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Classical Rationality As The Basis Of Utopism

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Classical Rationality as the Basis of Utopism and its Criticism from the Viewpoints of Language and Experience

The constant return to utopian projects of re-organizing society testifies that utopism is deeply rooted in the structure of the Classical episteme. In this case to break with utopian line of thinking means to uncover and eliminate all the presuppositions which inevitably lead to the transformation of social ideals into utopias. If we approach the problem of utopism from this point of view, it becomes rather the object of epistemology than ethics or politics.

The connection of Utopia with the fundamentals of Classical theory of knowledge reveals itself clearly, if we remember that the author of the first Utopia, as well as the classical model of reasoning, was the same person Ð'- Plato. In his most famous work "Republic" the possibility of constructing an ideal society follows directly from his ontology and method of reasoning. So we can say that the theory of knowledge and politics were bound together from the very beginning.

Plato founds his method on the idealization procedure borrowed from mathematics and spreads this line of reasoning, where general is considered to be more cognizable and trustworthy, to all spheres of knowledge including social studies. From the logical point of view the idea/form of a thing always precedes the thing: "We should always know what equality is in itself before we know that certain things are equal". Having proved that "general" precedes "individual" logically, Plato makes a gross overstatement and treats ideas as primary to things not only logically, but also ontologically. He endows his forms/ideas with substance and places them in a special ideal world. The world of ideas "divine, mental, immortal, uniform" takes priority over the world of things "mortal, sensible, diverse, separable and perishable" not only as more cognizable but also as pertaining to "Good".

Starting from the proven priority of "general/always identical with itself" over "individual/transient" Plato structures his ideal state. According to his line of thinking, it is possible to approach the ideal if we eliminate everything that divides citizens and splinters the idea of the State: family ties and private property: "What can do more harm to the state than those things that result in the abolition of unity and lead to its dissolution? . And is this not the result of cries heard everywhere: "This thing is mine!". If we add, that stability in Plato's ideal polis is kept by means of propaganda and censorship we get the complete picture of a totalitarian state based on the principles of 1) Identity (collectivism); 2) Hierarchy (natural benefits given to a certain class, in this case, philosophers); 3) Teleology (all the individual interests and efforts should serve the only goal Ð'- the enforcement of the ideal State).

The further evolution of utopian thinking from metaphysical speculations on the essence of an ideal state to the description of its functioning model can be traced in the Thomas More's "Utopia". More inherited from his teacher the basic principles of reasoning: the rigid dichotomy of the proper state of things and the way they really are, the primacy of general over individual, the possibility of realizing the ideal by means of rational organization and the leading role of theoretical knowledge over experience. But being a statesman, More tries to bring the lofty dreams of the Greek philosopher closer to earth and devoid his ideals of the refined intellectualism. This tendency to "earthing" is obviously expressed in the fact that his ideal state More places on the physical plan, not meta-physical or speculative as Plato did.

In contrast to Plato, More bases his concept of an ideal state not on metaphysics or ethics but on economy. The citizens of Utopia are virtuous because of their political regime, not vice versa as, for example, in religious tradition: "The political regime of utopians is different from the regimes of other nations and this accounts for the difference of their world outlook". This shift of accents gives birth to a brand new social ideal, "earthly", rational and quite achievable in a certain type of society.

More's "Utopia" represents a transition point from classical utopia to the new phenomenon "utopism", which will receive its complete form during Enlightenment when Reason takes the place of God: "In the classical utopia the ethical ideal is transcendent, primary, while the social organization is secondary, it serves only to the realization of this transcendent ideal. In a modern utopia the most important thing is rational social organization. It becomes a non-transcendent utopian ideal" .

Medieval system of values is replaced in "Utopia" by Reason and Nature, and the right of a man to rely on himself in choosing between right and wrong finds its justification in the principle of pleasure: "all the natural needs should be satisfied within reasonable limits". This poorly developed argument gave rise to a critic of More's "Utopia" as "utilitarin", "naturalistic", "based on the objectivated values". The religion of Reason and Nature should have been as well substantiated from the metaphysical point of view as its rival Ð'- Christianity, and the a major step on the road to it was made in the philosophy of Enlightenment when "transcendent ideas" were filled with a new content and started to act as "forces actively transforming reality".

The prospects opened by the progress of natural sciences in the 17 century gave rise to the optimistic belief that: "human reason gets to know some truths with such a perfection and absolute precision, as Nature itself". The statement about the absolute accuracy of knowledge had a profound effect on the theory of knowledge: the universal character of the natural laws was taken as a guarantee of their full correspondence to the reality. Such a presumption gave grounds for epistemological optimism. Strict adherence to the method of reasoning, analogous to that of mathematical deduction, seemed to guarantee a steady growth of knowledge about rational Universe: "If we will be cautious and avoid taking for truth what is not so, and always keep to the order of deducing one thing from another, there will be no such distances that we can not reach and no such secrets that we can not reveal".This optimistic view on knowledge served as the foundation for the key concept of Modernity Ð'- "progress", a steadfast movement of nature, knowledge and humanity to a better



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