The Praise of Folly

Interpretations of Plato's Allegory of the Cave in Erasmus' Praise of Folly

In the Praise of Folly, Erasmus creates a character critical of, yet indebted to, philosophical wisdom. Through Folly, Erasmus weaves his own ideas into her message, confusing readers unable to distinguish between the two voices. In Praise of Folly, Folly refers to Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" from The Republic to enhance her statements of self-praise. Her interpretation of this philosophical piece strays from Plato's intentions, and at the end of the text, Erasmus offers his reconciliation between the two accounts. Folly's account revolves around the benefits of life in a material world, whereas Plato describes positive aspects of living in an immaterial realm of thought.

Folly begins her lecture against the idea of Platonic enlightenment:

To destroy the illusion is to ruin the whole play, for it's really the illusion and make-up which hold the audiences eye. Now what else is the whole life of man but a sort of play? Actors come on wearing their different masks and all play their's all a sort of pretense, but it's the only way to act out this farce (Erasmus 44).

She reasons that life lacks substance beyond what the eyes perceive. She lives in a material world where the sense of...

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