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In Praise of Folly

In response to:

History Lessons from the March 29, 1984 issue

To the Editors:

In his review of Barbara W. Tuchman’s The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam [NYR, March 29], Gordon Wood remarks, “Folly then is not just a constant of history; at times it seems to be even a necessity. More often than not it is folly—false and irrational perceptions of reality—that gives people the intellectual energy to act as they do.”

This comment echoes what Erasmus wrote in The Praise of Folly: “Without me, says Folly, the world cannot exist for a moment. For is not all that is done at all among mortals, full of folly; is it not performed by fools and for fools? No society, no cohabitation can be pleasant or lasting without folly.”

Evidently not only folly marches on but so does the praise of folly.

James Gutmann

Columbia University

New York, New York

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