chapter  6
Law, war and religion
Pages 14

Three important issues covered in both books of Utopia remain to be examined. ‘Law’ refers to crime and punishment, and as More was a lawyer by profession it is no surprise that it is one of the first topics covered. Hythloday argues for a wider understanding of the causes of crime and a less vengeful attitude to punishment, and then shows a Utopian alternative better suited to his rational and compassionate disposition. ‘War’ refers to the discussions on the rights and wrongs of waging war, introduced early in the book in a scathing denunciation of contemporary practices by Hythloday, but developed in controversial fashion in the discussion of the Utopians’ code of conduct before, during and after conflict. Although they pronounce themselves revolted by war, when it becomes unavoidable some of their practices exceed even the grisly standards of that time. ‘Religion’ refers mainly to the lengthy consideration of the religious beliefs and practices in Utopia. Here the central question is whether their ostensible religious tolerance is contradicted by a determination that the society must adhere to core beliefs, an issue that was to weigh heavily on More’s later life. Following the discussion of these issues some general implications will be considered.