Tapping into selected works of Erasmus of Rotterdam, this book offers a series of philosophical meditations designed to retrieve and deploy a distinctively Erasmian manner of thinking-one that is capacious in its perception, agile in its judgments, and unsettling in its irony. In purpose, it takes a philosophical route, addressing perennial questions of self-kwledge-what we can kw and how best to communicate what we take to be true, what we ought to do or how we should live, and what we might hope for or what would offer us fulfilment. In method, however, this work taps into the various strategies of irony at play in the works of Erasmus, looking for guidance in handling these age-old questions. What readers will find in Erasmus is a knack for playfully reversing appearances and realities, a penchant for pushing disturbing questions relentlessly to the limit, and a skill for juxtaposing oddly matched opposites. Again and again, Erasmus presses readers to rethink these fundamental questions with dexterity and nuance, ever ready to appreciate the surprising and unsettling upshot of ironic insight. The practical result-as the meditations of this book illustrate-is animble defense of ironic truth-telling, a staunch but idiosyncratic complaint for peace, and a daring defense of pleasure in religious life. On each score, irony of the Erasmian sort is a manner of thinking especially well-suited for creatures like ourselves-richly complex, wonderfully odd, and often full of folly, yet somehow complacent and often dogmatic-precisely because such ironic thinking has the power to prod and prompt fruitful reflection on our lives. Truth and Irony is an invitation to think in an Erasmian manner-in short, to think ironically about the truth of our lives for the sake of enhancing human existence.
Terence J. Martin is professor of religion at St. Mary's College, Notre Dame, IN, USA.