Sir Thomas More

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Utopia: Logos 3 key examples

Definition of Logos
Logos, along with ethos and pathos, is one of the three "modes of persuasion" in rhetoric (the art of effective speaking or writing). Logos is an argument that appeals to... read full definition
Logos, along with ethos and pathos, is one of the three "modes of persuasion" in rhetoric (the art of effective speaking or writing). Logos is... read full definition
Logos, along with ethos and pathos, is one of the three "modes of persuasion" in rhetoric (the art of effective... read full definition
Book 1
Explanation and Analysis—Raphael Against Killing:

Having discussed his ethical reasons for opposing the death penalty as punishment for thievery, Raphael outlines his logical argument in Book One, describing a past conversation he had with a lawyer in the presence of Cardinal John Morton:

"Once the thief realizes that theft carries no less a penalty than if he were convicted of murder, then that thought alone will drive him to kill the victim, whom he otherwise might just have robbed."

More, speaking through the voice of Raphael, takes the logic of the state's capital punishment one step further: if the punishment for theft is murder, and the punishment for murder is murder, why not simply commit the worse of the two crimes and eliminate the evidence? This is a classic rhetorical technique, whereby one dismantles an opponent's argument by extending his or her logic outwards to the point that it becomes nonsensical. By reasoning on the assumption that theft and murder are equivalent crimes and then making the next logical assumption—that one might as well murder in addition to stealing if the punishment is no worse—Raphael exposes the inanity of such extreme punishment for such a relatively minor crime. Using the state's own logic against them, Raphael proves that such punishment is illogical and may even exacerbate crime in the long run.

Explanation and Analysis—Argument Against Poverty:

In the following Book One passage, Raphael uses his own logical reasoning (logos) to argue against the commonly-held belief amongst kings that impoverished citizens are easier to govern:

"Experience shows just how wrong those are who think that the poverty of the people is a guarantee of peace—where will you find more brawling than among beggars? Who's keener to turn things upside-down than the person who is most dissatisfied with his present manner of life? And then, who's more reckless about attacking the established order in hope of gain than the man with nothing to lose?"

According to Raphael's logic, the poorer a person is, the less they have to lose by rebelling against the king. This reasoning runs counter to common or popular thought on the subject at the time, which dictates that those who are oppressed have no time to think about freeing themselves, being concerned very simply with survival. Both ideas may have some truth to them: certainly, some people who are oppressed spend too much time playing the game of survival to have the energy for rebellion. But Raphael's main point holds: a true king does not steal from his people but instead ensures that they have everything they need. The kingly impulse to maintain widespread poverty as an exertion of power is, according to Raphael's reasoning, an unfounded impulse, since this only further encourages people to stand up against their own oppression.

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Book 2: Of the Travelling of the Utopians
Explanation and Analysis—Utopians and Pleasure:

In Book Two, Raphael outlines the life philosophy of the Utopians, using logos to craft an argument rooted in logical reasoning:

"[The Utopians] designate as pleasure every movement or condition of body or mind that gratifies natural inclination. Certainly, it's no accident that they give this emphasis to natural desire, for it is not only our senses but right reason too points us toward whatever is naturally pleasurable: something which is achieved without injury to others, which does not cancel a greater pleasure, and which carries no unpleasant consequences."

Utopian logical reasoning, Raphael discloses, is inextricably tied to emotional response and hedonistic impulse. Seeking pleasure and following the flow of one's emotional needs is the logical thing to do—a natural imperative, even. Utopian society is founded upon the reasoning that the greatest pleasure leads to the greatest good, when that pleasure is not at the expense of other people.

This pleasure-based rationale is quite different from the Christian ethical code used in England, More's home country. In countries like England, religious scripture provides the logic whereby "the greatest good" is determined. The source of morality is God—and if God's word, the Bible, states that something is moral, that action must be moral even if it is not pleasurable. By contrast, Utopia places a premium on pleasure. Natural impulse is the Utopian moral equivalent of the Christian Bible.

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