Praise Of Folly

The Praise of Folly takes on a very
diverse form of life during sixteenth century Europe. In
1509 the author, Desiderius Erasmus, turned his literary
talents to the ridicule and denunciation of monastic vice,
immorality, and wickedness. He was considered the
“Prince of Humanists” 1 because he was one of the most
important men in Europe during the period of the
Reformation, The historical and cultural references in his
book proves that the Praise of Folly could not have been
written during any other time period except sixteenth
century Europe. Erasmus is one of the most fascinating and
inscrutable characters in history. There is no doubt that he
was a genius, He was also a bon vivant, but his tastes ran
toward good conversation and good food rather than
conspicuous consumption. He whined endlessly about his
troubles, and he begged shamelessly for ever more money
from his patrons. But he was one of the “most far-sighted
individuals to walk this planet,” 2. Before any others, he
saw how the corruption and misdeeds of the church would
lead to danger, and when Martin Luther hijacked Erasmus
reform efforts and turned them into outright revolt, Erasmus
saw that this split in Christendom would lead to
catastrophe; a catastrophe that was realized a century later.

Erasmus, even from childhood, had a craving to read,
study, learn and know. He spent his life as a scholar and
writer. He was a man of quick wit and a keen mind. He
had struck a raw nerve by writing the Praise of Folly. But it
must be noted that while Erasmus found the wickedness of
the priests revulsive, he did not disapprove of Roman
Catholic doctrine. He praised himself to be a citizen of the
world, not attached 2 to a particular country but finding
himself at home in European countries where culture and
humanism were flourishing. The two societies he claimed to
belong to were both the republic of letters and the Christian
church. In Roman Catholic doctrine, he wished only for a
reformation of priestly morals and conduct, not of Roman
theology, and he disapproved of the doctrinal revolution
initiated by Luther. It is said that Erasmus laid the egg that
Luther hatched, meaning that Erasmus was the one who
inspired the Protestant Reformation. The particular state of
mind which produced the “modern world” was a
manifestation of the same mind as underlay the Protestant
Revolution. The Protestant “calling” was a treatment of
worldly avocations as God-created and fulfillable in a spirit
of worship. This concept enabled the Protestant to see in
his ordinary daily work an activity pleasing to God and
therefore be pursued as actively and profitably as possible.

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On the other hand, medieval and Roman Catholic
Christianity were held to have condemned the world, with
consequent hostility to economic activity and especially to
that essential capitalist ingredient, the taking of interest on
usury. Protestantism were therefore asserted to have been
the necessary precondition of the growth of modern
industrial capitalism. The basic belief of Protestantism
promoted the spirit of the entrepreneur, and for that reason
capitalism is found flourishing in reformed countries, while
the Reformation is found spreading among the commercial
and industrial middle classes. The desire for spiritual
nourishment was great in many parts of Europe, and
movements of thought which gave intellectual content to
what in so many ways was an initial search for God have
their own dignity. Neither of these, however, comes first in
explaining why the Reformation took root her and vanished
heresies led to a permanent division within the church that
had looked to Rome. This particular place 3 is occupied
and the play of secular ambitions. The Reformation
maintained itself wherever the lay power favored it; it could
not survive where the authorities decided to suppress it.

For this was the age of uniformity, an age which held at all
times and everywhere that one political unit could not
comprehend within itself two forms of belief or worship.

Much of the work of the Praise of Folly is satire at the
expense of rhetoricians, grammarians and theologians, but
towards the close, Erasmus tackles monks and prelates
also, not excluding the Popes. But it concludes in an
unexpected way; a witty moving praise of a form of
religious ecstasy with the folly of God in saving the world
through crucifixion associated with the folly and madness of
the pious. Erasmus regarded scholasticism as the greatest
perversion of the religious spirit; according to him this
degeneration dated from the primitive Christological
controversies, which caused the church to lose its
evangelical simplicity and become the victim of hair-splitting
philosophy, which culminated in scholasticism. With the
latter there appeared in the


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