Before Utopia: The Making of Thomas More’s Mind

By Ross Dealy

© 2020

Before Utopia demonstrates that Thomas More’s Utopia (1516) is not, as is widely accepted, a rhetorical play of spirit but is instead built from a particular philosophy. That philosophy is not Platonism, but classical Stoicism.

Deeply disturbed in his youth by the conviction that he needed to decide between a worldly and a monastic path, Thomas More was transformed in 1504 by Erasmus’ De taedio Iesu and Enchiridion. As a consequence, he married in 1505 and wholeheartedly committed himself to worldly affairs. His Lucian (1506), written after working directly with Erasmus, adopts the Stoic mindset; Erasmus’ Praise of Folly (1511) shows from beginning to end the workings of More’s life-changing Stoic outlook. More’s Utopia then goes on to systematically illustrate the Stoic unitary two-dimensional frame of thought within an imaginary New World setting.

Before Utopia is not just a book about Thomas More. It is a book about intellectual history and the movement of ideas from the ancient world to the Renaissance. Ross Dealy emphasizes the continuity between Erasmus and More in their religious and philosophical thought, and above all the decisive influence of Erasmus on More.

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Product Details

  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 416 pages
  • Dimensions: 6.1in x 1.4in x 9.1in
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SKU# SP006369

  • PUBLISHED MAR 2020

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    Regular Price: $120.00

    ISBN 9781487506599
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    Regular Price: $120.00

Quick Overview

This book explores the influence of Stoicism on the evolution of Thomas More’s mind, asserting that More’s engagement with the work of Erasmus radicalized his understanding of Christianity and shaped the writing of Utopia.

Before Utopia: The Making of Thomas More’s Mind

By Ross Dealy

© 2020

Before Utopia demonstrates that Thomas More’s Utopia (1516) is not, as is widely accepted, a rhetorical play of spirit but is instead built from a particular philosophy. That philosophy is not Platonism, but classical Stoicism.

Deeply disturbed in his youth by the conviction that he needed to decide between a worldly and a monastic path, Thomas More was transformed in 1504 by Erasmus’ De taedio Iesu and Enchiridion. As a consequence, he married in 1505 and wholeheartedly committed himself to worldly affairs. His Lucian (1506), written after working directly with Erasmus, adopts the Stoic mindset; Erasmus’ Praise of Folly (1511) shows from beginning to end the workings of More’s life-changing Stoic outlook. More’s Utopia then goes on to systematically illustrate the Stoic unitary two-dimensional frame of thought within an imaginary New World setting.

Before Utopia is not just a book about Thomas More. It is a book about intellectual history and the movement of ideas from the ancient world to the Renaissance. Ross Dealy emphasizes the continuity between Erasmus and More in their religious and philosophical thought, and above all the decisive influence of Erasmus on More.

Continue Reading Read Less

Product Details

  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 416 pages
  • Dimensions: 6.1in x 1.4in x 9.1in
  • Reviews

    "No one will question Ross Dealy's unmatched expertise in the Stoic philosophy of Cicero and Seneca and in the thought of Lucian. What will startle many readers is the claim that Thomas More had assimilated Erasmus' penetrating insights into Stoic thought and Lucian, had based his major life decisions on these principles, and that this is the interpretive key that unlocks Utopia. As Dealy finds fault with virtually all previous assessments of Thomas More, doubtless feathers will be ruffled. His claim that Erasmus' writings constitutively influenced More's thinking may infuriate the anti-Erasmus faction of contemporary More scholarship. As for me, I choose to be Dealy's disciple. I concur that More and Erasmus, birds of a feather, authentically integrated these deeply humane truths, witnessed by Stoicism, into their perfected Christianity."


    Thomas P. Scheck, Associate Professor of Theology, Ave Maria University

    "This well-written and very interesting monograph is the culmination of a significant career exploring Renaissance and Classical literature, thought, and ideas. Building upon his expertise in Stoicism and Renaissance Humanism, Dealy offers a challenging and brave revisionist reassessment of More’s most famous work, Utopia. Dealy’s bold argument, placing significant emphasis on More’s transformation in 1504 and his debt to Stoic thought, is backed up with compelling evidence that provides a genuine contribution to scholarship."


    Dr. Jonathan Arnold, Director of Communities and Partnerships, Diocese of Canterbury
  • Author Information

    Ross Dealy is a retired associate professor at St. John’s University, NY.
  • Table of contents

    Preface

    Abbreviations

    Introduction: In Search of the Meaning of Utopia

    Part I: The Mystery of More’s "Either/Or" 1505 Decision: Bodily and Mental Issues before Late 1504

    1. Religion, Law, and Humanism
    2. The Lectures on Augustine’s City of God (c. 1501)
    3. The Translations of Pico’s Writings (1504)
    4. The Despairing Letter to Colet (1504)
    5. January 1505: An Ambivalent Decision?

    Part II: More’s Radically New, Both/And, Paradigm: Erasmus’ De taedio Iesu and the Enchiridion, 1503

    1. Thomas More’s Transformation: A First Reading of De taedio Iesu and the Enchiridion
    2. Erasmus’ Biography of More
    3. The Unexplained Explained

    Part III: More’s Lucian, 1506 – and Utopia: Teaching Stoic Two-Dimensional Christianity

    1. Joy and the New Frame of Mind
    2. A New Analysis of Saints’ Lives
    3. The Role of Cynicus and Menippus
    4. Modelling Books I–III of De officiis
    5. A Relationship to Utopia?

    Part IV: Thomas More as Unitarily "Democritus" and "The Man For All Seasons": Erasmus’ Preface to The Praise of Folly, 1510

    Part V: A Stoic/Morean Praise of Folly, 1511: The Praise of Folly Works Out More’s Stoic-Framed Transformation

    1. The Rhetoric Is Brilliant but Secondary
    2. Is Reality Abstract or Worldly? Or Both?
    3. Truth Is "Truer Than Truth Itself" (The Stoic Unitary Both/And)
    4. Highest Piety Is Unitarily Two-Dimensional
    5. Why Is Folly Silent Regarding the Foundation of Her Thinking?

    Part VI: Utopian Philosophy, 1516: Epicureanism within a Stoic Honestum/Utile Frame

    1. Moral Philosophy
    2. Stoic Corrections of Epicureans: Religious Absolutes
    3. Stoic Corrections of Epicureans: Moral Absolutes
    4. Stoic Utile Expanded
    5. Stoic Justice Expanded
    6. Corollaries

    Part VII: Utopian Warfare: A Unitary Two-Dimensional Mindset

    1. Super Machiavellians?
    2. "Utter Loathing of War" and Yet a Thoroughly Militarized State
    3. Righteous Cunning, Stratagem, and Ferocity
    4. Beyond Machiavelli, a Seamless Mindset

    Part VIII: What Wiseman Hythloday Did Not Understand

    Conclusion

    Bibliography

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