of the entire community above the needs of individuals to simply being idea of hope that is different for each individual.  However, it has changed to become more of an idea and a state of mind than an actual place.  When asked to write our first response paper on what we thought of as a Utopia my response was a simplified and different version of the Utopia Thomas More creates.  Essentially, a community in which everyone is as happy as they can possibly be, not individually but as a whole.  As a result of the many different kinds of Utopia and a deeper look into Thomas Moore’s Utopia I formed a new idea: that Utopia is only an idea that is different between each individual rather than an actual place.

For our research project we each chose a Utopian community and were given the task to ask a research question and then answer it with what we could find.  The majority of students chose relatively similar questions that examined whether or not the given community can be considered a Utopia.  We examined the social and political structure of our chose community and found connections between the Utopian ideas that were presented in our readings such as communal ownership and self-sufficiency.  The questions of “Is this place Utopian” is a paradox in the sense that there is no answer.  Some have chosen to use Thomas More’s Utopia as the definition: a community which seeks to appeal to the largest number of citizens within the community.  The problem with this is that involves using abstract concepts such as happiness to define the community.  Ideas such as happiness and community are formed within an individual and not a society.  Thus, their really is not clear Utopia.  A more in depth look at Thomas More’s Utopia shows that he may agree with this idea.

The first piece of evidence is that the term “Utopia” actually means no place along with perfect place.  This suggests that Utopia is not an actual place it is just an idea that is conceived within the minds of individuals.  Thus, Utopia can not exist within the real world it is just a figment of our imagination that we will one day be in a better place.  More evidence of this is used within Bradshaw’s article which tries to make sense of Utopia.  He essentially finds book two as the best possible solution to all of the problems present in book one.  He acknowledges how book two is something that we could never emulate in real life.  The world is too unpredictable and people are too different to all follow the same patterns of the members of Utopia.  However, we can strive to be like Utopia in order to improve upon our own society.  This final claim is what gives the books some meaning if even the writer knew that it was impossible to reach this goal.  Ultimately, by examining Utopia it becomes clear that Thomas More is only presenting an idea that he thinks can help the society he lived in improve, rather than an actual society that could one day come into existence.

Utopia is an idea which is within each and every individual, but everyone’s idea is different because everyone is different.  One way to describe this is by thinking back to the first response paper in which we were all asked to explain our own Utopia.  Although there were likely similarities between each answer, no two responses were identical to each other.  This is because everyone has a different Utopia.  The best way I could describe Utopia is the idea or place that enters one’s mind when they are hoping for a better life.  Everyone had a different perception of what they believe will improve upon society.  That why so many different communities have been created in attempt to create an ideal situation.  However, the downfall of most of these communities is conflict between their direction.  Everyone has a different idea of what will make things better and this conflict has lead to the ruin or break up of many communities.

Everyone sees it different that is why Utopia is an idea inside the individual rather than a concrete ideal.  Each of the four books we read offered a better society in response to the world they lived in.  When Plato thinks of a better place he sees a Republic with philosopher kings as its rulers.  Rousseau sees world before man was civilized finding Utopia in the savage man.  These conflicting ideas of Utopia all come from the same problem, unhappiness with their current situation.  When life is hard it is helpful to imagine something better.  Everyone is guilty of this practice.  Ultimately everyone seeks out a better life, but everyone has a different idea of what this life will look like.

It is significant to understand Utopia because it still plays a role in shaping the society we live in.  Politicians argue with one another over the best course to set our society on.  Communities argue over the best plan to improve.  Everyone is striving to find this better place and it is important to study Utopias and determine the parts that are beneficial to society.  In striving toward a better place we may be able to make our world a better place.

 

 

  1. Bradshaw, Brendan. “More on Utopia*.” J. The Historical Journal 24, no. 01 (1981): 1-27. Accessed September 30, 2015.

 

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