Humanism Essay, Research Paper
Erasmus of Rotterdam, the author of Praise of Folly and Thomas More, the author of Utopia, were two of the sixteenth century?s greatest Renaissance writers. Erasmus and More were both close friends and also great believers in their religion. It was in the early part of the sixteenth century that a new group of ?Humanist? thinkers evolved. Both Thomas More and Erasmus of Rotterdam took part in this new philosophy known as Christian Humanism. Christian Humanism is known as a mixture of the philosophy of Plato and the teachings of Christ. Erasmus and More were also both advocates of Individuality. This means that both men believed that no great force could change the universal religion. However, everyone within himself or herself can do something to make a change. Individualists believe in the ability of saving oneself and the individual free will to reform oneself. Individualists believe in the ability to think differently, act differently, and the capacity to become closer to the real Christian ideals and away from the empty rituals of the Roman Catholic Church. Within the teachings of the bible, it states that man should be a ?Lamb of God? (a follower of god). To be as such, this means that man should be simplistic, pure, childlike and foolish. Erasmus and More both point this out in their novels. Being simplistic is being closer to God. At the same time they satirize society because the few powerful people that represent society take advantage of their power.
Erasmus and More find much enjoyment in both philosophy and religion; in the pursuit of philosophy they search for virtue, and in the pursuit of religion they contemplate the truth. The primary virtue that the Utopians have singled out is of natural reason, the reasons to which end man was created. To live according to nature is, for them, to be humanitarian. More’s Utopia points to care for the fellow man and that the family is also united in love and charity. Religion provides great satisfaction for most of the Utopians. This high regard for religion is something unique to More’s Utopia. Indeed, King Utopia decreed that all citizens should believe in at least these two things: the immortality of the soul and the existence of rewards and punishments in the next life. In religion, the Utopians find peace and contemplation of the truth. The priests have given up the pleasures of this world in order to give to all humankind love and mercy from above
The most efficient manner with which to rid the world of corruption and crime, advises More, is to put a great emphasis on education. Utopian education is entrusted to priests to prevent such vices. Since the Utopians have such a strong educational system, they need very few laws and the laws that do exist are subject only to the most obvious and easiest interpretation. Most sociologists would agree with More that education breeds morality and virtue.
Praise of Folly is written as an oratory delivered by the personification of Folly, in which Folly ironically praises foolish activities of the day. Folly attacks superstitious religious practices, uncritical theories held by traditional scientists, and the vanity of Church leaders. Erasmus attacks superstitious folk beliefs in ghosts and goblins as well as Christian rituals involving prayers to the saints. One such superstition involved the sale of indulgence certificates by the Catholic Church. An indulgence is a pardon of punishment for a sin that reduces the time that a person spends in purgatory (64). To raise money for lavish building projects, Popes authorized the sale of indulgence certificates. Erasmus continues satirizing an array of people and occupations, including peasants, poets, rhetoricians, layers, and scientists. Erasmus attacks the behavior of church leaders at the highest levels. The bishops live like princes. He argues that their true function would be evident if they noted the symbolism of their attire.
Yet if any of these were to reflect on the meaning of his linen vestment, snow-white in colour to indicate a pure and spotless life; or of his two-horned mitre, both peaks held together by a single knot, signifying perfect knowledge of both Old and New Testaments; of his hands, protected by gloves, symbolic of purity, untainted by any contact with human affairs, for administering the sacrament; of his crozier, a reminder of his watchful care of the flock entrusted to his keeping, or the cross carried before him as a symbol of his victory over all human passions. (107) Their vestments represent a blameless life; their forked miter hats represent knowledge of the Old and New Testaments; their gloves represent freedom from contact with worldly business; their staff represents caring for their flock; the cross carried before them in processions represents victory over all earthly affections. The word “bishop” signifies that they are to labor, care, and trouble. Although cardinals are successors of the apostles, they too neglect their true function also represented by their attire. For example, the upper white garment signifies the remarkable and singular integrity of life. If they focused on their true responsibilities, they would not want to have the job. Popes take the place of Christ, and should try to imitate Christ’s life, specifically his poverty, labor, doctrine, cross, and contempt of life. However, they seem to be more concerned with financial gain.
The Praise of Folly