As I mentioned in last week’s Montaigne post, I have completed all of the longer essays in part one and am now going to go back and read the shorter essays in bunches. This presents an annoying hodge-podge, but there’s nothing else to do about it really.
We Reach the Same End By Discrepant Means
This is the first essay in my book, but I don’t think it is the first essay Montaigne wrote, though it is a very early one. It’s earliness is evident in that it isn’t as developed and is actually rather boring. Basically, the essay is about how an end can often be reached by two different means. Specifically in this essay, Montaigne refers to testosterone laden events like war:
The most common way of softening the hearts of those we have offended once they have us at their mercy with vengeance at hand is to move them to commiseration and pity by our submissiveness. Yet flat contrary means, bravery and steadfastness, have sometimes served to produce the same effect.
Montaigne appears to be setting out to determine a fixed character for man, but because of all of the variance he finds, he determines that “Man is indeed an object miraculously vain, various and wavering. It is difficult to found a judgment on him which is steady and uniform.” Can’t slip anything past this guy.
How the Soul Discharges its Emotions Against False Objects When Lacking Real Ones
This one is about how when we get angry, or our soul is “shaken and disturbed,” we need something to take it out on. Montaigne uses as an example a man with gout who was told by his doctor to give up salted meat but refused to do so because he could then blame the meat for his illness and yell and curse at it. And then there is this one: “And have you not seen a man sink his teeth into playing-cards and swallow the lot or else stuff a set of dice down his throat so as to have something to avenge himself on for the loss of his money!” I can’t say I’ve seen that and I’ve even been to Las Vegas. Maybe I was just at the wrong casino.
Whether the Governor of a Besieged Fortress Should Go Out and Parley
The answer here is that is all depends on whether or not it will give you the advantage. Because…
The Hour of Parleying is Dangerous
Apparently it was not uncommon for one side to attack by stealth while the head honchos were trying to hammer out a deal. The side that was attacked had usually let its guard down, thinking the hostilities were temporarily halted. To his credit, Montaigne thought it downright unfair and unhonorable. Unfortunately we still have difficulty with this, cease fire? What cease fire? Sorry, I didn’t think blowing up a tank counted. It shows a general lack of imagination in humans that we still do the same crap even after 500 plus years.
Next week’s Montaigne hodge-podge: “That Our Deeds are Judged by the Intention,” “On Idleness,” and “Ceremonial at the Meeting of Kings”