Comparing the Genesis and Content of Morality in Plato and More’s Utopias

In forming an ideal society, having common moral values among the population is a necessity.  In order to sustain an idyllic state, each citizen must have a strong moral compass that does not conflict with others. In both Utopia and The Republic, More and Plato emphasize education as an important factor in generating a common moral code. Both emphasize the importance of morality, but then describe deceptive and indecent strategies used by the state to manipulate citizens.

Both More and Plato recognize education and enlightenment as important in teaching their citizens moral values.  In The Republic, the allegory of the cave demonstrates the effect of education on the soul.  In the allegory, the sun represents the form of the good, and in order to reach it citizens must study arithmetic and dialectics (Plato, 196).  If the citizens master these subjects, they will truly understand the “good,” making them the most moral beings.  Like in The Republic, In Utopia, citizens must be trained in different subjects from an early age (More, 77).  Through education, Utopia’s inhabitants will form their own ethical values.  Both More and Plato believe that knowing “truth” is a key component in developing a moral code, and truth is discovered through education.

The irony in More’s and Plato’s emphasis on creating moral citizens is that the state is, in itself, very ethically wrong.  The way Utopians win wars is by going into other countries and issuing propaganda that turns the citizens of that country against one another (More, 66).  In The Republic, the state censors stories that portray gods as anything but perfect (Plato, 58). Although they consider truth to be the origin of morality, Plato and More develop cities in which the governments are actually dishonest and corrupt.  While the citizens are expected to be ethical, the rulers are expected to be dishonest and immoral. More and Plato contradict themselves many times in the course of describing a completely just and ethical state, proving that even the most idyllic society has corruption.