Apology for Raymond Sebond

by Michel Eyquem de Montaigne

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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 246

Montaigne's Apology for Raymond Sebond is a defense of the Catalan theologian referred to in the title. And the defense is only part of the work; instead, Montaigne uses the occasion of a defense to discuss matters of skepticism, reason, and faith as befits Catholic theology. Montaigne, who wrote the essay on the occasion of translating Sebond's Liber naturae sive creaturarum ("Treatise on nature or its creations") as requested by his late father, believes that man occupies a comparatively low position in relation to the divine. It is rife with both discussion of classical philosophers such as Diogenes and Plato as well as metaphors from the natural world. Montaigne approaches the religion with a pragmatic view and occasionally adduces Plato's concept of the soul. When Plato insisted that the soul was immortal, many of his follows killed themselves. That we humans are not doing this is a sign that we are not made of divine substance.

Montaigne insists that man is wretched—barely master of himself, let alone external things to which he lays claim. Small accidents in human affairs would not bother us if we were of divine substance. Moreover, Montaigne notes that certain animals exhibit the qualities that we call exceptionally human (such as mutual defense and membership of a social order). Ultimately, humans' only approach to the divine is to "accompany our faith with all the reason we have," but not assume that we will ever be capable of comprehending divine knowledge fully.

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