Montaigne Essays Of Cannibals Analysis

It leads the reader through a dialectical experience in the course of which he entertains by turns several attitudes, each supplanting the earlier ones and leaving him at the end with an opinion precisely the reverse of that with which he started.To use Montaigne's own playful formulation, the reader has learned by experience to judge by "la voie de la raison" rather than by "la voix commune" (the pun is admirably rendered in Donald Frame's translation by opposing "reason's way" to "vulgar say". " We must, moreover, ask this question at every stage of our developing experience of the essay.

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Three selections come from Book 3: “Repenting”, on the folly of apologizing for who you really are; “Physiognomy,” on the wars and plagues that visit Montaigne’s neighborhood; and “Experience,” which touts the virtues of common sense over fancy ideals.

As ought to be clear to anyone who reads the rest of the Essais, its main subject, despite the title, is not cannibals, or even the paradise in the Andes described in the second part of the essay, but rather how we ought to judge other cultures - and ourselves.

We are only too prone, Montaigne suggests, to form hasty judgments based more on ignorance and prejudice than on experience and careful examination, and to assume that our own society provides a standard of excellence and civilization by which all others may be judged.

Most of the essays discuss several topics, but each contains a central theme.

In Book 1, the first essay, “By Differing Means We Attain the Same End,” describes two ways to win mercy after defeat in battle.


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