Matter The Utopian Tradition and Aldous Huxley The study of various touchstones in the history of man's search for the ideal commonwealth affords valuable insight into ideas and ideals that profoundly influenced the utopian thought of Aldous Huxley.
Brave New World, Ape and Essence, and Island evidence their author's awareness of, and in many cases his dislike for, major phases in utopian literature. Early writings contain references to mythical islands and to a prehistoric Golden Age that provided a simple but an incredibly congenial life.
Such a myth must surely suggest wish-fulfillment and escapist tendencies. Especially in Brave New World, Huxley rejects primitivistic and pastoral perfection.
Opposed to the escapist utopia of private pleasures is the ideal commonwealth established and maintained by careful regulation. This sort of utopia, of which Plato's Republic is the best known example, requires that the individual must offer much of his freedom for the privilege of living in the heavenly city and pursuing the good.
Though the Republic is much more descriptive than prescriptive, Huxley strenuously objects to the work's seemingly authoritarian stance. He cannot accept the Republic as descriptive of the good, and he clearly cannot regard the work as a prescription for attaining desirable goals.
According to Huxley's philosophy, it is an example of the type of utopia that must be avoided. Almost all of the early Greek utopists were highly restrictive.
Renaissance writers attempted to expand man's freedom in the ideal commonwealth; but, for the most part, they did so unconvincingly.
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Criminals are usually punished severely in these utopias because civil disobedience pulls at the closely-knit fabric of the ideal society. For the same reason, all regulations must be steadfastly enforced. War, too, is an integral part of life in the early utopias. Like contemporary residents in less "perfect" countries, utopians often find it necessary to prepare themselves for the danger of attack.
Plato's citizens are warriors; More's island is strongly fortified; and Campanella's city is encircled by high walls.
Huxley's Pala, in contrast, does not have the typical defenses; thus it is easily invaded by armored vehicles and foreign troops. Helpful to peace-time utopian unity and success are the public stores and the common tables that are a part of most early ideal cities, and the community of wives, property, and children described in many such works.
Eugenic controls frequently aid in stabilizing the populace. Education, too, is a central concern to Plato, More, Andreae, Huxley, and other utopists. It helps prepare the people for life in the new world. The gradual development of science intrigued utopian writers and provided them with a tool to make the earthly paradise appear more realizable in fact.
As man improved his science, many utopists saw emerging a deus ex machina. The steel and iron god of industrialization promised plenty for all. Instead of studiously avoiding luxury as an instrument destructive to unity and stability, theorists of the nineteenth century eagerly welcomed industry and science as benevolent agents supremely equipped to provide abundantly for each member of the ideal society.
Still, subjugation of the individual to a central authority that had both the power and the wisdom to administer effectively in a perfect world remained as a central theme in utopian literature. Certainly, the major elements of utopianism described here did not go unchallenged.
Aristophanes and Aristotle viewed the Platonic ideal as exceeding the limits of credibility. Aristotle resorted to a more practical plan of utopianism in his Politics, and Aristophanes produced an anti-utopia in which sexual practices are submitted to quite massive indecencies; men and women, as Bernard laments in Brave New World, begin to think of themselves and others as meat.
With Aristophanes, the most spoiled meat wins the day. The concept of the noble savage whose social sphere is untainted by cultivated evils represents another deviation from the mainstream of the utopian tradition.
The life of Montaigne's cannibals, though, proved distasteful to most authors who constructed ideal commonwealths. The nineteenth century, too, had its rebel utopists. Morris returned to the land, and Butler banned machines from his utopia.
The major accent in the nineteenth century, however, was upon industrialization and upon the idea that progress could actually produce the utopia that writers like Bellamy saw waiting for a happy combination of man and machine to realize.
In the early twentieth century, Wells reinforced Bellamy's optimism and speculated upon a world-wide utopia forged from science's successful confrontation with the enemies of progress. One such enemy was Aldous Huxley. He strongly opposed the belief that progress, especially progress through science, would bring about a perfect world.
The general view that industry could not fulfill all of man's needs led some utopists to espouse an increasingly popular and pessimistic negation of the machine.
Reflective of the mood of the times, dystopian fiction assumed the leading role in the utopian genre. Writers began to question both classical utopianism and the even more positively optimistic utopias of the late nineteenth century.
The conflict is excellently described by Negley and Patrick: It was fear of the institutionalization of men that alarmed such satirists as Huxley and Orwell. The doubts voiced by Zamyatin, Huxley, and Orwell are captured in the following brief passage by Lewis Mumford:The Utopian Tradition and Aldous Huxley.
Ape and Essence and Brave New World are attacks upon man's use of technology. In Island science serves man It is evident, then, that Huxley's last novel is the result of a gradual progression of his utopian philosophy.
Thus all three works are indicative of their creator's awareness of and his. Buy Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, Margaret Atwood from Amazon's Fiction Books Store.
Everyday low prices on a huge range of new releases and classic vetconnexx.coms: “Words can be like X-rays if you use them properly -- they’ll go through anything.
You read and you’re pierced.” ― Aldous Huxley, Brave New World.
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