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How does this quotation reflect the theme of the text in Utopia by Thomas More?...

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agdelamunoza | eNoter

Posted April 23, 2013 at 9:05 PM via web

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How does this quotation reflect the theme of the text in Utopia by Thomas More?

QUOTATION (paraphrased)

lf you can't completely eradicate wrong ideas, or deal with inveterate vices as effectively as you could wish, that's no reason for turning your back on public life altogether. You wouldn't abandon a ship in a storm just because you couldn't control the winds. On the other hand, it's no use attempting to put across entirely new ideas, which will obviously carry no weight with people who are prejudiced against them. You must go to work indirectly. You must handle everything as tactfully as you can, and what you can't put right you must try to make as little wrong as possible. For things will never be perfect, until human beings are perfect - which I  don't expect them to be for quite a number of years!

ACTUAL QUOTATION

"That is what I was saying," replied [Raphael], "that there is no room for philosophy in the courts of princes."

    "Yes, ..." said I, "... if ill opinions cannot be quite rooted out, and you cannot cure some received vice according to your wishes, you must not therefore abandon the commonwealth; for the same reasons you should not forsake the ship in a storm because you cannot command the winds. You are not obliged to assault people with discourses that are out of their road, when you see that their received notions must prevent your making an impression upon them. You ought rather to cast about and to manage things with all the dexterity in your power, so that if you are not able to make them go well they may be as little ill as possible; for except all men were good everything cannot be right, and that is a blessing that I do not at present hope to see."

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K.P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted June 4, 2013 at 10:05 PM (Answer #1)

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The difficulty with using paraphrases of Early Modern English texts is that you must trust that the paraphraser accurately understands and accurately "translates" the text into Modern English. This paraphrase proves the point that this sort of trust is at times mislaid. There are a couple of places where the paraphrase deviates from the original in significant ways. The meaning of the More's original text is as follows.

If people's unproductive opinions [think for example of ethnic biases] cannot be persuaded away and if you cannot persuade against harmful though traditional practices [think for example of antagonistic partisan politics], you must not as a result turn your back on the politics of your country, just as you would not turn you back on a ship just because you cannot control the winds that buffet it [think for example of a sinking ship compared to a corrupted political system]. It is true that you do not have the privilege to overwhelmingly assault people with ideas they find disagreeable or alien when you can tell that their traditional preconceived biases prevent them giving credence to the ideas you express [think for example of ideas about religious tolerance in countries with rigid religious law]. Instead, you must employ every honest means in your power to act on your own initiative to improve whatever you can so that even if things do not improve a lot, they will at least not be as bad as they otherwise might be. Unless all people are good, all things cannot be right, and that blessing of goodness is not about to come yet.

This passage relates to the theme of More's work because it describes one of More's ways to build a better world, a world of Utopia, through (1) collective tolerance and through (2) individual responsibility and dedication to a vision of goodness and right.

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