Hythloday can't get no satisfaction from the current state affairs in Europe. That's how that song goes, right? The more we get to know the protagonist of Utopia, the clearer it is that he just isn't happy with how things are going down in his home continent: corruption, poverty, inequality, and violence abound. Yep, it's a bummer. And while he finds temporary relief in the radically different society of this unknown island called Utopia, it just doesn't last. In fact, when he returns to Europe and realizes how few people are open to the kinds of social systems Utopia uses, things only get worse for him. Poor guy.
Hythloday is just having a case of "the grass is greener." If he had actually stayed in Utopia, he'd start to find faults with all kinds of things there, too.
Utopian society is designed so that no one can ever feel dissatisfied—it's impossible.
Pride is the problem. At least for Hythloday it's that simple. In Utopia, Hythloday sees Pride as public enemy #1, the main contributor to every political, social, and economic issue facing Europe. Poverty? Pride's fault. Bad kings? You guessed it, Pride. Even though you might think of pride as just one of those seven deadly sins, Hythloday goes out of his way to claim that it's at the root of all other sins. And guess what makes Utopian society so successful? Pride is never rewarded, so it doesn't really exist. Problem solved… maybe.
Hythloday is wrong; pride may not always be great but it isn't all bad. In fact, having some pride is necessary in order to accomplish good things.
Hythloday is the one with the pride problem here, not the rest of Europe. Can you get much prouder than believing you're right and everyone else is wrong?
Utopia is not your average island for many a reason, but its social organization and hierarchies are probably the most obvious difference between there and, well, anywhere else. Often considered to be proto-Communist, Utopia depicts a society that seems to have almost no class-system, no hierarchies (aristocracy, plebs, etc.), and very rigid family structures. By imagining such a radically different conception of how people live together, More is thinking hard about whether everyone should have equal social standing or whether having some degree of social hierarchy is actually helpful. But wait, what's the answer? Don't hold your breath—More definitely doesn't give us one.
Utopian society isn't that radical; many aspects of its day-to-day organization are super similar to Europe.
Utopia couldn't exist without social hierarchies. After all, they are a natural part of how people live together. They aren't good or bad; they're just a reality.
Utopia is chock full of social commentary. And when Hythloday gets to Utopia, he's pretty taken with their unorthodox way of eliminating wealth: no private property. Without private ownership, there is no such thing as wealth—or poverty, for that matter—and people just don't care about being rich. This works out well, says Hythloday, because then there's no greed; and when there's no greed, everyone is happy. Everyone except him, of course, because it reminds him of how money-driven European society really is.
Like it or not, ownership of things makes us happy; it's completely unrealistic that people could be happy in Utopia.
If Hythloday hates wealth so much, he shouldn't be hanging around with his wealthy friends all the time enjoying their food and beautiful gardens.
Sure, Hythloday spends a lot of time discussing religion, but it's also one of the subjects that keeps his readers guessing. Why? Well, it's a pretty hot topic, and since More was writing Utopia at a time of major religious upheaval (think Reformation, burning at the stake, heretics, all that scary stuff), you didn't want to be caught saying something too controversial on the subject. What we do know about religion in Utopia is that most people believe in a single, God-like, all-powerful being who instills in us a moral code. But (and this is a big but) there's religious freedom to believe what you want. What do you make of that?
The Utopians don't actually have a religion; they just follow a collection of philosophical observations.
The fact that Utopians aren't Christian (the only acceptable religion in More's world) is proof that he didn't actually intend Utopia to be a model society.
Think Utopia is just a story about three regular guys having a little chat in a garden? Fine, it is. But it's also a profound examination of the power of, um, power: who should have it, how they should get it, and how they should use it. It's no accident More starts the whole book by praising the King of England (his employer). This book was written during a time when the people who were powerful were super-duper powerful. It's also no accident that this model of super-duper power it totally different from the way power exists in Utopia, which has a semi-democratic government. So, which is better? Well, folks, that's the million dollar question.
Hythloday, More, and Giles are all pretty privileged people; they can't have an honest discussion about power.
Utopia can't call itself a semi-democracy—after all, it was founded by some king.
Philosophy, meet adventure. Adventure, this is philosophy. Shmoopers, here they are, brought together for your delight in More's Utopia. Despite being concerned with lots of Big Important Themes, this is also a book about exploration: the benefits—and drawbacks—of discovering new places and new ideas. What if, like Hythloday, everyone who leaves Europe to go exploring comes back preferring the new place? Will it help us improve or just make everyone miserable? What ethical responsibilities do we have toward these new people? What if they don't believe in our laws and moral ideals? Even though no one is directly voicing these concerns, you can bet that they would have been on everyone's mind.
Utopia is not a book about exploration; it's just a convenient context for some philosophical speculations.
In the Renaissance, exploration and travel would have been luxuries only an elite few could have taken advantage of, so morality and exploration are actually incompatible.
Who runs the world? Philosophers! Not really, but Hythloday thinks they should—and they kind of do in Utopia. In fact, Hythloday thinks that the political health of Europe is in serious danger if kings without any philosophical know-how continue to run the show. In fact, the question of how to make the ideals of philosophy reconcilable with the realities of politics motivates the long debate of Book 1 of Utopia and is a subtle refrain in Hythloday's depiction of the island. For all their innovative and radical attitudes toward society, power, and religion, it's their devotion to learning and education that keeps the Utopians so on top of things.
Hythloday's point is that politics and philosophy are naturally connected; there's no way you can possibly separate them.
Philosophy can never be political; it has to be able to conceive of an ideal world and never engage in the kind of compromises politics requires.