Montaigne for the day

“The worst state of man is that wherein he loses the knowledge and government of himself.”   from ‘On Drunkenness’

I will make a note of Michel de Montaigne, a essayist from the late 16th century France.  If you have not read his essays, I would encourage you to do so.  However, the open domain version of the essays is written in 17th century English,  by a translator , Charles Cotton.  This is rather  sad.  It is very difficult to understand  his translation.  It is as if he deliberately tried to be opaque as possible.  I can’t imagine that Michel himself wrote that obtusely. Even the King James Version of the Bible  is by leaps and magnitude easier to understand than the Cotton translation. The  penguin classics translation is well worth the money.

In any case, reading the hard version is not so bad.  I have read enough to appreciate his stoic philosophy.  Reminds of me of Marcus Aurelius.  He had ideas that are very modern in their sensibilities.  Read  “On Cannibals” for his disgust on the barbarism of the conquistadors on the native populations.  However, I wonder just how much his peers shared his sensibilities.  We have the idea as moderns that  people of long ago were unsophisticated, sexist, barbaric, racist, and violently religious.  These attitudes were certainly more prevalent then, but I think  we should try look for the humanity in the other.  Yes people can have these vile worldviews but they are still human and we should do our best to find the humanity in the other.


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