utopia republic - 1 Dr Metress UCCP 101 3 December 2007...

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1 -1 Dr. Metress UCCP 101 3 December 2007 Separate, Not Equal In the United States, which has existed as an independent nation for only slightly more than two centuries, a constant source of controversy has been how to form the “more perfect union” referenced in the Constitution. An abundant variety of opinions on this have emerged in the nation’s relatively short existence, and the way in which these ideologies are currently practiced vary greatly from the way they were even just a century ago. With this in mind, the similarities between Plato’s The Republic and Saint Thomas More’s Utopia , written nearly two millennia apart, become even more striking. Two of the most highly read works in the utopian genre, the works come from a similar family of ideas (Levitas 11). Though the two writers often differ in application, their idealistic philosophies are very similar. More’s Utopia would make a valuable application to the Cultural Perspectives curriculum because though it for the most part affirms Plato’s ideas, he does challenge Plato and demonstrates how idealism has changed over such a vast stretch of time. Before either Plato or More begins to discuss his imaginary community, the idea of justice is brought up. The idea of justice that Plato, through Socrates, argues for is conceptual rather than a list of rules. While the other men in the dialog with Socrates view justice as a black and white code of action, such as Cephalos’s simple statement that justice is “never to be dishonest, nor debtor” (Plato 128), Socrates argues that no single action is in itself just or unjust. Instead, he argues, it is the motivation behind the action that determines whether or not it is just. His form of justice is “a necessary conduct from beginning to end” (Plato 232), a conduct that
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2 can never be tainted with self interest. Conveniently, this form of justice also fits in well with the alignment he proposes in his ideal city as he seeks to define a just man through the example of city, and thus he is able to prove two of his ideologies concurrently. Rather than using a purely philosophical dialog to discuss justice, More shows his views more practically, through a discussion of contemporary problems in England. Through Hytholoday’s admonishment of English society, Thomas More is able to not only condemn specific problems but also give an ideological sense of justice (Manuel 100). A major issue with which Hytholoday deals is the punishment of thieves. He argues that capital punishment for theft is both unjust and inefficient, which he later contrasts with the just and useful punishments for the little crime in Utopia. It is unjust because the thievery he writes of is necessary for survival, and he argues that because the crime is necessary, then even such a harsh punishment is not a deterrent (More 16). He suggests that thievery can be avoided proactively, through teaching everyone a trade, rather than reactively, through execution. These recommendations also carry implications about justice in the larger sense.
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