An Idealist on Utopia: the Perfection of Perfection

A man named Nonsenso begins any debate at a disadvantage. What kind of information or argument can be expected of such an individual? Can he articulate a rational idea, deduce a logical conclusion? Is the authority of his discourse to be trusted? Or is he simply a man with a name and a nature that are in perfect agreement? These are all questions which Thomas More leaves us to ask of Raphael Nonsenso, the garrulous sailor-philosopher who describes and extols Utopia in the book of the same name.

From his memories of a five year stay on the island, Raphael conjures up a thorough description of the social and political practices constituting the Utopian way of life, which he unabashedly proclaims "the happiest basis for a civilized community whichwill last for ever." The details of his speech are astounding and the extent of his knowledge staggering; he vividly describes everything from their wardrobes to their war tactics. It is a dazzling recounting, replete with all the details of fact and unburdened by the vague generalities of the imagination. And yet, at the end of the speech, More confesses to harboring "various objections." He does not call Raphael a liar, for to do so would be to call him a genius, as...

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