The word "Utopia" is derived from the Greek words eu ("good") and ou ("no"), combined with the word topos ("place"). Thus it is a both "a good place" and "no place."  Our modern definition of Utopia refers to an ideal place and existence in which social and economical conditions are ideal, a type of livable Eden free from conflict and filled with serenity. But, due to the very nature of the word as it was derived from the Greek, Utopia illustrates a fictitious place that does not or maybe cannot exist.

Often using Utopia as a vehicle for criticizing social conditions, philosophers have sought to paint the picture of the ultimate no place using words to describe a place where people live freely in a world without conflict.  Acknowledged Utopian philosophical works can be dated back to around 375 B.C., when Plato's Republic first spoke of ideal living. But, even beyond "ideal" living, Plato sought to describe a "perfect" society, free from the ills that plagued life as he saw it in the pre-Christian era.  However after the birth of Christianity, the idea of heaven took on a different form as a place paralleled to an earthly heaven.

Popular Utopic philosophical works include "Utopia", a work published in Latin by Sir Thomas More (1516), Samuel Butlers' "Erewhon" (1872), and Edward Bellamy's "Looking Backward" (1888).  While More's book mainly acts as a criticism of government he also addresses various social and economic conditions.

While many attempts have been made to create the "perfect" society in word and in deed, most philosophers acknowledge that an earthly Utopia is unachievable, marking its unrealistic hopes and insurmountable flaws as the source of this eternal conflict. People within a Utopic society are still people of society.  Ideas that have spawned from the desirable fantasy of Utopia are the delusional utopia, the modern dystopia, and communal living where happiness is found in the equal distribution of wealth and goods, thereby (as some believe) leading to universal happiness.

While philosophers have sought to paint literary pictures of a perfect world, utopic photographers have captured the reality of the idea with a help of a camera lens.
 

Read the full text of Utopia @ The Sir Thomas More Website - a beautiful account of the man and his works.
 

                                                                    Megan Kisow - April, 2000

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Links & References

More's Utopia
*(not my site - found at The Sir Thomas More Site)
Sir Thomas More
Check out these Dystopic Titles:

"Animal Farm" - George Orwell
"Brave New World" - Aldous Huxley
"Gulliver's Travels" - Johnathan Swift
"The Shape of Things to Come" - H.G. Wells

Enjoy false paradise!!!

Edward Bellamy
Photo from Samuel Butler's birthplace, Nottingham
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