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Merchants Of Light: Locke And Utopia

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Chapter Summary

Fact and fiction tend to shade into one another making travel literature seem a strange and unreliable hybrid and apparently undermining any claim to objectivity in travel literature. Locke's travel books are no exception. This chapter talks about the need to examine the utopian dimension of travel literature if one needs to understand how Locke used this material and how it influenced his work. It begins with the beginning of this tradition with Thomas More. Raphael Hythlodaeus, More's fictional traveller was supposed to be one of the 24 sailors set ashore by Amerigo Vespucci on his fourth voyage to America in 1504. Just as Jonathan Swift thought the Houyhnhnmns should send missionaries to civilize Europe, Leibniz seriously suggested that Chinese missionaries would aid the progress of natural philosophy in Europe. The chapter looks at utopia through eyes conditioned by Locke's social reasoning.

Keywords: Amerigo Vespucci; Chinese missionary; European literati; Locke's travel book; Thomas More's Utopia



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