Thursday, February 18, 2010

Complete Book: Erasmus' In Praise of Folly

[post 073]

It turns out Erasmus is not just the name of a high school in New York City. Apparently before he was a high school — about 500 years before — he was also a famous philosopher.

Hey, I'm just kiddin' ya. I went to graduate school, I know everything there is to know about Erasmus that's on his Wikipedia page. Like his full name was Desiderius Erasmus, though his friends called him Razzmatazz, that he was born in Rotterdam some time between 1466 and 1469, died in 1536, and in between established quite a reputation for himself as a Dutch Renaissance humanist. See?

But why was he praising folly?

As the forward to this edition says, "under the pleasing mask of Folly our author has uttered truths which are indeed sublime, and in the witty language of the Jester he has exposed the fallacies of ...." Well, the fallacies he exposes are a bit esoteric to us today, having to do with religious controversies raging over the Protestant Reformation. (Good thing we don't have religious controversies any more.) Erasmus was a Catholic but at one point an ally of Martin Luther and quite critical of the Catholic establishment. Erasmus speaks to us through a voice of his creation, the Greek Goddess of Folly, a personification of folly and a vehicle for launching satirical attacks on his favorite targets.

In Praise of Folly

Okay, so I made up that part about Razzmatazz.

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