Today the term "utopia" is applied to any philosophy that contains traces of what is called utopian thought - any social, intellectual, political, religious, or psychological theory that speculates about the possibility of someday achieving "the good life". Yet this looseness in definition did not always exist. This text looks at how an historical shift in attitude regarding the notion of order directly influenced both the tradition of utopian thought and additional "other worldly" concepts of an ideal existence. The study tracks the changes in point of view from the Greek period through the Middle Ages and up to the Renaissance. Author Dorothy Donnelly argues that the concept of order is a central clue to an understanding of the differences among utopias on the one hand, and between utopias and otherworldly visions of an ideal existence on the other. Donnelly begins with an analysis of Plato's "Republic" and concludes with a discussion on the subject of order and ideal existence that is found in Francis Bacon's "New Atlantis".
DOROTHY F. DONNELLY is Professor of English at the University of Rhode Island, where she has been the recipient of the Teaching Excellence Award.