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“In Praise of Folly” by Desiderius Erasmus Literature Analysis Essay

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Updated: Mar 30th, 2020

Introduction

Desiderius Erasmus was a Dutch theologist, catholic priest, and reformist. He was renowned critic of the hypocrisy in the church and among scholars who thought they knew too much. Erasmus was among the founders of the Christian Humanist Movement that was very popular during the Renaissance (Erasmus, 1876). This work discusses the central concerns in one of his works, In Praise of Folly. In Praise of Folly is a piece of satire that criticizes rampant folly among people who claim to be free from it. According to Erasmus, church leaders, lawyers, classical scholars, social classes and other people in society are all foolish, yet they claim to be enemies of folly. Folly narrates the story of her importance to a very huge crowd. She is with her allies Philautia, Kolakia, Lethe and Annoia.

She begins her oration by stating her importance in the world. She argues that marriage and giving birth come from her. She also states that women struggle to attain beauty because of folly, and friendship entirely depends on the foolish belief that friends’ characters are the best in the world. She further insists that only folly can make people feel good. According to her, many people enjoy listening to stupid people than wise people (Erasmus, 1876).

She criticizes scholars, celebrities, priests, and theologians for pretending to be wise when they are among the greatest fools. She asserts that scholars are silly and irrelevant in most of the things they do, yet they claim to be against folly. She satirizes the doctors of theology for complicating their speeches just to confuse their listeners and make them see them as wise. She considers such acts folly. Folly also accuses bishops and priests of living luxuriously at the expense of spreading the gospel (Erasmus, 1876).

In the third part, Folly asserts that Christianity developed on folly. She refers to the contents of the Bible as nothing but folly. She also considers Christ’s decision to die for the sins of human beings a manifestation of folly. She ends her treatise by telling human beings to enjoy their lives because life is the greatest sign of folly (Erasmus, 1876).

Major themes

Folly among theologians

Erasmus uses a very harsh tone while talking about the folly among theologians. She blames them of using elaborate philosophical terminologies with the purpose of confusing their listeners. She goes further to argue that the theologians are more concerned with their theses than God’s message. According to her, theologians coin biblical teachings in their favor, while bishops and popes live luxurious lives at the expense of simplicity.

The dependence of relationships on folly

Folly argues that without her, there could be no marriage, love, and friendship. She states that partners in marriage neglect each other’s faults because of stupidity. She adds that people retain friends after fooling themselves that their weaknesses are irrelevant. According to Folly, a woman conceives when her husband fools her that things will be well. Therefore, without folly, there could be many fights, divorces, and no woman could conceive.

Folly among Christians

Folly argues that Christianity developed on folly. She insists that Christianity relates to folly and avoids wisdom using all means. She cites Jesus’ teachings as examples of the folly in the bible. According to her, Jesus avoids wisdom in his teachings. He uses parables in teaching and answering questions to avoid wisdom. In fact, Folly considers Jesus as a perpetrator of folly because of taking people’s sins. His disciples were also foolish as they carried his teaching to the whole world without correcting anything. God himself also advocated folly when he denied Adam and Eve the right to wisdom.

Flattery and self-love

Folly argues that many people usually condemn both flattery and self-love, yet they are very crucial in making people do good things for themselves. According to her, people should admire themselves before their friends can admire them. She goes further to argue that, flattery is capable of enlivening dejected people. She believes that pure truths are not always necessary as they may kill people’s esteem. Folly brags of being the source of both flattery and self-love.

Human love for folly

Folly observes that wisdom is not capable of making people as happy as folly can make them. She explains that a wise man talking to a group of people will not receive the attention of the audience as much as a foolish person will. She argues that folly can make old people forget the traumas of their old age and believe that they will always be young.

The significance of philosophy

Erasmus questions the significance of philosophy by classifying philosophers among foolish people. Through Folly, Erasmus argues that theologians waste their time coming up with complex ideas about God, yet the ideas do not help human beings in any way. Therefore, it is better to remain an ordinary human being than be a theologian who does not help other people.

Conclusion

In praise of Folly satirizes people who claim to be so learned and holy to be foolish, yet they are the greatest perpetrators of folly. Such people include church leaders, scholars, and celebrities. Church leaders live luxurious lives, contrary to the teachings of Jesus, and scholars complicate matters to favor them instead of serving the society. Christians, on the other hand, blindly follow Jesus’ teachings. Erasmus argues that it is better to live simplistic lives than to live luxuriously at the expense of faith in God.

Reference

Erasmus, D. (1876). . London: Reeves & Turner, 196, Strand, W.C. Web.

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IvyPanda. ""In Praise of Folly" by Desiderius Erasmus Literature Analysis." March 30, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/in-praise-of-folly-by-desiderius-erasmus-literature-analysis/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. ""In Praise of Folly" by Desiderius Erasmus Literature Analysis." March 30, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/in-praise-of-folly-by-desiderius-erasmus-literature-analysis/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) '"In Praise of Folly" by Desiderius Erasmus Literature Analysis'. 30 March.

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