Indolentism was a philosophy founded by Angelo Manfredi (1471 - 1535) in 1501 AD. It flourished in scattered communities across Southern Europe, till about the late 17th century. A philosophy that was very controversial for its time, Indolentism espoused a life of ease, contentment, quietude and solitude. It peaked in popularity during the 1660's, before it was banned by Pope Diligent the 3rd in 1666. From then on, it saw a rapid decline in numbers, until 1698, when the last community in Aquitaine was closed.
Coined by Angelo Manfredi in his book il Virtua di Sloth (the virtue of sloth) published in 1501, Indolence is just a fancier way of saying laziness, sloth or apathy. Adding an ism on the end implies that it is a belief system. The belief system of laziness. The Italian equivalent is Indolentismo.
The primary doctrine of Indolentism is that work is evil. Work is defined by Manfredi as an activity that is intrinsically bad, but performed for the sake of some other intrinsic good. Bad is defined simply as that which is disliked by the individual, good as that which is liked. Manfredi thought that at best, work was a necessary evil, at worst, an unnecessary one. He believed that the goal of life is, and ought to be, the minimization of work, as well as the maximization of play. Play was defined as good activity. However, because he believed the passage of time moved quickly while playing, and slowly while working, it was more important to minimize work and other unpleasant experiences, than it was to maximize play and other pleasant experiences.
Pleasure was defined as liked sensation, and pain as a disliked sensation. Indolentism isn't a hedonistic doctrine per say, rather, subjective sensation is only one of the "categories of being" that we like and dislike (albeit one of the more important ones). In addition, objective people, places and things were thought to be inherently liked and disliked. Even objective thought was thought to be inherently liked and disliked. The ultimate goal of life was simply to acquire as many things as we liked, and avoid as many things as we disliked.
Unlike animals, human beings possess reason. Reason endows us with the ability to like other "categories of being" than sensation. Reason also endows us with the abilities of hindsight and foresight. We may work in order to play, or avoid play in order to avoid work. By definition, work is always something we do for the sake of acquiring something else, not something we do for the sake of itself. The problem with the whole of Christendom, Manfredi thought, was that human beings had short changed themselves. We worked long hours for little reward.
By believing that some things were really good; fame, fortune, family, friends, expensive food, wine, clothing and shelter, and the work required to obtain these things wasn't so bad, humanity had set itself up for disappointment. Indolentism teaches that the finer things in life come with a price besides the monetary, for example; the famous people of his time often received contempt, ridicule and scorn form the public. The rich constantly had to guard their money against thieves and parasites. Wives are a pain, children are ungrateful. Also, there were no guarantees that one would ever acquire expensive and decadent goods.
Indolentism divides likes or pleasures into two categories, necessary and unnecessary. Manfredi Believed we shouldn't work hard for either, especially unnecessary ones. Indolentists believed that it was better to commit suicide than to work long hard hours for all of one's life. Manfredi tolerated a moderate amount of work for necessary wants and a minimal amount of work for unnecessary ones. Necessary was defined as both that which you cannot survive without, and that which without, life wouldn't be worth living. Unnecessary was defined as the opposite.
Manfredi believed that certain amount of friends, family, food and shelter was necessary. He also believed that a certain amount wisdom was necessary too. In some cases, unnecessary goods could be sought after, but only if one could acquire them at play, not at work. Work was divided into two categories; mental and physical work. Mental work was more esteemed than physical, because it was thought to be easier and more affective. Play was also divided into mental and physical categories, mental play being the most highly praised of all activity.
Although the outright rejection of fine foods, wine, women and song was thought to be stupid, it was believed we shouldn't indulge in these things too much, because inevitably we'd grow accustomed to them, and when they were not readily available to us, we'd have to work extremely hard in order to regain them. Also, luxuries could lead to repercussions that could rob one of their peace, such as nausea after a night of binge drinking.
Some of their views on crime, in particular stealing, were very controversial for their time, indeed even for our time. Indolentism preaches the philosophy of reciprocal altruism, and although it was believed that we normally shouldn't harm others or their property, in certain circumstances, where the only means of supporting oneself was to work long, hard hours for little pay, Manfredi preached that it was OK to steal from ones neighbour, especially the rich. It was also ok to live off of your parents, or your spouse.
Although politics was normally frowned upon, Manfredi envision a world where a government based on the principles of Robino di Hood (Italian equivalent of Robin Hood) would be erected. He believed the rich should pay higher taxes than the middle class, and the poor should pay no taxes. Wealth should be redistributed from the rich to the poor by government. This made Manfredi one, if not the first proponents of socialism in modern Europe. He was not a communist though, on the contrary, Manfredi cherished privacy and private property, believing a life where "everyone's nose was up everyone's ass" would be abhorrent.
All in all, it was thought that we should minimize work, modernize play, and maximize rest. Their ethics bore a strong resemblance to the Greek Philosopher Epicurus, and in some senses to Diogenes, with more emphasis placed on rest and some parasitic, thievish and socialistic activity permitted.
Indolentism was one of the first philosophies in Europe to advocate religious tolerance. Although Manfredi claimed he was a Catholic, it was said he never attended church and openly criticized Catholicism in his letters, all of which but one are now lost. According to Indolentism, Catholicism misrepresented some of Christ's teachings. The original source of the confusion was thought to date back to Paul, who taught that "a man who didn't work, shouldn't eat". Manfredi pointed out that Jesus and his disciples didn't work, and were dependent on the labour of others for their daily food and wine. He often quoted Jesus' parable; "look at the birds of the air, they do not reap, nor sow, yet their heavenly father feeds them". He thought Jesus was actually an advocate of sloth and apathy, also citing Jesus's indifference to worldly affairs. Paul and the early church got it wrong, and humanity has been paying ever since.
He also taught that certain men profited off the toil of others, i.e. Lords and Kings. It was necessary for them to condemn sloth in public, meanwhile, they profited off the labour of the poor without lifting a finger. Although he never openly advocated the abolition of feudalism, man suspected that his doctrines were at least partly to blame for the peasant uprisings in Italy and France of the 1660's.
Manfredi saw his teachings as a return to the original teachings of Christ and the Philosophers. He thought the world had become corrupt with the teachings of industry and extravagance. Nevertheless, many said Manfredi and his followers openly practiced Idolatry for erecting statues of the Roman Goddess Murcia and the Greek Goddess Aergia in their communities. Idolentists denied this however, and exclaimed that the statues were erected for "symbolic purposes". It was also rumored that they worshiped the demon Belphegor in secret.