BU Film School

Saturday, July 01, 2006

FT 553 Reading: In Praise of Folly

Essay info
Written by: Erasmus
Essay text

Synopsis/my notes
Parodies classical declamation.

Structure as described in intro:
-- Folly's origins
-- offers release from tedious stupidities
-- boasts of role in politics and arts
-- discourses on all stages of life (child, adolescent, etc.)
-- praises ignorance and lunacy
-- lists followers, ending with theologians and monks
-- princes and courtiers
-- religious ideal

Lots of classical allusions and quotes (at least one per page, if not more). Pokes fun at learned, including himself. Conventional scholarly disclaimers. Uses formal rhetoric.

Pg. 9: greeting and narration. Folly only one "whose divine powers can gladden the hearts of gods and men." Will sing her own praises, since no one else will for her. Says her speech is ex tempore (not true!). Peole ungrateful to Folly. Doesn't pretend to be someone she's not. Doesn't use fancy words.

Pg. 15-18: Folly's birth and education. Born of Plutus and Freshness. Attendants self-love, flattery, forgetfulness, idleness, pleasure, madness, sensuality, revelry, and second sleep.

Pg. 18: Starts acknowledgements and attributes.

Pg. 20: Folly the "seed and source of existence" (most foolish body part).

Pg. 21-26: advantages. Pleasure. Children, adolescents and old all foolish and happy. Lack of wisdom keeps old young and cheerful.

Pg. 26-29: gods graced by Folly's divine powers. Bacchus, Venus and Cupid happy compared to dour Vulcan and Jupiter.

Pg. 29-75: nothing happy and gay without Folly. Passions more important than reason. Woman created to sweeten man's harsh nature (women naturally foolish). Beauty, spend time primping to please men. No party fun without Folly. Friendship kept together by Folly (winking at faults, etc.). Marriage propped up by flattery, joking, illusions. Can't love anyone else without self-love. War foolish -- takes lots of daring, little brain. Philosophers useless, unlucky and incompetent. Foolish stories do more to sway people than philosopher's speech.

"Vain hope of fame" prompts courage, industry and valiant deeds. Also works of art. Also responsible for prudence, which comes only with experience. Wear illusions with a good grace.

Emotions belong to Folly, spur people on to good deeds. Wise men bores, miserable, weary of life. Human to live with illusion. Learning useless in regards to happiness, ordinary folk don't need it.

Medicine, law aspects of flattery. Happiest are those who follow natural instinct. Idiots happy -- no fear of death, no conscience, can't sin, favorites of kings, speak frankly and tell the truth. Wise men grumpy, spend all their lives in toil and care instead of pleasure.

Not all insanity bad. Insanity that comes from Folly is good -- frees people from anxiety, restores soul to delight. Madmen, hunters (who are wild beasts themselves), builders, inventors, gamblers, lovers of tales, superstitious, those who rely on bought indulgences and prayers, those who believe in local saint cults, those overly concerned with funeral arrangements, those with pride in their ancestry, self-lovers, artists, patriots (city/country), fawners.

Some people say it's sad to be deceived. No, sadder not to be deceived. Happiness depends on opinions, not facts. Folly doesn't need sacrifices, temples or statues -- no need to envy other gods, because she has the whole world.

Pg. 75-114: Folly's followers (some "outstanding examples"). Life a farce.

Schoolmasters. Lots of trials, but thanks to Folly think they're first, have belief in own learning.

Poets special friends with self-love and flattery. Rhetoricians write about jokes and comedy.

Writers owe a lot to Folly. The ones who write for a learned audience deserve pity, for continuous self-torture. Happier ones know to write about trivia and trifles. Plagiarizers even better -- self-satisfied. Also those who praise each other's works.

Lawyers self-satisfied. Sophists and dialecticians talkative and quarrelsome. Philosophers constantly conjecturing, out of touch with reality. Say they know everything but really know nothing.

Theologians. Self-love, barricated behind arguments, interpret things to suit themselves. More interested in subtleties than relevant questions. Not like apostles, who just had faith and did good works. Also theologians don't read, don't speak clearly, strive after titles. Monks self-satisfied, uneducated, bray in church, do everything according to stupid rules, cling to order classifications and ceremonies. Christ -- faith and charity.

Theologians foolish when giving sermons. Idiotic, senseless arguments. Murmur, shout, forced jokes.

Kings and courtiers. If wise, would find it hard to cope with all cares, pressures to be perfect and to look after welfare. Thanks to Folly, no worries -- just want soft life. Courtiers stupid, vain. Pontiffs, cardinals and bishops also look after themselves. They mete out punishments, seek pleasure, promote religious wars, seek gain and evade responsibility. Wisdom no help in dealing with princes. Money the important factor for success.

Pg. 114: Folly cites authorities who ahve testified to her. Well-known sayings, evidence from Scripture. Paul: "I speak as a fool." Christ intended to disarm apostles -- send them out not with physical weapons, but with piety. Paul: "God has chosen the foolish things of the world." Knowledge could be poisonous to happiness. Plea for learned/spiritual ignorance (unlettered piety).

Christian religion has kinship with Folly. Pious fervor a form of madness. Wholly devoted to God, no thought for body and wealth, separation from grosser senses and affections. Taste of joy which is small when compared to eternal bliss, but big in comparison with earthly pleasures.

FT 553 notes (from 07/13/04)
"Praise of Folly" a compendium of black comedy.

For 1000 years, theology only basis for philosophy. Arguments so arcane that far from reality. Erasmus - Good's thought is life. Link between man and God far outweighs scholastic arguments about doctrine (useless, having nothing to do with spirit). Agreed with Aquinas, who said man's moral nature reflects God's nature. Grace inevitable. Same response as humanists.

Luther (reformation) -- man damned from very beginning, God ineffable, no cause for grace, given to few for unknowable reasons.

Erasmus monk of Rotterdamn, friend of More and neo-Platonists. Believed in man's perfectibility, self-determination. Link between divine nature and man (not accepted by church). Man has capacity to evolve towards spirit.

Church believed way to salvation was acceptance of extrinsic forms of belief. Erasmus -- man's perfection is intrinsic to moral achievement, is a choice. Take responsibility for one's actions.

Scholastics -- faith more importance than morality. Grace depends on faith, so pagans cannot be saved. Luther -- faith and trust in God is enough.

Humanists -- moral achievement is same as salvation, so if a pagan does good deeds, s/he can still be saved. Erasmus -- moral content of life determines salvation.

Erasmus against Luther, pro-faith in man. Fought scholastics with satire.

Cosimo de Medici collected texts, translated -- gave rise of renaissance of philosophy. Pico della Mirandola - christianized the Kabala.

Erasmus poor monk, didn't have wealth or social standing. Did have strong sense of satire. Wrote satire about his world in form of encomium (praise poem). Form of play, Q&A written about a Muse. Praises insanity, who speaks of all her works. Without her, world can't exist. Talks at end about spiritual insanity.

Youth and riches (parents of Folly) = nutsiness. Midwives drunkenness, wastefulness and stupidity. 9 attendants (parodies Muses). Reason brings on cares. Parodies scholasticism. Reductio argument.

1st proposition - duty of gods to help mortals.
2nd proposition - folly essential.
3rd proposition - folly at work in all professions.
4th proposition - ?
5th proposition - folly necessary for man's happiness.
6th proposition - section on preaching.
7th proposition - kings and courtiers corrupt.
8th proposition - ecclestiastical scholarship, money everything to church. Go to war, create ritual, collect titles.
9th proposition - historical evidence for Folly's reign. Reduces Paul's argument to absurdity.

Erasmus' worldview - wise man in minority. Trickster is Folly. Externals (rituals, etc.) exist for self-love, self-aggrandizement. Leads to worship of Folly, who drops her mask to say that only real folly is folly of Christ (insanity to sacrifice yourself for humanity). Unreasonable, but not meant to be reasonable -- leap of faith.

Every kind of device used -- irony, satire, sarcasm, parody.

Read for comic devices. How does he use, how does he create situations?

Technorati: , , ,

Comments: Post a Comment