The Praise of Folly Book Summary - The Praise of Folly Book explained in key points

The Praise of Folly summary


Brief summary

The Praise of Folly by Erasmus is a satirical work that critiques the flaws of society and the misguided pursuit of glory and power. It challenges conventional wisdom and offers insight into the follies of human nature.

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    The Praise of Folly
    Summary of key ideas

    The Art of Folly

    In The Praise of Folly, Erasmus uses satire and humor to reflect on the roles of folly in human achievements and misadventures. The book starts with Folly, personified as a goddess and a narrator. She, with the unique perspective of being present in all layers of society and affairs, begins to discuss the various ways humans indulge in folly.

    Folly showcases her importance and omnipresence in human lives through various examples. From politicians driven by their own ego to lovers blinded by passion, she demonstrates how every human action somehow breeds from folly. This part of the book satirically introduces us to the universal reach of folly.

    Divine Folly

    Erasmus then takes a religious turn, portraying Christian faith as a sort of divine folly. Drawing from Paul the Apostle's teachings, he suggests that God's wisdom might appear as folly to humans while the world's wisdom is foolishness in God's eyes. This supports the argument that a certain degree of foolishness is necessary for a devout Christian life.

    The second part outlines how folly is linked to the simple, unquestioning faith regarded as the ideal Christian virtue. Erasmus highlights religious ceremonies, superstitious beliefs, and the clergy's pompous ways to show how the Church itself harbors a considerable amount of folly.

    Folly and Human Nature

    Moving forward, Erasmus delves deeper into the landscape of human nature and relationships. Here, he asserts that our daily interactions are often driven by folly. According to him, self-deception, flattery, and false appearances are all variations of folly that allow society to operate smoothly.

    He points out that if humans were always rational, honest, and serious, society might become unbearable. This sheds light on folly as a necessary survival tool, demonstrating how integral folly is for human happiness, self-esteem, and harmony.

    Conclusion: An Ode to Folly

    Erasmus ends the book on an ironic note: a celebration of folly. This seemingly absurd premise enables him to critique contemporary society, education, and religious practices without causing offense. By pointing out folly's role in these areas, he sheds light on their imperfections and indirectly suggests the need for reform.

    In conclusion, The Praise of Folly cleverly uses satire to weave a critique of social, religious, and intellectual life of the time. While serving as a mirror to reflect the absurdities of human nature, the book implicitly reminds us to take ourselves less seriously. It also underlines the fact that folly is not always disastrous; often, it brings simple joy, warmth and color to our lives.

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    What is The Praise of Folly about?

    Written by the Dutch Renaissance humanist Desiderius Erasmus, The Praise of Folly is a satirical work that critiques societal norms and human folly. In this classic piece of literature, Erasmus employs wit and humor to explore the foolishness and vices he sees in religion, politics, and society as a whole. Through his clever and biting commentary, Erasmus challenges readers to reflect on their own actions and beliefs.

    Who should read The Praise of Folly?

    • Curious individuals who enjoy analyzing societal norms and conventions
    • Philosophy enthusiasts seeking a satirical critique of human nature and the folly of mankind
    • Readers interested in exploring the works of influential Renaissance scholar, Erasmus

    About the Author

    Desiderius Erasmus, known simply as Erasmus, was a Dutch Renaissance scholar, theologian, and humanist. He is best known for his book 'The Praise of Folly'. Erasmus' writings focused on the need for scholarly and religious reforms within the Catholic Church. His witty and satirical style earned him recognition as a social commentator. Erasmus' other notable works include 'The Education of a Christian Prince' and 'In Praise of Folly'. His writings had a significant influence on the European intellectual movement during his time.

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