Praise of Folly, Erasmus’s seminal pre-Reformation essay examines aspects of Church teaching as well as aspects of worship which Erasmus deems worthy of the biting satire he utilises
Erasmus was unrelenting in his criticism of pedantry, sophistry and demagoguery among both clerical and secular figures.
Rediscovery of Aristotle and the birth of humanism in the renaissance
The influence of Erasmus on humanism during this time was so great as to ensure that Northern Renaissance humanism came to be labelled Erasmian. A movement which, unlike its Italian counterpart and predecessor, would place faith and piety at the centre of theology and would place a large emphasis on ad fontes, to the sources of Christian theology and biblical and patristic sources (Parrish article)
Erasmus, while generally foccussing his critiques on the elites of European society, also speaks of the importance of education with particular regard to how education is the best way to fight the pervasiveness of public opinion, which criticises with particular venom in The Abbot and the Learned Woman.
‘for all it brilliant rhetorical fanfare, Folly’s proem is a reworking of a thoroughly medieval topos, the revival and nature of nature and man in the springtime’. (Clarence H Miller
Historian Johan Huizinga, in his Erasmus and the Age of the Reformation, recognized Erasmus's desire for simplicity:
He found society, and especially religious life, full of practices, ceremonies, traditions and conceptions, from which the Spirit seemed to have departed. He does not reject them offhand and altogether: what revolts him is that they are so often performed without understanding and right feeling. But to his mi...
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... mid did it become truly profound’. One may question however whether Erasmus was only profound when witty. The Moria is a diverting fantasy. Yet the work of Erasmus which most profoundly shaped the mind of the Western world was one which today is consulted only by a handful of historical specialists, his edition of the New Testament in Greek which served as the basis for great vernacular translations.
‘The bantering tone, the attack on theologians and the satire on widely practised religious observances provoked a reaction of shocked hostility during his life-time.
Although for the most part Erasmus does not concern himself with the lives and religious observances of the masses he does criticise particularly the worship of the Virgin Mary to the extent that she is as important, or even more important as Erasmus claims some believe, that Jesus himself (chapter 41)
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