Humanism in Thomas More’s Utopia
Thomas More’s book Utopia is a work of equivocal dualities that forces the reader to question More’s real view on the concept of a utopian society. Evidence throughout the novel, however, suggests that More did intend Utopia to be the best state of the commonwealth. The detailed description of Utopia acts as More’s mode of expressing his humanist views, commenting on the fundamentals of human nature and the importance of reason and natural law, while combining the two seemingly conflicting ideals of communism and liberalism. The presence of satirical irony and contradiction clearly defines Utopia as an unobtainable goal, though a goal that all societies must pursue nonetheless.
In essence, Utopia is a written indication of Thomas More’s humanistic beliefs. Many of these views are present in the character of Raphael Hythloday. For example, Hythloday comments on the unwillingness of Kings to take advice from others, claiming they are “drenched as they are and infected with false values from boyhood and on” (More). The idea of “infection” implies that a man is not naturally corrupt or sinful, but rather pure at heart and simply influenced by the environment an individual is exposed to. This is a key concept in humanism, which suggests that human nature is malleable and inconstant, and therefore can be positively influenced to do good. Raphael later states, “Pride is too deeply fixed in human nature to be easily plucked out” (More) Though this may seem contradictory to his previous statement, Hythloday still suggests that human nature can be changed, though he candidly admits that it is difficult. More is attempting to illustrate his own hesitations of serving the King through the conversation between the fictional More and Hythloday, which serves as a representation of More’s conflict between his beliefs as a humanist and a servant of the King.
Another facet of the Renaissance humanist values includes the importance of...