Lion of the Blogosphere

Utopia: Raphael’s career options and why he doesn’t want a job

Thomas More tells Raphael, hey a smart fellow like you ought to get a job working for a king.

Back in the early 1500s, there weren’t any corporations to work for. If the conversation had taken place today, More would no doubt have said, hey a smart fellow like you ought to get a job working for a Fortune 500 corporation.

Raphael’s reasons for not wanting such a job would be equally valid today as they were 500 years ago.

1. He already has enough money to pursue his main hobby which is traveling around the world and observing other cultures. So why the heck would he want to work at a job he wouldn’t like in order to make money he doesn’t need? Utopia predates, by approximately 450 years, Betty Friedan’s book, The Feminine Mystique, in which was revealed that the true purpose of life is to have a self-actualizing career (and thus women back then were condemned to a miserable existence because society discouraged them from having careers).

I note that there was nothing in the book about Raphael having a wife. Certainly, with an attitude like that, the most eligible women from noble families aren’t going to be interested in him. This reminds me of Henry David Thoreau who wrote a book about living a super-frugal life at Walden Pond, but during that time he had no female companionship whatsoever. Thoreau, despite being one of the greatest American philosophers of all time, never had any women who were interested in him romantically.

2. Kings already have zillions of people who want to work for them, more than there are positions available, so the world will get along just fine if Raphael putters about as an unemployed traveler and philosopher.

3. Kings are more interested in warfare with other kingdoms than they are in good governance of the kingdom they already have, which is Raphael’s area of expertise.

One might say the same of a lot of corporate CEOs, that they are more interested in growth and acquisitions than they are in efficiently running and improving the businesses they already have.

4. As a guy working for a king, you have to be a yes-man and suck-up to the king, and then you have to be a yes-man and suck-up to everyone else who works for the king who has a higher rank than you. Raphael is an honest straight shooter who can’t deal with that kind of bullshit.

Thomas More tries to talk Raphael out of that, explaining that the benefits of having a career make it worthwhile to pretend to agree with stuff you don’t agree with, because it’s the only way to have any sort of influence.

I can only assume that the historical Thomas More had some personal doubts about his advisory role to King Henry VIII. For a while, he followed his own advice to Raphael and had a successful career and made a lot of money. But down the road he found that he couldn’t be a yes-man anymore, and King Henry VIII had him executed. The way Thomas More was depicted in The Tudors, he seemed pretty stupid for choosing death over agreeing with what Henry was going to do anyway.

* * *

About the Paul Turner translation: Paul Turner was a college professor in England who translated this in 1965. But he’s not an important enough author/translator to merit a Wikipedia article.

Both the Kobo and Apple bookstores have the Turner translation ebooks for sale, but it’s not available at the Amazon Kindle store. Very strange. Normally, Amazon has books that the other stores don’t have.

I highly recommend the Paul Turner translation over the nearly unreadable uncopyrighted 1901 translation. If I only had the 1901 translation available, I would have given up. I guess I’m just too lazy.

There’s also another modern translation, but that’s not the one I’m reading.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

August 7, 2016 at 6:56 pm

Posted in Books

14 Responses

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  1. Wasn’t the real life More just choosing between being a yes man for the King of England and a yes man for the Bishop of Rome?

    Gozo

    August 7, 2016 at 7:14 pm

    • “Yes-man” carries a connotation of agreeing with your superior just to suck up to him and curry favor with him, even though you may privately disagree with him. More appears to have actually believed the teachings of the Roman Catholic church, so in that case, he wouldn’t be just a “yes-man” to the Pope.

      Hermes

      August 8, 2016 at 1:22 am

  2. More seems to have believed in God (Catholic version) so for him to actually say that the Pope was wrong (in the matter of the divorce) would save his life-in exchange for an eternity of torment.

    And More did become a Roman Catholic saint after all.

    Dave

    August 7, 2016 at 7:53 pm

  3. ‘Thoreau, despite being one of the greatest American philosophers of all time, never had any women who were interested in him romantically.’

    Hard to imagine. Maybe it was Thoreau who wasn’t interested?

    Yakov

    August 7, 2016 at 8:08 pm

    • There are female groupies for just about everything, and Thoreau was a famous man with famous friends. Girls love that. But maybe he had no social skills. William Dean Howells described meeting Thoreau in a memoir and remembered the experience as awful:

      “He came into the room a quaint, stump figure of a man, whose effect of long trunk and short limbs was heightened by his fashionless trousers being let down too low. He had a noble face, with tossed hair, a distraught eye, and a fine aquilinity of profile, which made me think at once of Don Quixote and of Cervantes; but his nose failed to add that foot to his stature which Lamb says a nose of that shape will always give a man. He tried to place me geographically after he had given me a chair not quite so far off as Ohio, though still across the whole room, for he sat against one wall, and I against the other; but apparently he failed to pull himself out of his revery by the effort, for he remained in a dreamy muse, which all my attempts to say something fit about John Brown and Walden Pond seemed only to deepen upon him. I have not the least doubt that I was needless and valueless about both, and that what I said could not well have prompted an important response; but I did my poor best, and I was terribly disappointed in the result.”

      Richard

      August 7, 2016 at 9:16 pm

      • Interesting,but maybe he had a non-traditional orientation? Because it’s just hard to beleive that no girl went for him.

        Yakov

        August 8, 2016 at 10:05 am

  4. “I note that there was nothing in the book about Raphael having a wife. ”

    My recollection (from high school) was that Raphael was semi-analogue to the arch angel Raphael, and thus a Godly messenger.

    Fortunately as a Hillbot I am allowed to expense things so I’m going to play along with the Lion’s book club reading the Turner translation. I think its a good instinct to go back to some of these first sources.

    Lion of the Turambar

    August 7, 2016 at 8:10 pm

  5. Betty Friedan’s book, The Feminine Mystique, in which was revealed that the true purpose of life is to have a self-actualizing career (and thus women back then were condemned to a miserable existence because society discouraged them from having careers).

    Not only is she incorrect about the purpose of life, anyone who makes that their priority will ultimately end up with regrets for having missed out on the true purpose of life.

    Not that one can’t or shouldn’t find fulfillment in their work. But, more often than not, they’re chasing rainbows. And will end up missing out on true fulfillment. The purpose of work is to make money. Period. Maybe you enjoy what you do. Maybe not. But unless you’re independently wealthy, the purpose of work is money. Otherwise, most people wouldn’t work at all. That’s why so few children of billionaires do actual work. A few might run their family’s corporation. But a lot of them are involved in philanthropy, charitable foundations or just goof off.

    I’ve always taken pride in my work or business. I’m proud of what I do and what I’ve built. And because of this I enjoy it. Because I make good money I’m satisfied doing it. But I wouldn’t have traded a family for it or another degree. My purpose is my family not my work. The purpose of my work is to provide for my family. One who gets these priorities backwards will probably end up broke, lonely and miserable.

    ****
    A couple of years ago, I strongly criticized the advice to “Do what you love!” Which I consider part of this same mentality. https://lionoftheblogosphere.wordpress.com/2014/01/17/trashing-the-dwyl-mantra/#comment-31121

    I was happy to see Mike Rowe take the same position a few weeks ago. Good video.

    destructure

    August 8, 2016 at 4:01 am

    • Actually there is a whole”don’t follow your passion” movement. Just as crazy in its own way.

      dried peanuts

      August 8, 2016 at 8:35 pm

    • In Scott Adams’ latest book, he said that when he worked for a bank, he was told to NEVER lend money to someone who was “following his passion” trying to open a business.

      ScarletNumber

      August 9, 2016 at 6:04 pm

  6. In connection with working for a king: you should read “The Prince” by Machiavelli, written at the same time as “Utopia.”

    Anthony

    August 8, 2016 at 7:30 am

  7. Only the independently wealthy have time for philosophy.

    DFG

    August 8, 2016 at 8:29 am

  8. Off-topic, but I’m curious to see if anyone else here thinks that most of the U.S. Olympic athletes are proles and, if so, why do you suppose this is the case?

    Cognitive Miser

    August 8, 2016 at 11:23 am


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