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The Review of Thomas More's Work 'Utopia'

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Thomas More’s “Utopia” is a work which fundamentally encompasses and endorses key values of Renaissance Humanists. Despite various interpretations that argue otherwise, in this essay I will contend that through his discussion of education and emphasis on persuasive rhetoric. More demonstrates his support for key Humanist beliefs. I will utilise scholarly articles such as “Education, Erasmian humanism and More’s ”Utopia’ by John M. Parrish alongside Wayne A. Rebhorn’s “Thomas More’s Enclosed Garden: ‘Utopia’ and Renaissance Humanism” to support my argument.

It is important to note first and foremost what is meant by “values espoused by most Renaissance Humanists’. The World History Encyclopaedia defines Renaissance Humanism as ”a movement in thought, literature, and art, typified by a revival in interest in the classical world and studies which focused not on religion but on what it is to be human’. The central values at the heart of this movement, but to name a few, are those of education, the nature of persuasive rhetoric, individualism and classicism, and More’s Utopia can be thought of as a culmination of these Humanist beliefs.

Hythloday’s account of the state of religion in Utopia reveals some striking differences from certain religious practices in 1516. At the outset, we learn that the Utopians were granted religious freedom in that they are allowed freedom of belief resulting in worship of things ranging from the sun to the moon to virtue. No such liberality was to be found in the Roman Catholic world, which was firm in its insistence upon the principle of one church, authoritative doctrine, and one divine ruler. Nonetheless, it is arguable that this passage in “Utopia” should be taken as no more than a simple fantasy. This is because there are countless examples of More’s demonstrated loyalty to his Church such as when he assisted Wolsey in hindering the import of Lutheran texts into England his famous final words “I die the king’s faithful servant, but God’s first”.

Although the theme of religion is one which is debated in “Utopia” as to whether it was a critique of Renaissance Humanist beliefs or simply a fantasy which More did not truly support, the concept of education is one which “Utopia” greatly endorses alongside common Renaissance Humanist beliefs. Renaissance Humanists believed in the value and importance of education as they believed individuals could be dramatically changed by it. They sought to create a population that could convey their ideas through speech and writing eloquently, skills which could be achieved through the study of grammar, rhetoric, history, poetry and moral philosophy. The Greco-Roman concept of “uomo universal” meaning universal man is key in explaining the value of education for renaissance Humanists as the purpose of Humanism was to create a universal man whose person combined intellectual and physical excellence and who was capable of functioning honourably in any given situation. These same values can be seen greatly present in More’s Utopia in which he puts forward innovative outlooks on education. 

At the time the text was written, only a select group of wealthy individuals had access to an education, yet in the text More states that every Utopian child receives a an in-depth and meticulous education. The Utopians believe that it is through education that the values and dispositions of citizens are moulded. The success of the Utopian educational system is evident in the fact that while most Utopians are engaged in manual labor as a career, in their free time Utopians choose to follow intellectual pursuits. One can see here, therefore, the great parallels between the key renaissance humanist value placed on education and the same importance of it in More’s text. Rebhorn writes that “humanists thought of education as a process of cultivating the soil of the mind, they also conceived it as domestication, a taming of the mind” a view which perfectly aligns with what More is arguing in “Utopia”. Additionally, he supports this view writing that the importance of “education is a persistent theme in Utopia”;  provides the example of when “Hythloday stresses that the utopians” eagerness to learn it the principal feature that distinguishes them from their European counterparts. 

In conclusion, the overall message of “Utopia” aligns with the values espoused by most Renaissance Humanists, there are some themes which seem contradictory to what the general beliefs were of the 16th century. Religion is a prime example of this. It is evident, therefore, More is endorsing the prominent value of education espoused by Renaissance Humanists in “Utopia” and his outlook can even be classified as avant-garde for his time.

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The Review of Thomas More’s Work ‘Utopia’. (2022, August 30). GradesFixer. Retrieved September 22, 2022, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-review-of-thomas-mores-work-utopia/
“The Review of Thomas More’s Work ‘Utopia’.” GradesFixer, 30 Aug. 2022, gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-review-of-thomas-mores-work-utopia/
The Review of Thomas More’s Work ‘Utopia’. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-review-of-thomas-mores-work-utopia/> [Accessed 22 Sept. 2022].
The Review of Thomas More’s Work ‘Utopia’ [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2022 Aug 30 [cited 2022 Sept 22]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-review-of-thomas-mores-work-utopia/
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