Erasmus - the Praise of Folly

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  • Topic: Desiderius Erasmus, Happiness, Hans Holbein the Younger
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  • Published : October 21, 2009
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“The Praise of Folly”
Desiderius Erasmus

In Erasmus' work “The Praise of Folly”, the narrator delivers a speech praising Folly with the following: "And to whom is it generally agreed life owes its beginning if not to me? For it certainly isn't the spear of ‘mighty-fathered' Pallas or the shield of ‘cloud-gathering' Jupiter which fathers and propagates the human race,"1[2496]. Here the narrator, who is Folly herself, tries to put herself above everyone else, even the Gods on Olympus. She says that she is the beginning of all life, and that she should be the most regarded person, while in reality, this is all a bunch of 'folly'. She ridicules the Gods and strips them of their powers. She tries to convince the reader that they can never have “Self-Love” without the presence of her. In Folly's eyes, she proves these items as being virtues and not defects. Folly leads the reader into believing that all foolishness is, in fact, wisdom. While Folly continues her deception, she also criticizes the philosophy of Christian church. She sees the happiness of Christians as a type of folly. Paraphrasing Folly, the philosophy is 'as long as the mind makes proper use of the organs of the body, it is called sane and healthy. But once it begins to break its bonds and tries to win freedom, men call it insane.' Even so, according to Folly, this type of person shows a knowledge they had never previously learned, and giving clear indication of something divine. Knowledge, power and position don't, and can't, get you true happiness. It is only with a little 'madness' that a person can truly be free and live an enjoyable life.
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