Exercise in Anachronism Essay

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¶ … Anachronism

Universal Peace and the Primacy of Reason: the Formula for Happiness

Humanism refers to a system of thought, which focuses on humans and their values, capacities and worth over religious beliefs (The American Heritage Dictionary 2007). It

also refers to a cultural and intellectual movement of the Renaissance, which emphasized secular values and concerns. The movement was a consequence of the rediscovery and study of the classic literature, art and civilization (The American Heritage Dictionary). Desiderius Erasmus and Sir Thomas More were the leading humanists of the 16th century and close friends.

Pacifist Humanist

The most famous humanist was opposed to war under almost all circumstances (Nauert 2008). He stressed that any leader who goes to war "breeds future wars," which are costly, first of all, to his subjects. War is, therefore, self-defeating. And peace is, therefore, most desirable (Nauert).Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Desiderius Erasmus was born in Rotterdam in the Netherlands in 1466 as an illegitimate son to a priest and a physician's daughter (Microsoft Encarta 2009). He was altogether a Dutch writer, scholar and foremost humanist. He was the chief interpreter of the intellectual currents and torrents of the Italian Renaissance (Microsoft Encarta). His works contributed the most to the intellectual and spiritual atmosphere of the Protestant Reformation (Nauert 2009). Besides Martin Luther, he asserted the strongest influence over the early development of the Reformation without being part of it. He even violently opposed Luther (Nauert). During his travels to England, he forged friendships with forerunners of the humanist movement, such as John Colet, Thomas More and William Grocyn (Microsoft Encarta 2009). John Colet was the founder of Saint Paul's School in London. Thomas More was the founder of the Royal College of Physicians and Lord Chancellor of England. And William Grocyn was a lecturer of Greek at the University of Oxford. Through them, he established humanism in England, particularly the application of classical studies to Christian learning (Microsoft Encarta).

Of his political beliefs, only his pacifism or near-pacifism sparked controversy (Nauert 2009). He argued that war was the greatest vice of monarchical governments. Ambitious monarchs and court leaders waged war to gain glory and an increase of power, wealth and territory. It was not through military victory and territorial expansion that they must achieve glory. Rather, they should encourage justice and happiness and prosperity among the people. Erasmus strongly admonished the prince against the risks, wastes and bloodshed entailed in waging war. He also objected to dynastic marriages, which would lead to territorial claims and more wars. He warned the prince against being manipulated by flatterers into seeking military glory and territorial gains by conquering other nations through warfare. War invites more wars and only by the light of reason can the true cost of war be discerned. It would incur not only expenses on military preparations but also fear, uncertainties and dangers to the leadership, the military and the people themselves. He pointed to the special but useless cost of hiring and pampering mercenary soldiers, whom he called "a barbarian rabble & #8230; of all the worst scoundrels (Nauert)."

He opposed war at all costs because he was for peace at all costs. He opposed even the Christian concept of a just war when Christians fight Christians (Nauert 2009). Any ruler who wanted to wage war could rationalize it and produce a just cause. The first and greatest victims would be the people themselves. He wrote: "a prince cannot revenge himself without first opening hostilities against his own subjects." The people would be taxed by their own government for waging war. Military troops or the conquering enemy would abuse them. The people would lose their husbands and sons to war and become impoverished with the loss. Erasmus contended that war should not be rashly taken even against the Turks. Priests may teach people to turn away from hatred and war, but they also often incited them to hostility. His work, the Insituto, ends with a warning against the follies, dangers and the basically un-Christian nature of warfare. This book contains Erasmus' beliefs about or against war, especially the concept of a crusade. He could not reconcile the claim of those who called themselves Christians and then ignored Christ's own call for peace and brotherhood by going to war (Nauert).

His rejection and hatred of war and mercenary war promoters in the armies of his time often surfaced in his volumes of letters, which formed part of his panegyric in honor of Prince Philip of Hasburg in January 1504 (Nauert 2009). The panegyric vigorously presents war as an evil means to personal glory and conquest, which should never be taken (Nauert).

Reason and Virtue Lead to Happiness

A perfect or happy world is one where people live according to nature and the dictates of reason (Philosophy Basic 2009). Sir Thomas More wrote about an imaginary or ideal island country, called "utopia," where private property was unknown and complete religious tolerance dominated (Philosophy Basics).

Thomas More was born in London, England on February 7, 1478 to Sir John More, a renowned judge, and Agnes Granger (Burnet 1885). He worked as a young page to the household of Archbishop Morton who predicted that More would grow up to be a "marvelous man." More later studied at Oxford under Thomas Linacre and William Grocyn. He was an English philosopher, scholar, statesman and writer during the Renaissance period. He had great reputation as a Christian humanist scholar in continental Europe. Under King Henry VIII, he held many public positions, culminating to that of Lord Chancellor of England. He met and became a close friend to Desiderius Erasmus during the latter's 1499 visit to England. They translated the works of Lucian into Latin in 1506 during Erasmus' second visit in 1509. In his third visit in 1509, Erasmus dedicated his work, "In Praise of Folly," to More (Burnet).

More became the first layman to become Lord Chancellor in 1529 (Burnet 1885). He

sent six Lutherans to burn at the stake and 40 others to prison. He did this to eliminate the collaborators of William Tyndale who secretly published a Protestant translation of the Bible in English in 1525. He presided over more executions at the stake, including the burnings of the former Benedictine monk Richard Bayfield in 1531 and John Frith, a priest and writer, in 1533. In 1530, he refused to sign a letter, written by English church leader, asking the Pope to annul Henry's marriage to Catherine. In 1531, he tried to resign after being coerced to take an oath to declare Henry VIII the Supreme Head of the English Church. In 1532, he convinced the king to relieve him of his office due to sharp chest pains. But when he refused to attend the coronation of Anne Boleyn as Queen of England in 1533, the king charged him for bribe-taking. This was dismissed. But later in 1534, he refused to swear to the Act of Succession and the Oath of Supremacy. For the refusal, he was imprisoned at the Tower of London. He was charged for high treason the following year for denying the validity of the Act of Succession. He was convicted and then beheaded on July 6, 1535. His head was exhibited over the London Bridge for a month, a customary penalty for traitors. But he was beatified in 1886 and then canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1935. The Catholic Church also declared him the patron saint of politicians and statesmen in 1980 (Burnet).

In his most famous and controversial work, "Utopia," a traveler to the imaginary island country describes its ideal political arrangements (Burnet 1885). More argued that belief in God or an afterlife was necessary in acknowledging and obeying authority or principle beyond oneself. The orderliness and social arrangements in Utopia reflected monastic communalism. These arrangements were the opposite of the social structure of European states, indicating the need for order and discipline in those places. His cooperative efforts with Erasmus aimed at reviving hedonism on religious or spiritual grounds. More believed that God not only designs man for happiness but also uses that desire to motivate him to behave uprightly. More distinguishes mental pleasures from physical or bodily pleasures. He wrote that man should seek the more natural pleasures in order to avoid getting too immersed in artificial pleasures (Burnet).

The key principles of religion in the island country of Utopia were the immortality of the soul, God's purpose of happiness for the soul, reward for good acts and punishment for evil acts, and the distribution of the rewards after this mortal life (Philosophy Basic 2009). These principles are in operation among Utopian citizens and determine their attitudes in their search for happiness. They sought that happiness only in good and honest pleasures. Utopians also believed that reason inspires a love for God in them. It produces cheerfulness, freedom from passion, and a concern for the happiness of others. It inclines the person to seek the public good (Philosophy Basics).

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