The most important factor, in my opinion, regarding the formation of an ideal society, would be the individual liberties of each of the citizens in that society. To me, a society which contained too may laws or rules, whether intended to ensure liberty or simply to oppress people, would be contrary to a utopia. Any ideal society must ensure the freedom of its citizens while simultaneously preserving their safety and the productivity of the society as a whole. Therefore, although it may sound somewhat far-fetched, the most important reform in my ideal society would be concerned with educational reform. In my vision of utopia, knowledge would be considered the most important “possession” or accomplishment. Instead of testing people for aptitude in a hierarchical fashion, I belive IQ and other tests should be used early on in someone’s life to determine where their particular strengths and talents are centered and then that person would be encouraged to pursue these talents and aptitudes without regard of race, sexual orientation, religion, political or cultural biases.
Although Plato aims in his book The Republic to trace the essential elements of a just society, Plato’s conception of the just society begins with a hierarchically, caste-driven society that seems anything but just, especially to those who may occupy the lower tiers. In order to fulfill the tenants of Plato’s ideal society as described in The Republic it is necessary for the social structure of the ideal city to be broken into classes, which are arranged hierarchically, with the philosopher-rulers at the top of the hierarchy and the wage-earners, slaves, women, and children at the bottom of the hierarchy.
In accordance with his repeated insistence that the rulers of the city must direct their actions on behalf of the preservation of “justice” and on the preservation of the civil good, Plato, speaking through the character of Socrates, offers a seemingly paradoxical caveat about the nature of political rule: “”It’s likely that our rulers will have to use a throng of lies and deceptions for the benefit of the ruled. And, of course, we said that everything of this sort is useful as a form of d remedy” (Plato 138). In between wage-earners and rulers, a warrior class would be used in the ideal city to enforce law and order. The “warrior class would then be the link between the highest and lowest class,” but –Plato insists — would gain its meaning from “its service to the higher”; a modern reader views this as only a slight variation on fascist political philosophy. In order to control the city there would be a need for “defenders, and it also now needs rulers, for its feverish desires make living together impossible without control” (Plato 349).
Due to the fact that individual liberty is the keystone of my utopian beliefs, no-one in an idealized society should be forced to pursue any endeavor whether they have aptitude for it or not, but all should be encouraged to find their inner-talent and special interests as the highest achievable goal in life. That and respecting the rights of all others to pursue their individual talent and skills and interests. Aristotle’s examination into the nature of human virtue represents an attempt to rationally define not only the attributes which constitute virtue, but also to rationally define how virtue can be attained and sustained by individuals and by societies as a whole. The key concept that Aristotle uses to break new ground on the topic of human virtue is to admit that human behavior and not merely human impulse determines and defines virtue. Ultimately it is as important for individuals to practice virtuous behavior, quite conscious of the attempt to attain virtue, and to modulate behavior and impulse with a highly developed sense of moderation.
In my ideal society, religion would be primarily left to the individual and there would be no government sanctioning or endorsement of any single religion. Again, this is an impossible social requirement, but the vision of utopia I have would not contain the existence of exclusionary religions, religious ideas taught in public schools or religious ideas being used as a basis for common morality. Instead, a civil ethic would replace what has in the past been seen as a religious ethic. Because my ideal society would contain neither organized religion or money, I believe that the two most important barriers to personal liberty and happiness would be removed from most people’s lives. Because self-determination would be the highest priority in my utopia, family conflicts and other interpersonal relationships would also play a less-permanent role in people’s lives, encouraging them to view all people as equal.
To my mind all immoral and non-virtuous behavior in human beings emerges from ego, selfishness, narcissism, and the inability to sustain an empathy and communal vision which, contrary to Aristotle, who said : “The project of the Ethics is incomplete because the end in practical matters is to become virtuous, not to know about virtue, and words can achieve this only among the young who are already in love with the noble, not among the many who follow their passions and have no notion of the noble” (Aristotle 1) I do believe is inborn and innate. In fact, I would attribute most of the suffering, crime, war, and tragedy in the world to humanity’s collective inability to perceive and nurture these very inborn capacities, none of which is even given cursory recognition by Aristotle in his linear, dogmatic, and highly generalized musings on the nature of human virtue.
Most of the social changes in my utopia are probably unachievable and yet I believe by making only a few, albeit radical, changes in social vision and structure, a better world could be realized and a wider spread of happiness and contentment might be embraced; it is the idea that these changes could happen, even if they are unlikely, that defines a utopia
Plato. The Republic of Plato. Trans. Allan Bloom. 2nd ed. New York: Basic Books, 1991.
Aristotle. The Politics of Aristotle. Trans. Peter L. Phillips Simpson. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1997.