Thoth, the Egyptian god, is said to have invented numbers and letters and in Plato's Phaedrus (274) the Theban king Thamus demonstrates the malignity of his influence. The Latin word for 'verbal wizards' also contains an allusion to the Phaedrus (266c).
Folly continues to caricature the humanist arguments and to exploit them in an anti-humanist sense. For the scholastics as for the fifteenth-century Florentine Platonist Marsilio Ficino, man's nature occupied a fixed position in the hierarchy of being, between the spiritual and the material creation, and much of medieval spirituality and ethics centres on his need to live in accordance with his place in the hierarchy. 'Truth to type' was a serious ethical and spiritual principle although, in Erasmus's immediate predecessor, Pico della Mirandola, man had already become detached from the fixed hierarchy and was capable of self-determination in such a way as to be able to achieve parity of stature with the angels or degradation to the status of the irrational beasts. The argument that man should be guided by reason rather than by instinct was another serious ethical principle parodied here by Folly, with deliberate allusion to the Sermon on the Mount. But this is still self-parody rather than any serious attack on the spirit of scientific inquiry.
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