Foundations of Western Culture, Final Research Paper

What Makes the Ideal States

The Ultimate Utopia?

In the Era of Anti-Utopia

It is said that an ideal state,or Utopia,has been proved unrealistic and useless. There have been quantities of criticism such as George Orwell's 1984,Aldous Leonard Huxley's Brave New World. If we look into other forms of art like film ,painting and drama,chances are that Utopia will be the target of irony and central of topic.Many People object to the ideal state,referring to it as harmful for humanity and freedom,whether they are from the West or the East.

There are,however,some misunderstanding about the concept of Utopia. When we talk about anti-utopia or dystopia,we tend to regard it as the objection to Utopia,which is not always true. The role of a Utopia is more like the guideline for current community,but too often the design of the ideal states seems ridiculous[1]. The role of Dystopia is similar,except that it is an awfully designed community which serves as a warning for politics revolution and some radical philosophy.[2]

People often think the Utopia is a communist society.Indeed,from the westerners' points of view,communism is unrealistic and harmful in some ways as well. As long as there's no actual communist society established,I'll refer to it as a form of Utopia,but they are not equal.We'll see that from the early ages philosophers and politicians had begun to build their own ideal states,for the sake of themsevles and their political theory ,and of course not all of them contain the communism-relevant content.Some are realized while others remain Utopia. Personally speaking I advocate pursuing of better society but whether a certain architeture of society is good or bad is rather vague - Let's judge it with time.

Religious Ideal States

Believe it or not,when we talk about ideal places,The Paradise,The Eden or The Olympia will come to mind.Our ancestor did their best to describe happiness,order,and harmony in these places,probably by telling stories about myths and gods. Take Eden for example:

The LORD God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed.  Out of the ground the LORD God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

We assume in the early ages these myths and scripts were produced by the whole people.It at least indicated back when the living standard was not so high and people suffered all kinds of torments an ideal state or place was the consequence of our ancestors' yearning for better conditions.Even to middle ages and till now those not content with current life will pursue the chance of going to paradise after death.For them,even if they do not believe in or haven't heard of any political or philosophical Utopia,they are longing for it.

But roughly speaking the depiction of the ideal religous place has few things to do with politics and society architecture.Religions use them as tools to attract believers and achieve goals.The better a paradise is,the more devout followers will be,probably.

Maybe the ideal places described in religious classicals are not seemed as bad things just because everyone wants a heaven,and it occurred to me that there is nobody completely hating Utopia.If we have the chance of realizing them,for what reason we shall not adopt those lovely good community form ?For centuries people are intoxicated by the hope of going to heaven,but compared to the life after death,let's focus on our life in possible future in reality,which has been forseen and predicted by many wise men,the majority of whom are philosophers.

Ideal States by Philosophers

After Enlightment ,'Liberty,Equality,Fraternity' became a famous motto. But from the date of its birth,people keep arguing about the order of these three things[3] and finally lead to totally different ideologies. If a society wants absolute liberty,then there will be no equality,as the strong will always beat the weak,which is caused by freedom.Likewise,if we advocate absolute equality,people stronger and more intelligent cannnot take the advantage of their inborn talents.We have seen too many examples such as USA,which is the lighthouse of freedom and democracy but also where discrimination between genders and races will never be solved, and PRC,which chooses to restrict liberty and the level of equality is relatively high.

The preferrence for liberty or equality can be roughly regarded as the fundamental of the underlying difference.And Utopia can be divided accrodingly:some Utopias are designed to make everyone completely free and there will be restrictions on democracy and authorities. Some force equality among classes and individuals are not allowed to own personal property,instead it will be allocated by the nation. Roughly they are possible future of capitalism and communism society.

The first philosopher in history to design an ideal state is Plato,in his book Republic. Due to his teacher Socrates' death originated from the abuse of democrocy in ancient Athens,Plato lost his faith in democracy and designed his own ideal state to be powered by philosophers,which is the top class or King.Other classes include police/military officers and common citizens.There will be nearly no transitions between two classes and no democracy involved in state affairs.Nobody should make statements about king's behaviours and violate the national interest.

Interestingly Plato objected to liberty and equality both. He thought liberty will cause slavery in the future as the strong will enslave the weak.At the same time he only approved the wisdom of philosophers,which leads to oligarchy.He insisted the government shall be composed of philosophers because they will not corrupt.Governers will tell the nobal lie (γενναῖον ψεῦδος) to make the people believe that they are born in a certain class and should not change that ,as is described in the book:

...the earth, as being their mother, delivered them, and now, as if their land were their mother and their nurse, they ought to take thought for her and defend her against any attack, and regard the other citizens as their brothers and children of the self-same earth...While all of you, in the city, are brothers, we will say in our tale, yet god, in fashioning those of you who are fitted to hold rule, mingled gold in their generation, for which reason they are the most precious — but in the helpers, silver, and iron and brass in the farmers and other craftsmen. And, as you are all akin, though for the most part you will breed after your kinds, it may sometimes happen that a golden father would beget a silver son, and that a golden offspring would come from a silver sire, and that the rest would, in like manner, be born of one another. So that the first and chief injunction that the god lays upon the rulers is that of nothing else are they to be such careful guardians, and so intently observant as of the intermixture of these metals in the souls of their offspring, and if sons are born to them with an infusion of brass or iron they shall by no means give way to pity in their treatment of them, but shall assign to each the status due to his nature and thrust them out among the artisans or the farmers. And again, if from these there is born a son with unexpected gold or silver in his composition they shall honor such and bid them go up higher, some to the office of guardian, some to the assistanceship, alleging that there is an oracle that the city shall then be overthrown when the man of iron or brass is its guardian.[4]

Plato's ideal state had never been realized and had been the target of criticism by his own student Aristotle and many philpsophers afterewards,but he was the first to express his political and philosophical ideas with an ideal society. When it came to the days after the Renassiance,Sir Thomas More wrote the famous book called Utopia and inherited Plato's concept of an Ideal State,while its target of criticism is the society of England where the sheep is eating men,during the early ages of industrial revolution.

In his Utopia,More promoted his idea of absolute equality.Like in Republic,people have no personal property.But furthermore ,More designed the state to allocate all things including dormitories and even wives and husbands.For More and later philosophers like Andria and Tommaso Campanella,equality is obviously more important than liberty.The case is :if all men are happy,there will be no need for freedom.

When later Marx developed his own political theory,More and his followers were all categoried as advocators of utopian socialism.And Karl Popper criticized Plato and them as advocators of totalitarianism.However,their way of expressing ivory and political ideas is absorbed by later philosophers and politicians - depicting a bright future for the citizens will always happen during election,but after that you may refer to it as a Utopia.

Although Marx and other philosophers have their own design as well,they are not concrete enough and most of them are just inferences of philosophy theory.So I'll ignore these modern philosophers and talk about my own understanding of the ultimate Utopia.

My Utopia

  • The society should emphasis on equality more than on liberty:

    Libertists cannoot stand the elimination of oppurtunities,probably because they are in the upper class or they are stronger than most of others.So they can use their current power and easily succeed in the competition with others.It's the biggest shortcoming of liberty.And let's put it this way,when we allow liberty,we are actually eliminating liberty because the strong is always strong and the weak is always weak,nobody from the lower class have the liberty - liberty is only for those with most money and power.

  • There should be no property

    Rousseau has said that the unequality between people originated from pricate ownership.To achieve equality we must eliminate personal property.

  • People must labour

    A major concern for the Utopia or communism society is that when resources are not allocated by labour people will be lazy - and this had happened in China 50 years ago.So people must labour and cannot loaf on the job.

  • The population must be controlled and communication with outside should be limited

    We must make the society as stable as possible,so common people should not communicate with outsider,except that all the nations on the earth have the same ideology.

  • People can invovle themselves in politics and public affairs,but decisions are made by nation

    It's like the current policy in China,people can summit their suggestions - but whether it will be adopted or not depends.

  • ...

What's the best and ultimate Utopia?

Well,to summarize the whole article,I'll say there's no best or ultimate Utopia.Just like me ,anyone can have his/her ideal state.But the problem is,people nowdays don't want to,or refuse to,object to plant an ideal state in their mind. Is it because they think the current state is the best and What is,is right? The role of an ideal state is not for political reasons because not every one wants revolution.It is about guiding people's concept and wish towards the world.

The ultimate Utopia is YOUtopia.

  1. wikipedia:Utopia,available from ↩︎

  2. wikipedia:Dystopia,available from ↩︎

  3. wikipedia:Age of Enlightenment,available from ↩︎

  4. Plato, Book 3, 414e–15c ↩︎