Montaigne and the Origins of Modern Philosophy
Publication Year: 2013
Montaigne’s Essays are rightfully studied as giving birth to the literary form of that name. Ann Hartle’s Montaigne and the Origins of Modern Philosophy argues that the essay is actually the perfect expression of Montaigne as what he called "a new figure: an unpremeditated and accidental philosopher." Unpremeditated philosophy is philosophy made sociable—brought down from the heavens to the street, where it might be engaged in by a wider audience. In the same philosophical act, Montaigne both transforms philosophy and invents "society," a distinctly modern form of association. Through this transformation, a new, modern character emerges: the individual, who is neither master nor slave and who possesses the new virtues of integrity and generosity. In Montaigne’s radically new philosophical project, Hartle finds intimations of both modern epistemology and modern political philosophy.
Published by: Northwestern University Press
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Title Page, Copyright Page
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This book is dedicated, in gratitude and admiration, to Francis Slade, my teacher, friend, and exemplar of the integrity of the life of philosophy and the life of faith. His work on the origins of modern philosophy, especially the political philosophy of Machiavelli, has influenced my understanding of Montaigne at the most fundamental level. My thanks are due to John ...
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What is modernity? What is modern philosophy? What is modern society? And what, if anything, does philosophy have to do with the possibility of The purpose of this book is to show that Montaigne transforms phi-losophy itself, bringing it down from the heavens and into the streets, markets, and taverns of ordinary men and ordinary life. Thus, he ?invents? ...
Note on the Texts
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References to the French text of the Essais are to the edition by Pierre Villey and V.-L. Saulnier, 3 vols., 2nd ed. (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, ?Quadrige,? 1992). The English translation is that of Donald Frame, The Complete Essays of Montaigne (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1943). The citation (VS16, F9), for example, refers to p. ...
Part One: The Transformation of Philosophy
One. Reversing Aristotle
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In his discussion of Montaigne?s ancient sources, Hugo Friedrich says that ?traces of readings in Aristotle are weak in the Essais . . . It cannot be established to what extent he actually read Aristotle; certainly it was not a thorough study.?1 It is true that the number of explicit references to and discussions of Aristotle in the Essays would give that impression. ...
Two. Sticking to the Old Ways: Montaigne and Sacred Tradition
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How is it possible for the philosopher to see himself as just a man? To what can he turn in order to ground his recovery of a common human-ity? What is it that allows Montaigne to see the possibility of society? I argue that, in spite of his radical break with the philosophical and theo-logical tradition, Montaigne finds in the core of sacred tradition?the ...
Three. The Philosophical Act (I): Judgment
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For Montaigne, the philosophical act is neither contemplation nor practi-cal wisdom, neither escape to the eternal nor immersion in the immediacy of practice. Rather, the philosophical act is judgment, purged of the self of the philosopher. Judgment subjects reason to the good. The philosophical act overcomes the traditional hierarchy and brings the new out of the old. ...
Four. The Philosophical Act (II): Ending in Experience
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Montaigne?s unpremeditated and accidental philosophy is the reforma-tion of philosophy because it separates the man from the philosopher and thus humanizes him. The philosopher, in the tradition, believes that he alone bears ?the entire form of the human condition.? In accordance with the traditional hierarchy, the philosopher alone is the complete ...
Part Two: The Invention of Society
Five. Overcoming Natural Mastery
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Unpremeditated and accidental philosophy is both the separation of the man from the philosopher and also the humanization of the philosopher through the submission of philosophy to the social. In the same way, the overcoming of natural mastery is both the separation of the man from the prince and also the humanization of the prince through the submis-...
Six. The Primacy of the Private and the Origins of a Free Society
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Society is a new, modern form of association. As Francis Slade dem-onstrates, the distinction of having first invented society belongs to Machiavelli. Machiavelli ?generates the distinction between State and Civil Society. The term itself, civil principality, is Machiavelli?s invention.?1 According to Slade, ?civil society is society from which what is political ...
Seven. The Character of the Free Individual
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Because society is the association of individuals that is free from the con-trol of government, it therefore serves to limit the power of government. In the Essays, Montaigne reveals the new character of the free individual that is necessary for the existence of a free society. This is not to say that every member of society must or can exhibit this character, but without ...
Conclusion: The Invisibility of Philosophy and the Light of the Good
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Montaigne?s philosophical project, I have argued, is nothing less than the invention of society, a new mode of association of free individuals. Yet, how can he produce such an astonishing effect when he himself warns us that he is nothing more than an accidental philosopher? Montaigne?s transformation of philosophy and his invention of society are the same ...
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Page Count: 238
Publication Year: 2013
Series Editor Byline: John Smith, Will Wordsworth