The Praise of Folly
The Praise of Folly The author of “The praise of folly” Erasmus, wrote this book not with the intention of starting wide spread theological debates but with the intention of showing how pointless these debates are. The book is written in first person so that Folly herself is the one who the readers/listeners (because the book is written as if she were speaking to a crowd) are hearing and not just some man acting like he knows more or is better than anyone else. The book addresses three different classes of people and how folly affects them.
The first class is the regular people and women. The second type of people she calls out is the academic and higher standing social classes. The third and final group folly talks about are Christians and religious men. Folly is not saying anyone is a bad person for having foolishness in their lives, but she is calling out the society and how she is looked down upon while everyone not only takes part in folly, but folly is a necessary part of our lives. One of Folly’s points that she brings up is women and how they are in and of themselves full of foolishness. I, who am both a woman and folly herself, attribute folly to them. ”(29) Folly later states that women owe it to folly for being far better off than men. Women’s beauty is a natural thing according to folly, she bring up how men grow beards, have course skin, and go gray in the hair as all signs of aging. While women have soft delicate feature which are almost eternal signs of beauty. According to folly all some men want from life is pleasure, and who can give them pleasure other than a woman who will have sex with them? No one according to folly, but the folly is not of men wanting pleasure.
The point Folly makes is that a woman must have folly to have sex with a man(30) She says “Women have no other way of giving pleasure but through folly”(30). Women are not the only ones involved in folly in this first class of people; Folly also speaks of friendships, marriages, and of parental love as well. Folly states that friendship is held in a high regard in this society and this it is as necessary as air and water. She does not use clever words or parables to point out the folly in friendship but simply states how one treats a friend, wife, or child to prove that folly is involved in all of these relationships. Tell me know to wink at a friend’s faults, to be deceived , to be blinded to his vices, to imagine them away, even to love and admire certain notorious vices as if they were virtues-surely this is not far from folly. ”(31) She later brings up how a man can love a mole on his wife even though it is an imperfection, or how a father can has a cross eyed son and say that he only has a light squint. Folly is not trying to say that these average people are idiots or foolish for these things, Folly simply is showing that she is everywhere even in the good things.
Folly in her second class of people she mentions are the higher class people the nobles, doctors, lawyer, and the philosophers. Unlike with the first group of people folly speaks to with a light and somewhat cheery tone, her words toward this crowd become sharp and somewhat brash. These men who spend so much time with their jobs and with their peers trying to prove themselves by out doing everyone around them are full of themselves and their folly is in the fact that they are missing out on the true happiness of life that is going on around them.
Unlike the people in the first section of the book Folly knows these people are too smart to be able to just enjoy the small things in life like the average people of the first class. For example she says how wise men are unable to overlook the follies and faults of their friends but instead notice them with the “eyes of an eagle” or the “nose of a bloodhound” (32). Where the normal man could overlook these faults and even accept them as part of their friends’ personality and possibly come to adore this part of their companion, these supposedly wise men are too smart to overlook the follies of their peers.
The final group that folly points out is the religious people of the time. The monks and priest are the main targets of Follies words. A time of reform and a time of questioning is beginning to appear and rules and customs that have gone on for years without question are now being put under scrutiny. Even harsher with her words to this particular group of people Folly now is calling out not only the group of people in charge of the church but also the people who think they can find their lives only through the church.
Her main charge against these people is there refusal to understand that folly and foolishness is as if not more regarded than wisdom in the Christian religion. One could say Christ is the biggest fool of all for accepting man’s sin and dying for us while he had lived a perfect and sin free life. Knowledge and wisdom are the downfall of am according to Genesis when Adam and eve eat the apple of forbidden fruit and gains the knowledge of good and evil it separates them forever from the full relationship they had with God before that.
Folly is not attacking the religion of Christianity it is the opposite in fact. Folly says how peter and the disciples went around baptizing everyone but not explaining why, not because they didn’t know but because the people only need to know the basics and not the understanding of everything to be happy, in other words to keep them from overcoming their follies. She also brings up how the disciples didn’t need certain words or rules to worship, but in face they worshiped the way god intended them to in spirit through their deeds done only for him and not for some church or for others to see. 92) Folly was giving her speech with the intent of trying to explain that foolishness and folly is not bad and evil thing that need to be avoided, but that the opposite of that is true. Wisdom is to be put on display for others and folly is to be hidden, in the same manner do people not hide their valuables and protect them from unwanted visitors. She believes and proves her point that foolishness is essential to a happy and fulfilled life. In a quote from Folly herself “Fortune loves those who are not too bright, headstrong, and are fans of the proverb let the die be cast” (116). Taylor Shadwick