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Praise of Folly

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  15,895 ratings  ·  914 reviews
The Praise of Folly - Erasmus - Translated by John Wilson In Praise of Folly, sometimes translated as In Praise of More, is an essay written in Latin in 1509 by Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam and first printed in 1511. Inspired by Italian humanist Faustino Perisauli's De Triumpho Stultitiae, it is a satirical attack on superstitions and other traditions of European societ ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published 1993 by Penguin Classics (first published 1511)
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Vincent This book, in the Dutch translation in which I read it, is humourous and interesting and confronting in the ways it should be. It criticizes all from …moreThis book, in the Dutch translation in which I read it, is humourous and interesting and confronting in the ways it should be. It criticizes all from the perspective of the 'zotheid', the silliness or the strangeness.(less)

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Average rating 3.86  · 
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Roy Lotz
Jan 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
In Praise of Brexit

Folly speaks:

About five hundred years ago, a man named Erasmus decided to publish a book praising me. Unbelievably, no one had this idea before, and none since. Nobody has the time or the inclination—nobody besides Erasmus, that is—to sing my praises, apparently. All the other gods get their encomiums, but not me.

Well, perhaps I should take the neglect as a compliment. After all, isn’t it the height of folly not to acknowledge the role that folly plays in human life? So is not
Ahmad Sharabiani
Stultitiae laus (Latin) = Moriae Encomium, id est = The Praise of Folly = Praise of Folly, Erasmus

In Praise of Folly, is an essay written in Latin in 1509 by Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam and first printed in June 1511.

Inspired by previous works of the Italian humanist Faustino Perisauli [it] De Triumpho Stultitiae, it is a satirical attack on superstitions and other traditions of European society as well as on the Western Church.

Erasmus revised and extended his work, which was originally wr
Apr 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites, 2013
Horatian style satire peppered with innumerable references to Greco-Roman lore which would take a lifetime to decipher: luckily for me, ten days into this Sisyphean task I discovered Phil’s site:

Aint the internet great? The reason the above site is such a treasure is not simply because it spoonfeeds the laziest reader the needful (a word usage I picked up in Sri Lanka: love it), but because it resolves the numerous dilemmas a rookie like me has whilst goog
When madness starts talking about humans, it has a lot to say. No one is spared, not even those who believe themselves to be the most learned, those theologians of yesteryear who held the unique interpretation of divine truth. Or these all-around specialists of today who bathe us with their empty speeches. Therefore, what is attractive in this little book that tries not to take itself seriously is the painting of society's faults, that of the Renaissance, in crisis and transition, like ours. If ...more
It's a shame that I wasn't able to connect with this book, since its themes are always fascinating. It depends on the execution, naturally. The praise turned into one awfully verbose torment. I imagined Folly talking to me at some café, an incessant chatter using some annoying little voice, like having Jiminy Cricket inside your ear prattling nonsense with tons of sugar in his system, and me, waiting for a coffee that never comes, watching people through the window as they walk by, alone with th ...more
Justin Evans
Apr 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
In general, I like to think that there is progress in the arts- that geniuses of a later age are likely to be broader and more engaging than geniuses of an earlier age because they have the example of earlier men and women from which to learn. Lately I've been having a hard time holding onto this belief; that I've finally got around to reading Praise of Folly has made it harder still. Erasmus combines a mildly annoying love of classical literature with an amazing ability to wield irony and socia ...more
David Sarkies
Aug 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: comedy
Let Stupidity Reign
7 August 2016 - Amsterdam

Well, what better book to read when you are in the Netherlands than Erasmus' tributed to stupidity. Okay, I'm sure he is not being serious, though it is difficult to tell at times, particularly when he suggests that by being an idiot one does become healthy, wealthy (but not necessarily wise – actually, that would be quite the opposite). Actually, healthy is probably not necessarily something that comes either, but certainly wealth seems to come to a
Jan 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction

“To know nothing is the sweetest life.”—Sophocles (Kindle Locations 263-264)

“Give me any instance then of a man as wise as you can fancy him possible to be, that has spent all his younger years in poring upon books, and trudging after learning, in the pursuit whereof he squanders away the pleasantest time of his life in watching, sweat, and fasting; and in his latter days he never tastes one mouthful of delight, but is always stingy, poor, dejected, melancholy, burthenso
Jan 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

“Invite a wise man to a feast and he'll spoil the company, either with morose silence or troublesome disputes. Take him out to dance, and you'll swear a cow would have done it better."

An allegory of Folly, Quentin Massys, 1510

“Throw off the shackles this infernal quest for wisdom has put on you, you blasted bores!”

Slightly paraphrased, so goes the core tenet of the gospel that most whimsical of metaphysical entities, Folly – using Erasmus as a vessel - evangeliz
Feb 24, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Surprisingly funny and witty, full of hyperbole and inversion, like a literary carnival - 3.5 stars
The chief element of happiness is this: to want to be what you are.

Jan Steen - The World Upside Down:

A real renaissance work, full of allusions to ancient Greece and Rome, and a goddess who tells of her deeds for the world. Folly is definitely not modest and attest all of mankind’s achievements to herself. Hereby she puts herself squarely into everything that makes humans (sometimes infuriatingly s
You know, before I read this, I imagined it was satire.

I couldn't have been more wrong! Indeed, after listening to Dame Folly, goddess extraordinaire, I think I will convert myself wholeheartedly to her teachings.

There has never been a more persuasive tract in literature. Hide thy wisdom, folks! There is no greater treasure than to proclaim just how much folly you possess!

It's especially good for churchmen and writers. The former generally do not know they are being made fun of and the latter ca
Paul Haspel
Oct 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In praising Folly, Desiderius Erasmus is challenging all of us to recognize the folly in each of us. With a sharp wit that is informed by an ethic of humanistic compassion, Erasmus in his essay In Praise of Folly (1511) combines thoughtful philosophic meditation with trenchant social criticism, all in a manner that is extraordinarily fun to read.

Desiderius Erasmus himself is a fascinating individual with whom to spend some time. A Dutchman (his full name, in Latin, was “Desiderius Erasmus Rotero
“Even the wise man must play the fool if he wishes to beget a child.”

A little background, if you please. This was written in the same century as Shakespeare and Cervantes, check. He lived in the Netherlands, check. His father was a Catholic Priest, check. He was an ordained Roman Catholic priest, check. He is considered the point man for the early ‘humanist movement,’ check. He wrote this in a week while hanging with his friend Thomas More, the ‘Utopia’ guy, check. He never visited the Czech Rep
robin friedman
Dec 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Erasmus' Folly

I received the Folio Society edition of Erasmus' "In Praise of Folly" some time ago as a gift which gave me the opportunity to reread the work after a first reading many years ago. The Folio Society edition is lavishly put together in a slipcase, with large print, on quality paper, and with beautiful color illustrations and made a lovely gift. For reading purposes, however, this Penguin edition will do just as well. With the exception of the artwork, it includes the same material a
Michael Perkins
Dec 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Medieval humor found its final and complete expression at its highest level of the Renaissance in Erasmus' 'The Praise of Folly,' one of the greatest creations of carnival laughter in world literature."

-Mikhail Bakhtin, "Rabelais and His World"

The definite high point of "Folly" comes about halfway through when Erasmus mocks the Church hierarchy, including the Papacy.

Note on the Princeton edition. The editor and translator attempts to engage in a rather ludicrous exercise of trying to force Eras
A satire from the 16th century told from the perspective of Folly herself, and a criticism against pretentiousness and those who take themselves and their world too seriously. Life is made bearable by a bit of irrationality, a bit of foolishness. Do not let fear of understanding put you off from reading this. The language is certainly playful (which I loved), but it is not overly difficult to make sense of. Having some basic knowledge of Greek gods/deities will help a lot, and some familiarity w ...more
Oct 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Outstanding flow of thoughts! Not an easy reading ( the book has been written more than 500 years ago!), but definitely it is very enjoyable. Loved the humourous displays of many shadowy images of our life, of the society - past, present and future: all of them embracing the same foolishness:)
‘It is Folly that, in a variety of guise, governs cities, appoints magistrates, and supports judicatures. And, in short, makes the whole course of man's life a mere children's play, and worse than push-pin
T.R. Preston
Dec 30, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I've read this multiple times, but have only now found the Goodreads page for the book. For some reason I could only find it lumped in with other Erasmus writings before, so my original review is over there.

I thoroughly enjoy Praise of Folly. I'll most likely read it again soon. Maybe within the next month or two. It's rather short, so I can fit it in between other books.
Marts  (Thinker)
Feb 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
... Eramus's reflections on human actions, decisions, placed in a bit of a humurous light ... ...more
Dec 25, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: for-class, classics, 2018
Good to know that humanity didn't change the slightest since the Middle Ages. ...more
Jane Upshall
May 08, 2020 rated it it was ok
Some redeeming parts in the last section but for the most part , I didn’t understand much of it . Good for people who like philosophy, I guess.
May 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: europe, classic
Again I admit that I'm impressed with a classical author. From his obviously sympathetic view of women at a time when that wasn't exactly common, to his deep understanding of human nature, Erasmus really isn't what I expected from a Catholic clergyman. As with Baldassare Castiglione I found his description of aging to be both poignant and incredibly accurate. When I read Folly's claim that old people enter a kind of second childhood in which they regain some of their lost innocence and wonder, ...more
Jan 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing
“I must learn to love the fool in me the one who feels too much, talks too much, takes too many chances, wins sometimes and loses often, lacks self-control, loves and hates, hurts and gets hurt, promises and breaks promises, laughs and cries”

This was said by Theodore Rubin, but it was first said in Praise of Folly. This wonderful book brings life and illumination to that above quote and helps you to appreciate it's fullest meaning. To anyone who would be better: read this book, it will show you
I would have liked it more if it had been half its length. It's funny and caustic at times, but it's stretched out too much, too often.
And even though the notes in the back help, it's a shame we miss 99% of the inside jokes, but I suppose that can't be helped.
Jun 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Erasmus's Praise of Folly is by far the best self-help book that I've read in my entire life. ...more
Sep 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was fun! The flaws of human character have apparently been the same for centuries and will mostly likely remain forever- but Erasmus shows them in such an inventive and light-hearted manner I felt it actually gave me a lot of comfort and perspective.
At the same time I liked the glimpses into specifics of the life in the 16th century - I especially enjoyed discovering all the phrases and proverbs Erasmus uses. I'll probably want to give his Adages a go one day :)

The text for me gets confusin
Nov 21, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This has got to be the oldest book I’ve yet to read, 1509. And, appropriately enough, it strives to be the wisest, but cleverly (ironically?) disguising itself as a praise of folly. Erasmus makes oodles of valid points and doesn’t lack in eloquence either, but it’s something of an obstacle course to get through. In all fairness, Erasmus is a splendid sophist, limber linguist and a sophisticated syllogist, one seemingly as partial to hearing himself pontificate as I am to alliterations…and yet th ...more
Henrik Haapala
Jun 04, 2022 rated it it was amazing
Is probably the greatest contributor to enlightenment and most undervalued of eminent writers the past 500 years.
The reason is he produced 20% of the output of books at his time, and he was in the middle of printing books and writing them at the same time - at the time printing was invented by Gutenberg in the 1450s. Without writers you would have no books.
In Praise of Folly is supposed to be a satire. The language is old and the spelling tortured but readable with care. Some of it reads like an old style stand-up comic: 'the Noose of Wedlock' 'ye owe ... to my follower, Madness' and on the getting of children, purview of the goddess of Folly, "the Stoicks too, that conceive themselves next to the Gods, yet shew me one of them .... and if he do not put off his beard, the badge of wisdom, though yet it be no more than what is common with him and go ...more
Dec 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
An obvious characteristic of a literary work of genius would be its endurance (relevance) over time. Erasmus' Praise of Folly, written over 500 years ago, still has much to say to the modern reader, namely because humankind, at any time in history, will always be demonstrating its ability to act foolishly. This work is replete with barbed witticisms that have not lost their piquancy over the centuries. I enjoyed the way Erasmus split the book between first showing how men can waste their lives c ...more
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Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus (28 October 1466 – 12 July 1536), known as Erasmus of Rotterdam, or simply Erasmus, was a Dutch Renaissance humanist, Catholic priest, social critic, teacher, and theologian.

Erasmus was a classical scholar and wrote in a pure Latin style. Among humanists he enjoyed the sobriquet "Prince of the Humanists", and has been called "the crowning glory of the Christian human

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