Wednesday, 30 January 2008

So far ...

Rather than the reflective posts I promised, here is a summary of some of the key 'set piece' questions we have discussed so far - and an indication of questions for the future:

So far ...

The active v. the contemplative life: the relationship between philosophy and politics.

The true nature of nobility (but how meritocratic is Utopia?).

The relationship between free will and law (do people need laws to make them good?). If law is necessary, who makes the law?

What is the res of the res publica? Goods in and of this earth, or in and of a greater spiritual good?

Form. How does the form in which Utopia is written (dialogue, visio, itemised and methodical list) influence its content and effect?

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To come ...

The 'individual' and 'society'. A particularly false conceptual binary for many, even all 'utopias'?When and how does it ever become realistic to talk in these terms? With Aristotle or Augustine, with Rabelais and More - or not until the distopias of Zamiatin et al?

So we ought to focus on the social issues more:

  • Reproduction. Health.
  • Education. Science.
  • Property. Work.
  • Geographical location (we have touched on this).
  • Architectural form.

    How do all these means support the ends of different utopias? Do they ever become ends in themselves?

Contextual histories. This is where you need to help each other with your presentations, handouts, blog posts or other guides to the relevant secondary literature.

Historical questions. The big one, I think, is the relationship between utopianism and modernity - but that needs quite a bit more glossing.

Critics of Utopia. How, when and why does utopianism fall into disrepute? Does the very question misunderstand the essentially paradoxical and pragmatic nature of Utopia - the nowhere place?

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