In his essay, “On Cannibals”, Michel De Montaigne wrote “…we seem to have no other criterion of truth and reason than the type and kind of opinions and customs current in the land where we live. There we always see the perfect religion, the perfect political system, the perfect and most accomplished way of doing everything.” [pp109-109] Is Montaigne right, wrong, or a combination of both?
Montaigne was in part reacting to the great age of European exploration and introducing Europeans to many exotic ideas and cultures, which led to intellectual ferment, a period of great change in Europe. Montaigne's statement was partially right in that the use of the term "we" is somewhat misleading because he was writing from his perspective as an educated Frenchman familiar with Greek and Latin literature. In his praise of the "savages" and their closeness to nature, Montaigne is urging his readers to do this by studying different cultures. This is still true that Americans can benefit from learning about indigenous beliefs. Thus, Montaigne is partially right in his statement.
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Michel de Montaigne
Latest answer posted October 15, 2010 at 2:21:46 PM
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