Imperfect Perfection

by horngyih

However, Thomas More proposed in “Utopia” through the traveller and philosopher, Raphael, that philosophers neither desire to be Kings nor counsel to Kings and that Kings would nary turn their thoughts to Philosophy as they are pre-occupied with other matters, in his passage below when Raphael was asked why he has not offered his service, counsel and wisdom to kings – to which Raphael replies,

“For most princes apply themselves more to affairs of war than to the useful arts of peace; and in these I neither have any knowledge, nor do I much desire it: they are generally more set on acquiring new kingdoms, right or wrong, than on governing well those they possess.

And among the ministers of princes, there are none that are not so wise as to need no assistance, or at least that do not think themselves so wise that they imagine they need none; and if they court any, it is only those for whom the prince has much personal favor, whom by their fawnings and flatteries they endeavor to fix to their own interests:

and indeed Nature has so made us that we all love to be flattered, and to please ourselves with our own notions.

The old crow loves his young, and the ape her cubs.

Now if in such a court, made up of persons who envy all others, and only admire themselves, a person should but propose anything that he had either read in history or observed in his travels, the rest would think that the reputation of their wisdom would sink, and that their interest would be much depressed, if they could not run it down:

and if all other things failed, then they would fly to this, that such or such things pleased our ancestors, and it were well for us if we could but match them.

They would set up their rest on such an answer, as a sufficient confutation of all that could be said, as if it were a great misfortune, that any should be found wiser than his ancestors; but though they willingly let go all the good things that were among those of former ages, yet if better things are proposed they cover themselves obstinately with this excuse of reverence to past times…”

Is Utopia then achievable when it would seem to be a catch-22 that for Plato’s Utopia to come about the nature and the very essence of its agents must change against More’s observation of the agent’s preference.

Posted on facebook 23rd November 2012