Defense and Folly

How does Desiderius Erasmus’s “Praise of Folly” relate to Montaigne’s “Essays: In Defense of Raymond Sebond” in the concept of the system of the church and the papacy with regards to how it is run and its teachings?

Collectively, Erasmus and Montaigne, take a view on the current practices of the Christian religion and its teachings.  Writing at different times, they both express a hope for reform within the church and a change to the way in which the church expresses its points on the ideals and traditions of the religion.

In Erasmus’s “Praise of Folly,” he explicitly states the follies of the papacy and the church surrounding it.  He shows that the church has diverted from the traditional ways of the past and that they should go back to the beginning when the church was taught on the principals of the Scriptures and the works of the Apostles alone.  He wanted to bring about reforms with in the church and also society.

Erasmus really tries to focus on how much the church of his present day had strayed from the past teaching of the church in its traditions and ideals.  In his time popes were becoming rivals with the local gentry over becoming patrons of the arts, “Our popes, cardinals, and bishops for some time now have earnestly copied the state and practice of princes, and come near to beating them at their own game” (274).  They focused more on their efforts to beat the lords and gain more prestige by supporting the arts than by actually giving spiritual guidance to the people.  He talks about indulgences with in the church and how they are just trying to raise money instead of legitimately getting someone into heaven and purifying the person of their sins.

He goes on to attack every aspect of the church officials including the bishops of the church.  He concludes that they have strayed from their spiritual duties and are not living up to the responsibilities assigned to them, “Nor do they keep in mind the name they bear, or what the word “bishop” means-labor, vigilance, solitude.  Yet in ranking in moneys they truly play the bishop, overseeing everything-and overlooking nothing” (275).  The way in which Erasmus chooses to mock the station that the bishops currently hold show his determination to reform from within the church.

Montaigne’s view of Christian ideals take on a mocking view of their own, “There is no hostility so fine as Christian hostility.  Our zeal does marvels when it supports our inclination toward hatred, cruelty, ambition, avarice, slander, rebellion.  On the contrary, toward kindness, gentleness, temperance, unless by a miracle some rare quirk of character drives it in that direction, it neither runs nor flies” (373).  He denounces the church and the practice of their teachings by way of saying that they are supporting causes that take on an evil connotation instead of focusing more on the path to righteousness.  The same could be said for Erasmus’s view of the pope’s ideals and church, “To work miracles is primitive and old-fashioned, hardly suited to our times; to instruct the people is irksome; to interpret the Holy Scriptures is pedantry; to pray is otiose; . . . to be beaten in war is dishonorable and less than worthy of one who will hardly admit kings, however great, to kiss his sacred foot; and finally, to die is unpleasant, to die on the cross a disgrace” (276).  They both profess an understanding of the views the church is sending out and they both think it should be reverted to the teaching of the Scriptures in the beginning instead of coming up with new ideals to support itself.

In Montaigne’s discourse, he tends to focus more on separating the human mind from exalting itself into the mind of the spiritual.  He says that humans are focusing too much themselves on being equal to God instead of following the principals God had set out for them.  Persons in his time are equating themselves too much with the idea of being equal to the divine, “It is by the vanity of this same imagination that he makes himself God’s equal, that he ascribes himself divine attributes, that he winnows himself and separates himself from the mass of other creatures” (377).  Humans have overstepped their boundaries and think that we are superior to the creatures with which we live.  We start to place ourselves above them, “There is none of us who takes such offence at seeing himself exalted to the level of God as he does at seeing himself pushed back to the level of the other animals: so much more jealous are we of out own interest than of our creator’s” (381).  No one should try to put himself or herself on the same level as the divine.  No one should try to be above their creator because they will never be able to understand everything their creator knows and have His power.

Montaigne tries to focus also on the fact that humans do not really know anything about the divine powers.  They can think that they know for sure hoe things work and why they do but, Montaigne says, they can never know as much as the divine powers do.  They will never obtain everything that God already knows, “I am mistaken if science has grasped a single thing correctly; and I shall leave here ignorant of everything except my ignorance” (383).


~ by wolfangel87 on February 1, 2011.

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