Dingo the Dissident

THE BLOG OF DISQUIET : Qweir Notions in the Armpit of Diogenes by DINGO the DISSIDENT binge-thinker since February 2008.
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Thursday, 25 April 2013

A Montaignesque Musing

Like the higher apes,
humans evolved
the intelligence to lead
very easy, playful lives.
But something went wrong.
We preferred 'progress'
(which we perceived as gain)
to peace, and thereby condemned
the world to pain.
We are 'hard-wired' to strive,
competitive challenge is
"in our DNA"
(though not in mine). Anyway -
we moved out of
our easy East African habitat
in order to lead difficult
competitive lives in hostile regions,
aided and abetted
by those we made
our slaves and servants
through clever and befuddling religions.

[see my Michel de Montaigne blog]

11 comments:

Karl said...

But Montaigne himself was a pious and devoted Catholic, whose belief in a happy providence and blissful afterlife played a large role in undergirding his earthly contentment. Thus things are always more complicated than they seem...

Wofl said...

No, all evidence suggests that Montaigne was an atheist, and certainly his greatly-admired friend La Boétie was an atheist.

His ESSAYS were put on the Papal Index of Proscribed Books because they encouraged free-thinking.

But he was (amongst other things) a diplomat, and had to perform delicate negotiations on behalf of the French King (Charles IX) with his Protestant friend Henri of Navarre, who became Henri IV...and became, in title only, a Catholic monarch

Karl said...

I'm not so sure, Anthony. M.A. Screech, the leading Montaigne scholar in the English speaking world, provides excellent discussion of Montaigne's Catholicism in his introduction to the Essays and elsewhere. A good summary can be found here:

http://www.davidpatrickhurley.com/books/so-was-montaigne-an-atheist-or-a-christian-sceptic/

He also speaks about setting up the autonomy of human reason and private judgment, which, by natural consequence, he conceived, could end in nothing but in a "horrible atheism."

Bearz said...

Without having read much Montaigne, but having listened to 'In Our Time', which I trust as far my listen skills let me, Melvyn Bragg did not ask whether Montaigne was a Catholic or a Sceptic, but elicited from his guest experts that Montaigne wrote not a single word about the afterlife, which for all the writings being written in his time must make him unique. Even that tyrant and serial adulterer King Henry VIII, who wrote a theological treatise whilst still technically Catholic, would have written more about Heaven and Final Judgement than Montaigne did.

Karl said...

Sure, but Montaigne's point was that resaon is given to us to deal with life on earth and knowledge of the afterlife is beyond our immediate perception, and that only hints are available through the Bible and so on.

Wofl said...

Well, it wouldn't be a crime for Montaigne to have harboured some Christian thoughts. He was one of the liberating influences in a Europe obsessed with dogma. He was a friend to dogs and cannibals. His motto was, translated into modern parlance: What do I know, anyway ? He thus implied: What does anyone know, and was probably thinking just that as he kissed the pope's expensive slipper.

He must have been one of the best conversationalists of all time - and an ideal dinner-guest, especially if he brought a bottle or two of Château Eyquem de Montaigne.

Bearz said...

If Montaigne's point is that reason is given to us to deal with life on earth, then that is good. Is there need to doubt that common ground is good? I hope not....

It was highly anti-Catholic of Montaigne to not write about the consequences beyond this life of choices made in this life. The afterlife was an overwhelming obsession which has driven Protestant and Catholic autocracies for hundreds of years-such that as obsessions went it has overshadowed all reason in this life. Then and now.

That belief/fear/hope of an eternal absolute autocracy is by definition 'horrible belief', and here's the rub-perhaps the horror of it is much harder to disburse, and retreat from as we pursue reason, than we like to think. That horror is what made atheism 'horrible' to Montaigne.

But if 'the horror of autocracy' can be made weak enough in peoples' minds there might be honest belief and honest disbelief. That is the biggest 'if' I can think of, though. Can you think of a bigger 'if'?

Karl said...

Ultimately, the view that Montaigne was an atheist becomes, ironically, a matter of faith in the overwhelming prima facie evidence that he was a standard Catholic. It strikes me as being an unjustifiable attempt to impose a 21st-centruy perspective on a man whose alleigances were very different.

The problem is that anyone who says he was just kowtowing to the authorities with his referenes to God etc is assuming what they're trying to prove.

Furthermore, if he was an atheist this makes him an appalling hypocrtite, as he speaks time and again in the essays about the need for honesty and the vice of lies.



Wofl said...

This is what happens when male dogmatists seize hold of something by-the-way, like dogs tussling over a bone.

In the end, atheism is just another religion. What does it matter whether someone is an atheist or a Wah'habi if both are thoroughly nasty, or terrifically nice ?

It's how people live and behave that matters, not what is in their heads.

Karl said...

Dogmatist? Moi? Merely in the conviction that never to be born is best:-)

Wofl said...

Dans cet égard, Monseigneur, je suis tout à fait d'accord, sinon côte à côte!