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NO PLACE. . .OR THE BEST PLACE?

Thomas More, the sixteenth century English writer, statesman, and saint, coined the term “utopia” as a delightful Greek pun. His book Utopia describes an imaginary island that may be “no place” (in Greek: “ou”-no; “topos”-place), but the name of the island could also mean “eu-topia,” or “the best place.” We human beings have always enjoyed imagining perfect societies. We seem to like imagining societies that reflect a “worst-case scenario,” too. Perhaps we just enjoy making up imaginary worlds of all sorts, and hearing about them, and play-acting them. It seems we always have.

U·to·pi·a

1. an imaginary island described in Sir Thomas More’s Utopia (1516) as enjoying perfection in law, politics, etc.

2. ( usually lowercase ) an ideal place or state.

3. ( usually lowercase ) any visionary system of political or social perfection.

Source: Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 05 Jan. 2011.

dys·to·pi·a

“imaginary bad place,” 1868, in writings of J.S. Mill, from Gk. dys- ”bad, abnormal, difficult” (see dys-) + utopia.

Source: Online Etymology Dictionary. Douglas Harper, Historian. 05 Jan. 2011.

 

to·pi·a·ry

A shaped shrubbery. And no, that’s not what this blog is about, so if you’re interested in pruning and gardening and shrubbery sculpting, you’ll need to search elsewhere. Unless. . .you find this link helpful:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zIV4poUZAQo

This blog is moderated by Dr. Jane Wiseman, Averett University, Danville, Virginia. Any comments posted here are the opinions of the posters and do not represent those of Averett University.

17 Responses to Home

  1. Christina Sinnott says:

    Final Journal
    I have to say out of all of the books that we read, the one that matter to me the most was the last one, Attwood’s Oryx and Crake. I truly found this book reviving, in a scary way, once I started reading it I could not put it down. I found that Attwood did not tell a fictional story that was meant to shock the reader; rather she told a true story in a fictional form. Almost of the topics in the book are events that are, or could be taking, place in today’s society. I firmly believe that science has gone terribly array, and this is one of the reasons I chose to major in History. I wanted to be the Snowman, the one who lived to tell the stories, not the one who tried to play God.
    I found the actual attempt to create these “utopian”, or to be honest I like studying the dystopia, societies fascinating and disturbing. When we went to the Holocaust museum and saw the horrific acts committed by the Nazi’s, I was deeply moved, and the message inscribed on the wall will be with me forever. “Those who do not learn are doomed to repeat.”
    Sadly I think that I would leave out the book on Oneida. While the community was fascinating, the book itself was boring. However, I would suggest adding one of two books on the Holocaust. One being a true story by Primo Levi called Survival in Auschwitz, and the other a true “comic book” styled book set called Maus Part One and Two. I would keep Attwood’s book because it was wonderful, and maybe think of adding The Year of the Flood, because I know I am going to read it.

  2. J Brez says:

    This is my intro into my Utopian experiment…
    The cafeteria here at Averett is a most social place. People come here to eat (obviously) before class, after class, or even in the 15 minute break that I get in between classes. This meeting place is noisy, vibrant, and ripe with energy. I always enjoy a heated discussion while enjoying a hot plate of food. Ironically, this hot plate of food was the subject of a discussion I had earlier in the week. As I was sitting down, a colleague of mine started to complain about the food provided to us. “I pay $30,000 a year, and this is the food I get?” he asked with a passion.
    “Well if you don’t like it, maybe you should change it”, I replied. “In fact, let’s theoretically create there perfect college; a prototype for the perfect educational system.”
    We then proceeded to delve into our fictional college, which we named the University of Transcultural Oriental & Poly-Individual Arts, or UTOPIA for short. To address the issue of low-quality food, my friend suggested having the students make the food. That way, he argued, even if the food is bad, no one can complain, since it is in fact students that make it. Of course, at UTOPIA, only students with a culinary major are allowed to make the food (although there can be exceptions). Although this seemed like an easy solution to our problem, we spent the next few days attempting to create the perfect college…

  3. effie says:

    In reference to the Gabriel Giffords assassination attempt and the killings and woundings that accompanied it, these questions were asked”Does the responsibility for this horrifying incident somehow rest with the climate of vitriol and hate that has replaced civil political discourse in our country? Do mere words have the power to incite violence and a climate in which violence can occur?”
    I believe that yes everybody must take responsibility for his/her own actions and mere words do not have the power to incite violence, but I agree in a sense with Socrates that environment has everything to do with a horrifying incident or a person acting the way he/she does. Upbringing and a person’s surroundings have a lot to do with morals and any decision that is made by them. Survival is key in most decision making. If any action has been reinforced over and over again and has had no consequence then that has become their way of life

  4. Kate Trainque says:

    I do not agree completely with the statement that justice systems mediate between those who do wrong but avoid penalty because of their power and those who are powerless against those who have done them wrong. This statement suggests that the world is black and white when it is not. There are infinite gray areas between the two extremes that the justice system mediates between, although the result may not always be considered “just” by some.

  5. Emily Staley says:

    So we were discussing in class about the shooting in Tuscon and Gabriel Giffords. We looked at whether words have the power to manipulate people in any way, but not just words, our environment as well. I decided to bring a psychological controversy to the table. The Nature vs. Nurture controversy debates whether or not our environment or our hereditary decides who we are or become. The answer to this is both have a role in affecting us. Society influences us one way, while our hereditary also influences us in different way. The reason I bring this up is to that Giffords was not only influenced by society, but also by his DNA. Then this also brings up the question do mere words have the power to manipulate someone in a certain direction. And the answer is yes. Words are very powerful tools that anyone can us for their own personal gain or to harm someone else. If someone is left unspoken, it was never really put into reality. If something is spoken there is some kind of realistic truth behind it, even if it is something like an untrue rumor, it has still been brought into reality. So words used correctly can very well influence someone, whether it be for the good or the bad. Once it is spoken it has become reality.

  6. Spencer Bennington says:

    Journal 2 (Fashionably early?)

    The question of whether or not the tense political climate can incite violence among citizens is truly a question of whether or not the political climate of this nation can produce noticeable effects in citizens at all. For instance, if a negative and hateful political atmosphere causes violent acts then would a peaceful and calm atmosphere incite cooperation among the masses? Personally I think it is clear that the tension between party lines is always present but simply appears more bold when the country faces such uncertain economic times. People are not so easily influenced by the opinion of far away politicians, but rather by their own socioeconomic position.

    However, it seems that Plato might disagree with this notion as it seems that he believes man to be quite the impressionable beast. When describing the education of his guardians and rulers Plato insists that they only be exposed to stories and legends whose heroes only demonstrate leadership qualities worth emulating. In this regard Plato might agree that our modern politicians should behave like these heroes so that the average citizen can only emulate good behavior. On the converse, if the “golden souled” (or in most cases gilded) politicians preach hate and escalate negative behavior, then the masses will resort to what they are meant to do: produce. Only now, in light of the tension, instead of producing goods, they will produce violence.

  7. Spencer Bennington says:

    Journal 1 (a little late to the party)

    After thinking it over, Thrasymachus’s might equals right assesment of justice seems to be pretty accurate. In fact, I would agree that even in our modern society it holds true that those with the power ALWAYS decide what is a justified action and what is not. One could attempt to argue that in the United States we are governed by a set of constitutional freedoms which apply fairly to all men, but the question arises, how did these laws come into place? Were not our founding fathers the most powerful men of their day? And any ammendment later added to the Bill of Rights was either by the president, congress, or someone with enough wealth to appeal to the supreme court and win. The fact that justice is based on a power system seems unfair but almost inevitable. A clear example from the 21st century regarding power and justice is the war in Iraq as a supposed retalitation offensive after September 11th. The American public was strung along by the Bush administration to believe that we were using our military to seek restitution from the terrorist attacks when, in fact, they were simply utilizing might and scare tactics to justify the invasion of a completely seperate country for the purposing of harvesting oil. In all cases power dictates justice and money dictates power, therefore, the rich govern the universe.

  8. Emily Staley says:

    Journal 2
    Question
    Do you think the justice systems are high minded and will forgive the powerful but show no mercy to the powerless?

    I believe that can be true to an extent. There are times when we believe the justice systems are unjust, and sometimes they are, but sometimes (not all the time) they know what is best for us as a nation and we as an individual can be blind to that. This is not to say the justice system is perfect. No. It was created by humanity, which is obviously a flawed creation, therefore it is as well. There will be times when no mercy is shown to the powerless, and times when there is. I believe most of the time the justice system tries their best to be just, but like humanity is flawed and fails, which to others can be unjust, but no matter what, someone will always believe that they or someone else has been served justice, but who are we really to decide what is just? Nothing will ever be perfectly just to everyone.

  9. Marie says:

    Topic- Glaucon furthers Thrasymachus’s argument by formulating the origins of justice this way: “Justice systems were invented to mediate between two extremes– a. people who have the power to do wrong without paying any penalty vs. b. people who are powerless to revenge themselves on others who have the power to wrong them.” Do you see justice systems working this way in our own world?

    I do believe that justice systems work as a means to mediate between the two extremes. In the movie “Erin Brockovich,” a lawyer named Erin discovers that PG&E, a big company that supplies water in the town Hinkley, is responsible for the extensive illnesses that the residents of the town have been diagnosed with, and fights to bring the company to justice by suing the company. Justice enables the powerless people to prevail over the powerful when they wrong the powerless. However, the system that is described in Erin Brockovich involves a great deal of effort, time, money, and good luck. As a system of justice, this system is unreliable. Furthermore, if justice is just a struggle between the powerful and the powerless, it is a system that operates without a principle of justice. Real justice would require a principle or rules.

  10. Christina Sinnott says:

    In the past week, the news has focused overwhelmingly on the Gabriel Giffords assassination attempt and the killings and woundings that accompanied it. Commentators on the political left, the political right, and everywhere in between have been discussing this set of questions: “Does the responsibility for this horrifying incident somehow rest with the climate of vitriol and hate that has replaced civil political discourse in our country? Do mere words have the power to incite violence and a climate in which violence can occur?”
    Whatever you think about the true responsibilty for this act (especially as it becomes clear that the perpetrator appears to be a lone nut-case), HOW WOULD PLATO ANSWER THIS QUESTION?
    Use material from Book III of THE REPUBLIC for your response, although you can also bring in material from the other parts of THE REPUBLIC that we have read.

    Personally, I feel that while the environment a person is in greatly effects their behavior, each person is responsible for his or her own actions. I think that Plato would blame the society that the man grew up in, because he was surrounded by hate. I think that Plato would suggest that if the man had been in an environment in which he was loved and cared for then he would not have had the desire or the will to kill. Also I think that as a philosopher Plato would agree that words are powerful and have the power to incite violence. As for the fact, the gunman was indeed crazy I think again that Plato would blame the society in which the man was raised for exposing him to madness.

  11. effie says:

    topic a. people who have the power to do wrong without paying any penalty vs. b. people who are powerless to revenge themselves on others who have the power to wrong them.” Do you see justice systems working this way in our own world? Give a specific example and explain what you think about that method of enacting justice.

    The justice system has come a long way since the time of Socrates, but i do believe that there has not been a big shift in how justice is served and/or enacted. I actually feel as though it is even more implemented in this modern world then in that era. Take a look at the media and the publicist of celebrities and how they do the dirty work to make their celebrity look good or bring there reputation up to par. People in power will always uses their power to benefit themselves. The people that do not have voice or believe themselves that they do not have a voice rarely ever know real justice and to seek revenge on those who do hold power would be like committing suicide in a since of survival.

  12. Cari Beck says:

    I shared my response to the second question in class today; therefore, below is my response to the first topic:

    I think the idea of “might makes right” being justice is frequently the case in today’s world, especially in the world of politics. Tax cuts and government bailouts are obvious examples of such idea. According to Plato’s words, “‘just’ means serving the interest of the stronger who rules at the cost of the subject who obeys” (Cornford’s translation, p. 25). The American people suffer the consequences of higher taxes, while the government enjoys the benefit of increased salary.

  13. Christina Sinnott says:

    Topic- Glaucon furthers Thrasymachus’s argument by formulating the origins of justice this way: “Justice systems were invented to mediate between two extremes– a. people who have the power to do wrong without paying any penalty vs. b. people who are powerless to revenge themselves on others who have the power to wrong them.” Do you see justice systems working this way in our own world? Give a specific example and explain what you think about that method of enacting justice.

    Sadly I do see the justice system as being designed as the mediator between the two extremes. However, the system does not work the way it is designed, because the powerful are so powerful they are able to break the rules and get away with it. The best examples of this I can find are the actors in Hollywood. These stars are able to get away with almost everything because they are powerful. Personally, I think that this method is very unfair, because the weak or normal people are held to the highest degree of the law; while the powerful are able to break every rule in the book.

  14. csinnott says:

    Topic -Thrasymachus, an opponent of Socrates, proclaims that justice is whatever the powerful say it is. They do what benefits them, and they call that “justice.” Might makes right. He follows this with examples of powerful men who decide the course of their actions on the basis of their own interests–then they justify this as the “right” course of action. In our own world, some see the powerful making important decisions by saying to themselves and their adherents, either overtly or in veiled terms: “This is what benefits ME (or us), and I / we are powerful enough to enforce it. Might makes right.” Do you agree that this is always the case? frequently the case? sometimes the case? Give a specific example from today’s world.

    I do not think that might makes right, because the people who are in power can and often are wrong. The fact that they are powerful gives them the opportunity to enforce their policies and agendas; however, it is up to the common person to decide whether these policies are truly just. For example, the President is able to in act certain policies, but if the people do not agree with his policies, we are able to replace him. Another example would be Hitler’s policies towards the Jews. Hitler was a very powerful person, but his policies were defiantly un-just, and once people realized what he was doing, they fought to stop him.

  15. Spencer Bennington says:

    Utopian societies in literature usually creep me out. At some point they always become very Stepford-wife-ish.

  16. csinnott says:

    I think that the ideas of utopia and dystopia are a principal part to all literary works without these elements there would be no story or a reason to read those stories. One of the main reasons people read, especially fiction, is to escape to an alternate reality or a utopian society.

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