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Ship of Fools  by Hieronymus Bosch
Ship of Fools by Hieronymus Bosch

"For I am, as you see, that true and only giver of wealth whom the Greeks call Moria, the Latins Stultitia, and our plain English Folly."--The Praise of Folly (1511) by Erasmus

This page Foolishness is part of the laughter series.Illustration: Mona Lisa Smoking a Pipe by Eugène Bataille
This page Foolishness is part of the laughter series.
Illustration: Mona Lisa Smoking a Pipe by Eugène Bataille

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Foolishness is the lack or failure of wisdom and of making proper careful choices. In this sense, it differs from stupidity, which is the lack of intelligence. An act of foolishness is called folly. Foolish talk is called stultiloquence or morology.

Foolishness and wisdom are contrasted in Paul's letter to the Corinthians. He condemns intellectual arrogance and advocates a humble attitude of foolishness in which it is then possible to learn. Plato likewise said, "He is the wisest man who knows himself to be ill-equipped for the study of wisdom", but Paul makes a distinction between wisdom and the reason of the Greeks.

In literature

“[The fool in literature is ] privileged to speak out, usually on behalf of a satirical view of actuality, against received opinion, convention, and social cliché, the Fool (in literature at least) was a rich source for paradoxical utterance. From Socrates, who alleged that his only knowledge was the limitation of his own knowledge, via Saint Paul and the Pseudo-Dionysius to Nicholas of Cusa and Erasmus, docta ignorantia was attributed to the gifted fool. Alcibiades’ image from the Symposium, of Socrates as an ugly Silenus-box containing the sweetest perfume, was explicated by Erasmus in the Adagia, exploited in the Moriae encomium (Praise of Folly), adapted by Rabelais in the Preface to Gargantua, and referred to by a host of other paradoxists as a visual emblem of the functions of the formal paradox, evidently ugly but with a sweet truth within. Falstaff belongs in this company of wise fools, though he has none of the spirituality of Erasmus’ “Saint Socrates”; Lear’s fool is wisely ignorant, speaks in grammatical paradoxes and touches on many paradoxical topics (nothing, shadow, folly, codpiece, world-upside-down); Lear himself is schooled to the piercing accuracy of moral and social judgment characteristic of the highest forms of Renaissance folly.” –”Literary Paradox” in Dictionary of the History of Ideas via [1]

See also

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