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by George M. Logan,Robert M. Adams,Thomas More

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Author: George M. Logan,Robert M. Adams,Thomas More
ISBN: 0521525403
Language: English
Pages: 180 pages
Category: Social Sciences
Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 2 edition (September 30, 2002)
Rating: 4.3
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FB2 size: 1417 kb | EPUB size: 1312 kb | DJVU size: 1398 kb
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The simplest explanation is that More didn't hold himself to the canons of academic writing of our enlightened era.

The simplest explanation is that More didn't hold himself to the canons of academic writing of our enlightened era. He wrote the darn thing in longhand miniscule in his spare time, for heaven's sake! If the whole makes less sense than the parts, don't be surprised. That's a clue, I think, to how the best minds of the Renaissance worked.

Translated by Robert M. Adams. Publisher: Cambridge University Press. Translated by Robert M.

Political Thought) by Thomas More, George M. Logan, Robert M. Adams

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Genre: Political Science. Series Title: Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought. The vivid and engaging translation of the work itself by Robert M. Adams includes all the ancillary materials by More's fellow humanists that, added to the book at his own request, collectively constitute the first and best interpretive guide to Utopia.

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This revision incorporates the many refinements to the translation of Utopia undertaken in 1995. George Logan has also updated the editorial commentary and introduction to take into account the scholarship published since the first Cambridge Texts edition of Utopia appeared in 1989. This edition is the most accessible and student-friendly version of Utopia currently available.
Comments (7)
Marige
An important edition of a major work of the 16th Century. Unfortunately, Cambridge's hardcover version is a poorly printed "print on demand" version that's not worth wasting the extra expense. Buy the paperback, or the older hardcover edition, made before university presses discovered that they could print books on xerox machines and hope nobody would be smart enough to notice the difference.
Bladebringer
... to appreciate life in Utopia, the well-ordered commonwealth described by traveler Rafael Hythloday and reported by Thomas More. Assuming, however, that Hythloday was not prevaricating in the manner of world travelers, and that More recorded his comments accurately, Utopia sounds like a very nice place to visit but one that wouldn't suit my own peculiar temperament for permanent residence. In short, I could fully approve the governance of America and the rest of the world under the constitution of Utopia, as long as I could find refuge elsewhere.

The chances are either that you, dear reader, have read Utopia ages ago in college, or that you never will. The latter would be a mistake. It's a fascinating little book, open to endless speculations as exemplified by the substantial previous reviews here in the amazoo. The lengthy introduction to this translation asks the standard anachronistic question: "why did More invent a flawed commonwealth?" This is a question many modern readers have echoed. The flaw they perceive in Utopian society is the restriction of personal freedom. No one is hungry or homeless there, no one is abashed or humiliated by poverty alongside opulence, no one lives in sloth. Crime and depravity are vanishingly rare. Equality prevails... well, except for slaves, that is. But a uniformed virtue is self-imposed, of a sort that makes most of us itchy.

The editors of this volume go halfway toward answering their own question, in trying to assess More's intentions through his 'memes' -- that is, in terms of the grid of current customs and general assumptions of 16th C Europe. They are correct in revealing the cut-to-pattern predictability of More's invented society, and they are also correct in noting that More's greatest originality is in his presentation of his ideal society in the guise of a travel account, a fiction. Not by any means the first such exercise in hypothetical social planning, More's Utopia has become the classic it is more because of its literary merits than for its cogency.

Most commentators have struggled with the disorderly imbalance between Book 1 and Book 2 of Utopia, the former being a lively dialogue and the latter a systematic exposition. The simplest explanation is that More didn't hold himself to the canons of academic writing of our enlightened era. He wrote the darn thing in longhand miniscule in his spare time, for heaven's sake! If the whole makes less sense than the parts, don't be surprised. That's a clue, I think, to how the best minds of the Renaissance worked.

The argument against capital punishment in Part 1, and the whole analysis of criminal behavior as a symptom of societal malaise, is astonishingly 'modern' and persuasive. The debate hasn't changed in half a millennium. More's fictive spokesman was right in 1515, and he's still right. Capital punishment is indefensible both morally and pragmatically.

And then Hythloday discourses, complete with marginal glosses, on "the Best State of a Commonwealth, Book 2". That commonwealth is not as unprecedented as modern readers might suppose. For one thing, there's a lot of ancient Sparta about it, and the humanists of More's epoch were well acquainted with Sparta by way of Plato, Plutarch, and other ancients. There's also a lot of monasticism, particularly of the vast and vastly successful Carthusian monastic communities of the Middle Ages, communities which managed economic production and 'diplomatic' affairs with their neighbors very much like the Utopians. The ethos of the Utopians - "that no kind of pleasure is forbidden, provided harm does not come of it" - is likewise not particularly original to More. It's in keeping with humanist efforts -- the writings of Erasmus, for instance -- to blend revived Classical philosophy with Christian orthodoxy. More's version is a 'house blend' of epicurean and stoic. It's not a bad blend; one could live by it today.

Hythloday's account of 'assisted suicide' in Utopia will certainly ring bells for modern readers. It's quite humane, as he recounts it. Another delightful custom of the Utopians is that "any man who campaigns for a public office is disqualified for all of them." Huzzah! More was equally a social prophet in proclaiming freedom of religion -- "for it is one of their oldest rules that no one should suffer for his religion" -- at a time when his living peers were given to burning heretics at the stake; alas for me, however, his tolerance didn't extend to "anyone who should sink so far below the dignity of human nature as to think that the soul perishes with the body." Atheists were ineligible for public office in Hythloday's Utopia.

On the troublesome side, the Utopians practice enslavement, rather as the ancient Romans did, both of war prisoners and convicted felons. They also depend on the semi-slavery of immigrants: "A third class of slaves consists of hard-working penniless drudges from other nations who voluntarily choose slavery in Utopia." Is it incumbent on me to point out the eerie similarity of this passage to affairs in our modern Land of the Free? An equally eerie parallel to hegemonic America is the preference of the Utopians for "covert action", for assassination of enemy leaders and for propagandistic subversion. The pertinent chapters of More's Book 2 could almost be a handbook for the CIA.

More wrote in Latin -- rather difficult and at times imperfect Latin. We latterday humanists are at the mercy of translators and editors therefore. This Cambridge translation, by Robert Adams, is the standard of clarity and accuracy, and the explanatory notes are excellent - enough to be helpful, not so many as to be an encumbrance.
Capella
The annotations were nice addition to the novel .
digytal soul
A good edition of a classic,.I can reccomend it.
A luxury bilingual edition might not be a bad idea.
The soft cover proved tough and even survived the unacceptable handling by Amazon.
terostr
This book was written in the 1400's. Its statements on how to drain a nation of all its resources by meddling in the affairs of other countries is timeless and a lesson that the U.S. in particular seems unable to grasp. There is also a section that describes that any country with a military force can only go so long before those being trained (and their leaders) have an overwhelming need to prove their military prowess in battle; even if it means looking for a war that it has no business getting involved in. Another lesson that the U.S. in particular seems unable to grasp and learn from.
Vobei
not quite sure what it's about. But original and concise. nice one, Thomas.
Sudert
A canonical book like Utopia hardly needs a recommendation, but I think modern readers might need some help understanding its genre. The book has the potential to be misinterpreted by readers who pull it out of its proper Christian context.

A modern reader might assume that More intended to describe what the word Utopia has itself come to mean: an ideal place. Instead, More is using the medieval notion of the natural and supernatural orders to describe a place where, without any revelation from God, men live lives guided by laws formed completely according to the dictates of natural reason. This society is intended as a foil to contrast with the ostensibly Christian society of England where one would expect to see a more elevated spiritual life.

Instead, Christian England is revealed to be worse than a society of men who are without the benefit of the knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Once its intentions are understood the book can be seen in its true context as part of the reformation project of Colet, Erasmus and others. More wanted readers of Utopia to join in this effort to raise the moral/spiritual ethos of Europe by realizing that their laws were more barbaric than a hypothetical society which relied solely on natural reason.

By pulling Utopia out of its cultural milieu and interpreting it as More's ideal commonwealth, one both misunderstands the text itself and the book's place in history as part of the Christian renewal intended by More and his fellow reformers.