Where Technology meets Religion
While reading and analyzing Plato’s The Republic and More’s Utopia through class discussion, it has been made quite clear that human nature poses a major problem in shaping ideal societies. No “perfect” society can truly be formed. Even in films like “Metropolis” and “Gattaca” it was greed, lust, anger and pride that led to failures of their technological worlds and made it a dystopia. However, would those worlds have succeeded if there was a way to limit human desires? Karl Marx argues in the Communist Manifesto that it is the unsatisfying human wants that will lead to innovation and make capitalism prosper but in the process it will also create class differences and essentially, a dystopia. However, even Marx’s theory would be proved wrong if wants were restrained. Is it possible for capitalism to exist without having class difference oppression? Or is instant social revolution always the answer? My paper’s objective will be to apply the religious practices in More’s Utopia and the education methodologies in Plato’s Republic to the technological utopian society in I, Robot. Combining each of these authors’ ideas may possibly unveil the ideal society they were striving to achieve. It may also mean that happiness for all may not mean sacrificing the happiness of the capitalists through communism, as Marx had suggested in the Manifesto.
The impending problem to any technological utopia is the volatile temperament of human nature, which is swayed by the slightest selfish nudge. Therefore, we must somehow control this desire or want in humans. In Plato’s The Republic and More’s Utopia, we come across many ways in which the authors propose to control this yearning. Compulsive religious affiliation as in More’s Utopia will allow people to strive for spiritual means rather than materialistic things. While looking for a way to find the religious enlightenment they will discard greed, lust, anger and pride. In More’s Utopia we see that happiness cannot be found from wealth, rather from the satisfaction that comes from helping others and devoting yourself towards religion and self-sacrifice. Fearing the repercussions of causing chaos in this world prevents violent or selfish thoughts. Could religious association serve as a restraint to the unlimited wants that humans naturally desire?
With that said, there also must be a way to enforce these ideas and provide a strong sense of discipline and faith within the people. Here, I would like to use Plato’s ideas of raising the philosopher king and guardians which he had identified in books 2,3,4 and 8. If selfish wants and the desire for better life are not encouraged in society will they ultimately become obsolete?
Robbin (1969) in his article “Utopia: Ideal or Illusion” illustrates that the concepts in Utopia were not as optimistic and impractical as suggested by critics, rather they were quite applicable in real life. Dominique (2009) in his article “The More Part: Upstaging the Law” agrees that More also did believe that good will and the right sense of justice could create a utopia.
On the contrary in Kessler’s, “Religious Setting for More’s Utopia“, he discusses that More’s work was strongly influenced by his resentment of the Catholic Church for their one religion propaganda and the English monarchy, which ran on the King’s personal motives rather than the good of the people. In the same way, Plato resented society because it killed his teacher, Socrates and led him to believe that democracy was flawed because the opinions of the majority were not always correct and therefore his Republic believes in an elitist society. These works were flawed because they were not completely unbiased and hence, could not achieve the ideal society that they were thriving for.
The work is quite original in that no one has so far compared Plato or More with the movie I, Robot, let alone integrated these ideas to form a Utopia. However, there are many that have analyzed the similarities between Plato’s and More’s works and how one influenced the other (Miles, Leland, “The Platonic Source of Utopia’s ‘Minimum Religion’“). Furthermore, a utopia without extreme insurgent ideas is relatively new as previous utopian writers have suggested that it would be impossible to model a new society while following the rules of the present one or without undergoing a revolution.
In regards to research materials, I already have the books, “The Republic”, “Utopia” and “The Communist Manifesto”. The film, I, Robot can either borrowed from the library or viewed online through any one of the popular video streaming websites. My secondary sources i.e. the articles and books are available through Dickinson College Library Database (EbscoHost) and their personal catalog.
Plato, . The Republic. New York: Dover Thrift, 2000.
Plato recounts the dialogues that Socrates had with other students and fellow citizens to answer the question, “What is Justice?” and the what makes a ‘perfect’ state. He uses metaphors and different allegories to try to understand the concept of justice in different contexts. Finally he comes to the conclusion that they could do all the thinking they wanted but maybe true justice is something unachievable by humans in their current state. This book also gives methodologies on raising leaders or effective members of society which I believe are essential to apply to the ideal society proposed in my paper.
More, Thomas. Utopia. New York: Dover Thrift, 1997.
More imagines a perfect world in a island separated from the rest of society. His world practices religious tolerance, excessive democracy and the people do not own property. His society prospers on optimistic belief in human nature and mostly positive fundamentals. More’s emphasis on religion and good practices are a vital element in controlling human wants which I intend to show with my paper.
Marx, Karl, and Freidrich Engels. The Communist Manifesto. New York: Dover Thrift, 2003.
Proyas, Alex. “I, Robot.” Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Mediastream Vierte Film GmbH & Co. Vermarktungs KG, Davis Entertainment. Decem,14 2012. DVD
The film is about a technological utopia where robots are the ones doing all sorts of labor and making the lives of humans easier. Although the film’s main focus is around a homicide of one of the major scientists who developed robotics, it shows what a society where capitalism is successful can be like. It helped me see what a technological utopia could be like and hence is also an important setting for my paper.
Johnson, Robbin S. More’s Utopia: Ideal and Illusion. N.p.: Yale University Press, 1969.
Here the author explores some of the concrete and realistic(idyllic) features of More’s Utopia and the concepts to be learnt from it. People can learn about human nature and themselves from Utopia and can learn know how their evils can be controlled and also what human society should aspire to be like. Thomas More’s work should not be criticized for being too optimistic rather consulted for its realistic aspects that can be applied in real life. The author cites the opinions of articles that analyze the pragmatic concepts of Utopia.
Miles, Leland. “The Platonic Source of Utopia’s ‘Minimum Religion’.” Renaissance News 9, vol.2 (1956): 83-90.
Goy-Blanquet, Dominique. “‘The More Part’: Upstaging the Law.” Law and Humanities 3., vol. 2
This article tries to answer if More believed in his ideas that good law and education can run a society well and did he believe some laws could be changed so that a perfect society can exist with flaws.
His behavior in life contradicted his ideas. However, since he died upholding his sense of justice he possibly could have believed some of them. More’s doubt in his ideas not only reflected in his ideas but also in his life decisions. The author draws on contradictions between More’s life choices and principles in Utopia by referring to accounts More’s Biography.
Sanford, Kessler. “Religious Freedom in Thomas More’s “Utopia”.” The Review of Politics 64, no. 2 (2002): 207-229.