Comparing the function of location in More’s and Plato’s utopias

Both More and Plato, in synthesizing their utopian visions in Utopia and Republic, respectively, use location to physically isolate the citizens of their societies from the outside world. However, Plato incorporates a selective education system to mentally isolate his utopia’s citizens as well, thus allowing for the shaping of their minds to make them “utopia-worthy”—able to work together in order to maintain an efficient society. Nevertheless, both of the authors’ motivations to isolate their citizens are to keep them from outside corruption, thus keeping peace and harmony within their cities’ boundaries.

In More’s Utopia, the citizens of the titular nation live on an island, isolated from the rest of the world. A similar case of physical isolation can be found in Plato’s utopian vision in Republic. When the character Socrates explains his utopia to Glaucon in Book VII, he describes taking children of a select age from the nearby city and sending them into the country. These children, who would have been protected from the influences of their homelands and families, would be raised in a society in which physical isolation prevents outside ideas from filtering into its boundaries. In both authors’ visions, their societies are physically isolated, allowing the ideas within to remain constant and the people to exist uncorrupted from the outside world.

Unlike More’s Utopia, however, isolation is present in Plato’s utopia on a mental level as well. The physical isolation gives way to an environment where the government can effectively brainwash its citizens through a controlled system of education. Such a system is described in Book III of Republic, in which the citizens would learn nothing of the evils of the world, thus giving them protection from them, and would instead learn not only basic material such as arithmetic and logic but also the heroic acts of the mythical figures. As a result of brainwashing, the people would be protected from the influence of evil, thus being able to work together to promote an efficient society. By controlling the education of a society, Plato believes that the minds of its people can be controlled as well.

Location plays an important role in isolating the societies envisioned by Plato and More. Because of this isolation, the people of the societies are protected from the influences of the outside world, keeping them incorruptible. However, Plato incorporates the idea of isolation past the physical level, using mental isolation to brainwash the citizens of his vision. Thus, while location plays an important role in both visions, it is taken more advantage of in Republic as it allows for even further isolation, making it easier for Plato to shape his vision into a utopia through controlling its people.

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