Location and Utopias


For More and Plato, location of a utopia affects its development and success. While More believes that a utopia must be physically separated from other societies, Plato suggests that any society can become a utopia wherever it is located if certain conditions are developed and met over time. More’s utopia is located on a remote island. His placement suggests the utopia cannot be corrupted because its inhabitants are physically separated from others. Essentially, More thought that outside contact corrupts the mind and society. In Book II of Utopia, More describes Utopia as not an “island at first, but part of a continent (More 28).” Utopus, the ruler of Utopia, believes that the continent they conquered was full of “uncivilized inhabitants (More 28).”  For this reason he orders all individuals of Utopia to dig a channel fifteen miles long to separate Utopia from the other continent. This channel serves not only as a physical separation, but also as a metaphorical one in which the ideas of Utopia become disconnected from the uncivilized culture surrounding their society. In addition, each town is located almost equidistant from the other. This placement is deliberate and creates an overall equality among the people because no individual has to go further for something than another individual demonstrating the true essence of a utopia.

In contrast, in Plato’s Republic, location is not as essential to the creation of a utopia.  However, location plays a small role in how Plato constructs his utopia. Plato believes that his “philosopher kings” must be separated from society at a young age so that their minds are not corrupt. Plato believes the separation from society allows the philosopher kings to rely not on sensorial observation, but rather on their training and understanding the Form of the Good. The utopian society that Plato creates is different than More’s because he does not believe his utopia needs to be isolated. Plato suggests that if certain conditions are met, any society can become a utopia.  For instance, if the philosopher kings are well trained in arithmetic, geometry, physical training, astronomy, and ultimately dialectics they will be able to create a utopian society no matter where they are.  More and Plato both use location in many different ways while describing their utopias. More uses location as a complete separation from the world. Plato uses location as a way to separate a few individuals and train them to then return to society and then rule society in a utopian fashion. Thus location is essential to the development of a utopia.