By Ellis Washington
Michel Eyquem de Montaigne (1533–1592) was a giant of the French Renaissance, the cultural and artistic movement in France between the 15th and early 17th centuries, and one of the most important writers of that period celebrated for promoting the essay as a literary genre. He achieved notoriety for his natural talent to combine serious intellectual aspects of life with spontaneous narratives and biography. His magnum opus, Essais (translated literally as "Attempts" or "Trials") covers many of the classical essays and writing styles written in the Western canon. Although ironically during his lifetime Montaigne was better known as a statesman than as a writer, historically Montaigne had a strong influence on many other great writers and philosophers including Ren� Descartes, Blaise Pascal, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Immanuel Kant, Albert Hirschman, William Hazlitt, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Friedrich Nietzsche, Stefan Zweig, Eric Hoffer, Isaac Asimov, and even possibly on the later works of William Shakespeare (e.g. The Tempest Act 2, Scene 1, and Hamlet Act 2, Scene 1).
Montaigne popularized the technique in his essays as Chaucer's Canterbury Tales 200 years before – to wander into interesting tales and personal reflections which literary critics later viewed as contrary to proper essay style instead of what history has declared Montaigne's great contributions to the development of the essay and essay writing. His affirmation that, 'I am myself the matter of my book,' was regarded by those of his times as narcissistic, but he was a realist. Nevertheless, Montaigne is acknowledged as representing, possibly more than any other writer of his era, the zeitgeist of skepticism which began to develop during the Renaissance. He is best known for his skeptical remark, 'Que sais-je?' (i.e. 'What do I know?'). More than any other writer of the Renaissance Montaigne is relatable to modern readers because he endeavored to observe the world through rational eyes of his own instincts and conclusions which he inherently trusted above his five sense (skepticism over empiricism). To this degree Montaigne was very subjective in his approach to obtaining and disseminating knowledge as opposed to conventional, objective writers of his generation. Like many literary non-fiction writers of today from my youth I have always found inspiration and a muse in the writings of Montaigne for indeed he has an enduring balance of intellectual gravitas and an entertaining biographical narrative.
Montaigne is one of the world's great essayists and is best known for his work Essais (1580) a comprehensive group of small idiosyncratic treatments of different subjects, motivated by his love of the classics, especially the great Roman essayist from antiquity, Plutarch (46-120 A.D.). Montaigne's primary contribution was his prescient observations regarding humanity and human nature, particularly himself under the bluntest terms. Motivated by his deliberation on the lives and ideals of the prominent people of his time, he brilliantly reveals the boundless diversity and irrationality of human nature in all of his essays. He admits to having mental retention issues, yet has outstanding aptitude in resolving problems and reconciling conflicts without actually getting emotionally entangled himself. His contempt for the human lust of fame and fortune, and his efforts to separate himself from secular pursuits as inferior to spiritual efforts harkens to his longing for the afterlife which is a theme throughout his works. Known as a humanist and religious skeptic, he was not an atheist, but a Christian, yet he writes about his disgust of the religious battles and wars during his era. He understood that humans beings are finite and fallible creatures thus were not capable of reaching certainty or perfection in all things. The most extensive treatment of his essays, Apology for Raymond Sebond. is where we find his celebrated axiom, "What do I know?" Another major theme or id�e fixe throughout his writings.
Montaigne was a big devotee of the family and marriage as societal structures essential for the nurturing and education of children, but did not believe in emotionalism and feelings of fervent love which he considered contrary to freedom. In one essay Montaigne wrote: "If there is such a thing as a good marriage, it is because it resembles friendship rather than love." In education, he advocated real models and experience over the instruction of abstract information that has to be believed in and of itself. The Essais had an essential inspiration in shaping philosophy and conventional thinking in European literature and philosophy. Francis Bacon's Essays (1596), are commonly thought to be patterned after Montaigne's Essais which is further evidenced by Bacon in later essays citing Montaigne in his pantheon of great classical writers and philosophers.
Montaigne on Psychology and Education
Montaigne wasn't formally trained as a scientist, nevertheless he made many important developments in psychology through his essay writings and formalized and described his observations on these subjects. His ideas and philosophical thoughts addressed themes including among many other subjects – belief, inspiration, fear, happiness, classical education, child education, experience, philosophy, and human nature. Montaigne's observations have had an enduring effect on psychology and are over 400 years later a central aspect of the discipline and development of psychology.
His essays On the Education of Children. On Pedantry. and On Experience describe his opinions he held on child education from a psychological view where Montaigne deeply probed the inner depths of the conscious and subconscious mind of a young child over 300 years before the writings of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung on human psychology, psychiatry, psychoanalysis and human nature. Montaigne's observations on child education conflicted with the customary educational methods of his generations. For example, Montaigne strongly disagreed with not only what was considered a good education, but how that education was disseminated to children. Typical education methods during Montaigne's time were dedicated to rote reading of the classics and knowledge absorbed through books taught by a stern schoolmaster or tutor who wasn't shy about coupling instruction with punishment if necessary. Montaigne found these educational methods of rote reading and memorization boring, ineffective and counterproductive to gaining true knowledge.
Montaigne understood that there were many ways to educate children, not one. Furthermore he didn't like the methods used to teach children particularly how teachers made students believe that what was taught was definitive and therefore unquestioned truth. These methods caused students to be mere passive learners of the tabula rasa school where for generations people thought babies came into the world as a blank slate, their minds uncritically recording whatever is written on them. Montaigne wanted students to use critical thinking skills to question everything they were taught. Using Montaigne's innovative educational methods and tactics students would become scholars in their own right. Why? Because they believed what they had been taught not by passive, uncritical rote learning, but because those ideas had germinated in the crucible of their own minds thus giving each student a unique, individual ownership in the knowledge they obtained as their personal possession that no one could ever take from them.
To effectively secure a foundational education Montaigne thought that the choice of a worthy tutor was essential for the student to become truly educated. Anticipating the Montessori methods by centuries, education by a tutor was to be done at the speed of the student not by formulaic grades we herd students in and out of in modern times whether they are ready to be moved on or not. Hearkening back to the Socratic dialectical methods of ancient Greece, Montaigne supposed that a tutor engage in dialogue with the student, allowing the student to exhibit their knowledge on a certain subject and guiding the student to go deeper and higher on each subject as his worldview expanded and matured. Using the dialectical framework of Socrates the tutor must always permit deliberations and arguments thus fostering an atmosphere in which students would be able to understand their errors and make improvements to them as the lessons progressed. Thus overtime, under Montaigne's theory of education the students essentially become autodidactic or self-taught.
Montaigne in modern times
Montaigne's opinions on child education endure and remain relevant in modern times whereby Montaigne's views and techniques on education are assimilated into modern education methods and theories of learning over hundreds of years. Like the Tour de Montaigne (the famous tower he locked himself in for 10 years with 1500 volumes of books prior to publishing his first work), this legendary writer, philosopher, and scholar went against the conventional education ideas of his time, encouraging instead individualized and personalized education using the Socratic method. He understood the importance of experience over formal learning through books and memorization. Eventually, Montaigne hypothesized that the result of education was to instill in a student how to have a prosperous life by engaging in a dynamic and socially fulfilling way of life.
Unlike many humanist writers of the Renaissance and Enlightenment like Hobbes, Voltaire, Rousseau, D'Alembert, and later Robespierre and the Jacobins of the French Revolution, who allowed a perverted idea of humanist reasoning to drive them to atheism, skepticism, and open hostility to religion, particularly Christianity, Montaigne, as evidenced in his celebrated essay Apology for Raymond Sebond (1580) not only pays homage to classical learning and humanist traditions in an enjoyable and conversational way, this work further emphasizes the necessity of Christian faith and divine revelation to struggle against the inherent limitations of human reason alone which I believe was the singular tragic flaw of humanism, the Renaissance, and the subsequent Enlightenment Age. Montaigne also believes that human reason over the natural instincts of animals is basically deceptive and a myth. Montaigne's psychological essays set the stage for the efforts of rationalists such as Descartes in the 1600s to institute a pioneering system of knowledge whose formation would be independent of the reliance on the five senses for obtaining knowledge (i.e. empiricism, championed by Hobbes, Locke, Berkeley and Hume), thus championing true critical thinking.
Montaigne and the LGBT Agenda (unisex bathrooms)
In the Progressive Era under the Progressive Revolution, society is essentially imprisoned under a regime of fear, ignorance, and intimidation where those who speak out against the Democrat Socialist Party and their progressive allies who control all of America's institutions – education, politics, judiciary, legislative, medicine, and even religion. For example, look at the recent case out of Austin, Texas where Houston's first openly lesbian, Mayor Annise Parker has retreated from the subpoenas the City of Houston issued to several area pastors, demanding the pastors submit the content of their sermons, speeches and private communications including emails and text messages with church members. Texas Senator Ted Cruz weighed in, strongly supporting the pastors' First Amendment religious liberty in their efforts to fight the subpoenas.
What is all this controversy about? It is liberal fascism on the march manifested in this radical leftist Mayor Annise Parker trying to chill the speech of Christians and Christian pastors regarding the controversy, stemming from ongoing litigation by Christian churches challenging the city's anti-discrimination Lesbian-Gay-Bi-sexual-Transgender ('LGBT') ordinance she is trying to force down the throats of the citizens of Houston who are adamantly against such an LGBT agenda mandating unisex bathrooms in schools and other public places.
Johns Hopkins psychiatrist Dr. Paul R. McHugh calls transgender a 'mental disorder.' Montaigne, whose writings have remained relevant since the 1580s and are still studied within literary studies, as literature and philosophy throughout the world, would not accept such an anti-rational, anti-family agenda to become law on both moral, civilizational, and natural law grounds and I concur.
*N.B. This essay is based in part on ideas from Encyclopedia Britannica Great Books of the Western World, Robert Maynard Hutchins, Editor-in-Chief (University of Chicago, 1952), Vol. 3, Chap. 66 – Philosophy; Chap. 77 – Reasoning; Vol. 25 – Montaigne.Please purchase my latest opus dedicated to that Conservative Colossus, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Here are the latest two new volumes from my ongoing historical series – THE PROGRESSIVE REVOLUTION: History of Liberal Fascism through the Ages (University Press of America, 2015):
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I am starting a new a program on my blog dedicated to giving young conservatives (ages 14-35) a regular place to display and publish their ideas called Socrates Corner. If you know of any young person who wants to publish their ideas on any subject, have them send their essay manuscripts to my email at ewashington@ <NOSPAM> wnd.com .
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’s Essays Essay, Research Paper
This book called Selected Essays is just what the title tells it to be. It is a group of selected essays written by a medieval French philosopher named Michel de Montaigne. The essays are of course translated but as the ideas are Montaigne s I don t feel it necessary to share the translator s name. I would like to expand on the idea of how extensively Montaigne s life differs from that of today s average person and also how that difference in lifestyle and time greatly influenced his opinions on certain subjects. Another idea I would like to develop is of how the style of writing they used differs from the style of writing used by contemporary authors today.
Montaigne was born on February 28, 1533 right smack dab in the middle of what most people refer to as the Middle Ages. Now the times in which he grew up were very different from what we would now experience, for instance surfs (peasants) were little better than slaves, women were looked upon as property and male children were sent to other peoples homes to be raised. Montaigne himself had quite a unique education, being such that Latin was his first language and he was allowed to read whatever he pleased and was not confined to only what his tutor thought appropriate. His opinions on many subjects were greatly affected by these circumstances. He, as did most men of this time period, felt that women were objects designed only to bear children and direct the servants of t
he house. His opinions on children were unique in that he felt a great need for education of a greater sort and not just literacy although he felt that important also. He believes that a male child should learn to cope with much cold, fight, and show sympathy for suffering.
The writing style used in Montaigne s time is quite different from the style of which we use today. They start on one subject and end on quite another, for instance should you read an essay today on the education of children you would expect it to stay at least somewhat on the subject of the education of children. I n Montaigne s essay Of the Education of Children he traverses into subjects such as hiding ones true self, traveling to other countries, a mans soul and many other things while every once in a while returning to the original subject of the education of children. It is more like having a conversation than reading an essay. He starts on one subject and transgresses into many of which he sometimes returns to and sometimes leaves as is.
In truth I enjoyed the book as it was intellectually stimulating and kept me thinking and analyzing my own opinions on the subject of which he speaks. I found that while I did not always agree with what he was saying the essays were well written and every opinion was well supported. I would have to say that only people who enjoy thinking deeply should even bother to undertake this book. Anyone else would most definitely be utterly bored by it.
Montaigne’s Use Of Language To Assay The Role Between The Bod Essay. Research Paper
In his essay. On Some Lines of Virgil. Montaigne assays the nature of affairs of love entered into by women and men relating the nature of the body and soul to that of language. He discusses things from the importance of training the soul. to the ability of women to be as infidel as men. Throughout his essay he maintains the outlook that bodily pleasure, in mediation. should not be forsaken because of the soul. For it is, as they say, right the body should never follow its appetites to the prejudice of the soul. Why is it not right, then, that the soul should not follow hers to the prejudice of the body. (Page 324.)
The relationship of the soul to the body is seen as one of a student and teacher with the roles interchanging as it is considered necessary. Montaigne says we need our souls to be instructed in the way of doing good and keeping away evil. but that this must be done in moderation — ?lest you drive her [the soul] mad. (Page 261.) He even says that he allows himself time for lascivious thoughts for this purpose.
At times. however, it is necessary for the soul to take the instructor role to keep the body in line. Montaigne makes an example of saints inflicting great pain on their bodies (by denying it of certain pleasures) to perfect their souls. Their bodies, he says, could have had little to do with this; it was more their bodies following behind their souls (page 323.)
In Montaigne?s eyes, it is unjust to prejudice the soul toward bodily pleasures in this manner. These pleasures are natural and should therefore be enjoyed in moderation, not completely avoided. Resistance. instead, should be employed against unnatural pleasures (page 322.)
Since sex is a natural pleasure, it fits into the category of things to be enjoyed in moderation. Montaigne makes a point of including an age limit on those like himself that wish to maintain some dignity, saying that ?A man who can receive pleasure when he gives none at all is in no wise generous: it is a base soul which will owe the lot and is pleased to nurse contacts with women who do all the playing. (Page 325.) Though he says he has no passion but love (page 324) he would let his imagination suffice than to go gallivanting about among the youth ; ?Why should we go and show our wretchedness among such eager joy [so that burning youth, not without many a laugh, may see our nuptial torch decayed into ashes ?] (Pages 324-5.) Rather, he says, make room for the youth.
Montaigne?s view is also be applied to young men who brag about their sexual prowess only to leave their partners dissatisfied. He denounces any man who can, without shame. look his lover in the eyes — ?her silent features eloquent with loud reproach? (page 317) — after an unsatisfactory encounter.
According to Montaigne women as well as men should be allowed to indulge in their carnal desires. He says that women are made the same as men and differ only education. In judging women, in fact, he says that men are just as unjust as women are of men (page 314.) Men should not be surprised that women are capable of having just as many lovers — if not more — as men since ?it is against the nature of sex-love not to be impetuous, and it is against the nature of what is impetuous to remain constant. (Page 394.) If men are surprised by this action then they should be amazed at the same trait within themselves.
Since women are cast from the same mold as men, then why should they be expected to remain chaste and virginal? Their souls have been taught the same morals. and their bodies have the same desires. A man who engages in extramarital affairs is doing the same thing as a woman who engages in them. An affair is a conscientious and voluntary agreement of two parties, not one. Montaigne addresses this when he says. from what do you derive that sovereign authority you assume over any ladies who, to their own cost, grant you their favors– [If she gives you some little stolen present in the black of night]– so that you immediately invest yourselves with rights, cold disapproval and husbandly (sic) authority. (Page 319.) In Montaigne?s eyes, only the soul of a woman has a right to judge her, not a man, since the same goes for men.
Even in cases such as these, where society has taken over the role of the soul, Montaigne asserts that the wishes of the body should be adhered. Using quotations from Plato. Virgil (hence the name of the essay), Horace and others, he continues to work through the questions of marriage-love, sex-love and the soul?s purpose pertaining to them. Still applying the nature of the body, Montaigne sites examples of marriage.
Unlike Augustine. Montaigne does not view marriage as a way to monopolize desires; it is instead a dedication to future generations. He uses examples of wives who, though they dearly love their husbands, have affairs, and wives who, out of love for their husbands. daily lend their bodies to others solely to help on their husbands. (Page 294.) Montaigne also notes. however, that these situations must be rectified by the husband lest he be chastised. Marriages and wives are called good not because they are good but because they are not talked about. (Page 295.)
To Montaigne, the nature of the soul is like that of language: it must be manipulated to suit the situation (preferably to suit the body?s desires.) ?What enriches a language is its being handled and exploited by beautiful minds — not so much by making innovations as by expanding it through more vigorous and varied applications. (Page 300.) His discussion of love, both sex and marriage-oriented, follows this understanding. The use of Virgil and other authors to assay his point is evidence of his belief that the soul (and love for that matter) is like language; these authors embodying the ?exploitation by beautiful minds.
The mind and the body work together to manipulate the soul. The soul, like language, is flexible but not completely mutable. According to Montaigne, the soul should be manipulated to allow the body some indulgence, but not to the point that it becomes debased — like the usage of slang depreciates a language. Mediation in indulgence of bodily desire is important so we don?t hamper the action of our souls, but mediation in educating the soul is important to keep our sanity.
Michel De Montaigne On The Education Of Children Essay, Research Paper
The Dynamics of the “Education of Children”
The purpose of Montaigne’s “Education of Children” is to lay down the philosophical groundwork for a new and innovative way of teaching children. The purpose of this new system is to foster the child’s intellectual growth as opposed to filling the child’s head with facts that he regurgitates, but does not understand. In Montaigne’s words, the education should put a child “through its paces, making it taste things, choose them, and discern them by itself” (110). As well as encouraging intellectual growth, Montaigne also intends to promote wisdom, character and physical development as a way of education the entire person. Montaigne’s assertion is that the purpose behind education should not be for the sole aim of the increase in knowledge, but “to have become better and wiser by it” (112). The overall effect of the education should be to produce an individual that is both wise and happy; according to Montaigne the two are irreconcilably bound, as “the surest sign of wisdom is constant cheerfulness” (119).
The methods used to achieve Montaigne’s ideal education are a mixture of the ability and talent of the tutor; the individual attention paid to a student and the well-rounded nature of the curriculum. Montaigne asserts that a pupil is only as good as the skill of his tutor. The ideal tutor in Montaigne’s eyes would be one that is more wise than learned, having “a well made rather than a well filled head” (110). The tutor should not have the student repeat what is told to him, as the goal of the education is not to memorize, but rather to learn. The tutor should be a guide in order to offer the ideas of great authors to the student and then “let him know how to make them his own” (111). Furthermore, the tutor is only responsible for one student at a time and without interference from parents. Being alone with the student allows the tutor to truly become aquatinted with the student s aptitudes and allows for the formulation of an individual and personal education for the one pupil.
The actual subjects to be learned are divided by not only the discipline of study, but also the development of physical ability, moral fiber and interpersonal skills. The development of mind, body and spirit together leads to the transformation of a child to a well-rounded man. Montaigne believes in the training of the body as well as the mind, a typically Greek concept. The tutor, therefore, is responsible for physical training as “it is not enough to toughen his soul; we must also toughen his muscles” (113). The training of body serves a duel purpose, to ease the burdened mind by giving it something else to think about and by building up the pupil’s body in order to fight off injury and disease. It is only after his body has been trained that the intellectual education can begin.
Intellectually, Montaigne believes in beginning the students formal education with the sciences, in order to foster the understanding of the world’s natural laws. The tutor should “explain to him the meaning of logic, physics, geometry, rhetoric and the science he chooses” as a way to give him “the marrow and the subject predigested” (118). This explanation of basic scientific principles gives the student the ability to understand and interpret the passages written by famous scientists given to him by the tutor. This assertion, that children should be allowed to recognize important information for themselves, is the cornerstone of Montaigne’s theory of education. The other subjects to be studied should be literature and philosophy, and should be taught in the same manner as the sciences. Montaigne argues against the study of grammar and classical languages, such as Greek or Latin, as he believes these to be grounded in memorization as opposed to logical thought and reasoning. Montaigne asserts that the purpose of education is to produce “not a grammarian or a logician, but a gentleman” (125). However, despite the discourse on formal education, the actual intellectual instruction received is secondary to the child’s overall development as a person.
The next part of the child’s education is argued by Montaigne to be the most important. The tutor should not only be an instructor on the matters of reason and logic, but also a moral force in the life of the student. The tutor’s job is to instill strong virtues in the child while he is still young, “instructing him in the good precepts concerning valor, prowess, magnanimity, and temperance, and the security of fearing nothing” (120). The tutor is to teach the child moderation, civic responsibility, humility and a “honest curiosity to inquire into all things” (114). The goal of this instilling of virtues is to create an adult, “guided only by reason,” who is as capable of making wise decisions as well as being educated (114). The student, only after the competition of a great deal of education in academics and virtues, is taught a final lesson about interactions with others.
At some point in the education the pupil is expected to interact with others and put his education to use. The student is expected to visit other countries in order to interact with a diverse array of people and cultures. Through these interactions the pupil will further his own education by rubbing and polishing his “brains with the contact with those of others” (112). The informal education through experience leads the student to gain a grasp of social situations and begin to understand the way society works. The ultimate goal in this is to have the student “put everything to use” by finding valuable education in all of those around him (114). Montaigne even goes so far as to assert that eventually “even the stupidity and weakness of others will be an education to him” (115). Overall, with the completion of the relationship between tutor and pupil the end result will be a reasoning, virtuous, educated and extremely wise individual who will be well equipped to deal with the world and who will be constantly bettering himself.