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Twenty-fifth Annual Margaret Mann Phillips Lecture: Erasmus and the Philosophers

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image of Erasmus Studies

Despite a lack of formal philosophical training and an antipathy to medieval scholasticism, Erasmus possessed not only a certain familiarity with Thomas Aquinas, but also close knowledge of Plato and Aristotle. Erasmus’ interest in some Platonic motifs is well known. But the most consistent philosophical theme in Erasmus’ writings from his earliest to his latest was that of the Epicurean goal of peace of mind, ataraxia. Erasmus, in fact, combined Christianity with a nuanced Epicurean morality. This Epicureanism, when combined in turn with a commitment to the consensus Ecclesiae as well as with an allergy to dogmatic formulations and an appreciation of the Greek Fathers, ultimately rendered Erasmus alien to Luther and Protestantism though they agreed on much.


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