More than 3,600,000 pageviews from 150 countries


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Montaigne's Philosophy of Human Nature

     The evil in the world tends to strike us with more force, and more often, than the good. It is not easy to come up with the opposites of Stalin or Hitler. Evil has repute and power, good is passive, anonymous. But the question remains: Is the good and evil in people indeed distributed by chance and at random?...

     According to [the 16th century French philosopher Montaigne], both instincts and reason impel human nature, but reason is weak. The principal human failing, Montaigne believed, is arrogance, the presumption that through the intellect the truth can be revealed. We are barely superior to the animals, who are stronger, friendlier, and often wiser. Our senses deceive us, and we would do better humbly to acknowledge and accept our limitations. Life can be lived only by following our best instincts. We gain nothing by pondering life, since the future is outside our control. We are what we are; reason can neither change nor tame us; what animates us is unknown. This view of Montaigne is diametrically opposed to the Stoic tradition, which says that by knowing ourselves we can learn self-control and live exemplary lives, like that of the patron saint of all philosophers, Socrates.

A. J. Dunning, Extremes, 1990

2 comments:

  1. Thank you for excellent Montaigne quote. Do you have reference(s) indicating from which Essay(s) the thoughts were collected?
    If so, please send to: mp32@mac.com
    Thank you, Michael Palmer

    ReplyDelete
  2. Sorry, I don't have more information regarding the essay. The quote came from Dunning's book which I no longer have.

    ReplyDelete