Study Guide

Utopia Book 2, Section 5

By Thomas More

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Book 2, Section 5

The Travels of the Utopians

  • To travel in the country, you need permission, although it's usually granted without any problems.
  • You don't even need to bring anything, because you'll be provided for wherever you end up. Not having to pack for vacation? Sounds good to us.
  • Traveling without permission is a big no-no; second time you do it, you become a slave.
  • If you don't want to stay at home, you have to work wherever you are in order to be fed.
  • People don't avoid work because there aren't many places to avoid it. No bars, no brothels, no Dance Dance Revolution arcades.
  • When all the leaders get together annually in the capital, they assess how many goods they have, save a lot, distribute some, and then trade whatever is left over. They've gained a lot of gold and silver, so they don't mind lending to other cities on credit.
  • They only really use money to hire soldiers, so that they don't have to fight in wars.
  • They actually keep their gold and silver for totally wacky stuff, because they don't think it's very valuable. Yep, they use it for chamber pots (primitive toilets), chains for prisoners, and gold chains that criminals are forced to wear.
  • Only children, before they become more mature, enjoy playing with diamonds and pearls.
  • Funny story: some Anemolian visitors came to Utopia and thought they would look impressive by dressing up. But instead, the Utopians thought they looked ridiculous and they were totally embarrassed. Hilarious, we know.
  • How about some more word games? Anemolian is another made-up place, coming from the Greek word for windy.
  • The Utopians just don't get the appeal of jewels and fancy stuff—they think it's all completely useless. Naturally, they also don't understand the concept of wealth and why rich people hold positions of prominence.
  • They learn about the foolishness of wealth not only from their whole community, but also from reading good books (yes!) which every child does during their education.
  • They haven't heard of any of our famous philosophers, but have still come up with most inventions and discoveries in learning on their own. In fact, they are probably better off without some of our philosophy, which is confusing instead of helpful.
  • They study the stars, but only to observe, not to engage in astrology which they think is hooey (no horoscopes for the Utopians).
  • They like to debate all kinds of philosophical topics, and believe happiness is the greatest goal in life. Hythloday, by the way, doesn't seem very impressed with this part.
  • Their religion is based on this principle, too, but teaches them that the truest kind of happiness is honorable and good pleasure, not just greedy and self-interested pleasure.
  • For them, virtue means following Nature as closely as possible, which means being good to yourself and to others.
  • This is why it's good to follow laws that help you to be virtuous and not to do anything that will harm another person.
  • They believe that God will ultimately reward those who act virtuously.
  • Good pleasure, Hythloday repeats, is following what Nature lays out for us.
  • For example, following bad pleasure is caring too much about (1) fancy clothes, (2) big honors, (3) jewels, (4) money for its own sake, (5) gambling, (6) hunting. These kinds of things have nothing to do with Nature and lead people to be way too into themselves.
  • Good pleasures are (1) functioning body and health (despite the fact that some people don't think health counts), (2) sensory experiences like music (eating and drinking should only be pleasurable if they're healthy), (3) beauty, strength, and agility.
  • Hythloday then stops his narrative briefly for a little caveat: this is all just the facts, ma'am. He's not saying Utopians are better, just reporting what they do. And, you know, they happen to be incredibly happy all the time...
  • Anyway, back to the facts. Utopians are super healthy and athletic because they take care of themselves.
  • They're also very chill and friendly and love thinking about important things. For example, when they were introduced to ancient Greek learning, they were all over it. They learned the language super quickly (Hythloday suspects Greek and Utopian are somehow distantly related).
  • Hythloday, who you might remember was himself a huge Greek-buff, brought a bunch of Greek books with him to Utopia. Well what would know, but while he was reading one, some darn monkey came and ripped a bunch of pages out! That's why one of his books isn't in tip-top condition, but the rest were perfect.
  • He did also give them two nifty inventions: the printing press and the ability to make paper.
  • Utopians love meeting travelers, learning from them, and hearing their stories, but not many merchants come to Utopia since they don't trade much.

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