Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Thomas More's UTOPIA

Been reading on More's Utopia today as part of my Askew's class Globalization and Law, and came across some pretty thought-provoking and reflective parts. Here is one part about pleasures, aka classes of pleasures, depicted as the commonly held notions for utopians - citizens of Utopia.

They distinguish several classes of pleasures which they confess to be genuine, attributing some to the mind and others to the body. Those of the mind are knowledge and the delight that arises from contemplating the truth, the gratification of looking bak on a well-spent life, and the unquestioning hope of happiness to come.

Pleasures of the body they alsodivide into two classes. The first is that which fills the senses with immediate delight. Sometimes this happens when bodily organs that have been weakened by natural heat are restored with food and drink; sometimes it happens when we eliminate some excess in the nody, as when we move our bowels, generate children, or relieve an itch somewhere by rubbing or scratching it. Now and then pleasure arises, not from restoring a deficiency or discharging an excess, but from something that affects and excites our senses with a hidden but unmistakable force, and attracts them to itself. Such is the power of music.

The second kind of bodily pleasure they describe as nothing but the calm and harmonious state of the body, its state of health when undisturbed by any disorder. Health itself, when not oppressed by pain, gives pleasure, without any extrenal excitement at all. Even though it appeals lessdirectly to the senses than the gross gratifications of eating and drinking, many still consider this to be the greatest pleasure of all. Most of the Utopians regard it as the foundation and basis of all the pleasures, since by itself alone it can make life peaceful and desirable, whereas without it there is no possibility of any other pleasure. (...)


Among the various pleasures, then, they seek primarily those of the mind, and rpize themmost highly. The foremost mental pleasure, they believe, arises from practice of virtues and consciousness of a good life. Among pleasures of the body, they give first place to health. As for eating, drinking and other delights of that sort, they consider them desirable, but only for the sake of health. They are not pleasant in themselves, but only as ways to withstand the insidious encroachments of sickness. A wise man would rather escapesickness altogether than have a medicine against it. ; he would rather prevent pain than find a palliative. And so it would be better not to need this kind of pleasure at all than to be assuaged by it.

Anyone who thinks happiness consists of this sort of pleasure must confess that his ideal life would be one spent in an endless round of hunger, thirst and itching, followed by eating, drinking, scratching and rubbing. Who can fail to see that such an existence is not only disgusting but miserable? These pleasures are certainly the lowest of all, as they are the most adulterated - for they never occur except in connection with the pains that are their contraries. Hunger, for example, is linked to the pleasure of eating, and by no equal law, since the pain is sharper and lasts longer; it precedes the pleasure, and ends only when the pleasure ends with it. (...)


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