Lecture 8

Mar 19

The Earliest Essays, 1 of 2

Read Montaigne's "On Cannibals," available in the Readings posted on the Blackboard site.

Respond to ONE of the following in 3 or 4 sentences, then rewrite your response and submit in 2 sentences MAXIMUM:

  1. Point to (or quote) a moment when Montaigne draws on "Authorities." (Don't duplicate what others have already posted.)
  2. Point to (or quote) a moment when Montaigne draws on real-world experience or "Evidence." (Again, try to avoid duplication.)
  3. Looking at the examples posted in response to questions 1 & 2, does Montaigne seem more dependent on Authorities or on Evidence? Which does he trust more?
  4. Connect Montaigne to Hall's conception of the essay from last week.

57 responses to “Lecture 8

    • In his first excerpt, Montaigne points to a story of King Pyrrhus when he underestimated the Romans and their army as barbarous; Montaigne says the lesson learned from this event is to not be quick to judge others from different cultures. By looking to the past at how old figures treated similar situations to his, Montaigne treats them as authorities on the subject.

    • Montaigne draws on an authority when he quotes the Roman poet Juvenal’s line “The Gascons once, ’tis said, their life renewed by eating of such food.” By doing this, Montaigne is able to draw attention to the act of cannibalism in Western society, thus creating a similarity between the two cultures.

    • Montaigne, when talking about the New World, draws on the authority figure Aristotle when he states, “‘The other testimony of antiquity with which some would connect this discovery is in Aristotle, at least if that little book Of Unheard-of Wonders is by him. He there relates that certain Carthaginians, after setting out upon the Atlantic Ocean from the Strait of Gibraltar and sailing a long time, at last, discovered a great fertile island, all clothed in woods and watered by great deep rivers, far remote from any mainland; and that they, and others since, attracted by the goodness and fertility of the soil, went there with their wives and children, and began to settle there.”

    • Montaigne relies on authority when he references Claudian’s quote, “It is no victory Unless the vanquished foe admits your mastery.” Montaigne uses Claudian’s quote to establish the idea that true victory is only achieved when the enemy admits their defeat to the victors.

    • Montaigne says in his essay “On Cannibals” that “it be thought that all this is done through a simple and servile bondage to usage and through the pressure of the authority of their ancient customs.” The authority in this case was the authority of old traditions and the compulsion/expected nature to follow in tradition in any sort of capacity.

    • Montaigne relies on authority when he references a well known and trusted source, the Bible, stating “In the Bible, Leah, Rachel, Sarah, and Jacob’s wives gave their beautiful handmaids to their husbands; and Livia seconded the appetites of Augustus, to her own disadvantage; and Stratonice, the wife of King Deiotarus, not only lent her husband for his use a very beautiful young chambermaid in her service, but carefully brought up her children, and backed them up to succeed to their father’s estates.” He utilizes information from the Bible to prove his point regarding how women would sacrifice their social lives for the benefit of their husbands, as many of his readers may follow the teachings of the Bible and therefore would look highly on Montaigne for mentioning the religious text.

    • On the last page, Montaigne draws on authority when he starts to talk about the bondage and pressure that authorities use in order to maintain control and “order” of their ancient customs. Pointing to a love song in which a man writes to a woman in which he states that he cannot give her his love due to the fact that she is “preferred to all other serpents.”

    • Montaigne addressed to authority of Plato’s telling to demonstate that it was quite possible that there was a flood that extremely changed earth’s environment, combined with aristotle’s words. By addressing to these two authorities, Montaigne shows us how to use evidence or reasoning to get information instead of popular say.

    • Montaigne draws upon authority when he writes how Nature is the primary source of all things pure, beautiful, and powerful, and how the “barbarous” people are actually more uncorrupted and “perfect” than civilized peoples because they are closer to a state of Nature. Nature acts as an authority in this instance, as Montaigne insinuates that all the pure simplicity of Indigenous people originates from the all-powerful, all-good force of Nature and that’s why they can be considered a great, unadulterated culture.

      • It’s true that some Renaissance thinkers spoke of the Book of Nature, as if the natural world were no less a revelation of God’s will than that holiest of books and highest authority, the Bible. Nonetheless, I’d classify any appeal to nature as an appeal to evidence, on the grounds that if nature isn’t evidence what is?

    • Montaigne relies on authorities when he addresses divination as god’s gift. By pointing this out he is drawing authority from God saying that since divination is a gift from god those who abuse the gift “should be punished for imposture”. The gift is special therefore those who try their best to handle the subject are excused from their mistakes but those who trick others should be given a punishment as they are misusing something given by authority, God.

      • I’d say, rather, that he appeals to authority when he supports his claim about divination by recounting an old story about the Scythians: “Divination is a gift of God; that is why its abuse should be punished as imposture. Among the Scythians, when the soothsayers failed to hit the mark, they were laid, chained hand and foot, on carts full of leather and drawn by oxen, on which they were burned”

    • Montaigne offers the experience of a captain who would lead about four or five thousand soldiers to battle and then return to his villages where they cleared paths to maximize his comfort. By showcasing this individual’s superior position among the Indigenous people, Montaigne implies that these are humans capable of forming more adept societies and social hierarchies than many give them credit for.

    • Montaigne quotes a line from Plato, “All our efforts cannot even succeed in reproducing the nest of the tiniest little bird, its contexture, its beauty and convenience; or even the web of the puny spider.” Montaigne draws on the authority when he wants to explain his own thought about between themselves and so-called “barbarians”.

    • Montaigne uses a song to show that his sister’s beauty is what everyone will love. “Besides the warlike song I have just quoted, I have another, a love song, which begins in this vein: “Adder, stay; stay, adder, that from the pattern of your coloring my sister may draw the fashion and the workmanship of a rich girdle that I may give to my love; so may your beauty and your pattern be forever preferred to all other serpents.”

      • Note that this is a song of the Amazonian tribe. I don’t think that counts as an authority, since it lacks the cultural weight of the Bible or a famous Greek or Roman author.

        But this consideration makes Montaigne’s reference to the poem all the more remarkable: he’s treating an unknown Amazonian poem as if it were an Ancient Greek poem.

    • Montaigne refers to authorities when he explains how most people will not tell something as it is, they will explain situations in the way they see them so that their judgment and reason will make sense to the listener. People want others to believe them and agree with them, therefore they do what they can to speak in a manner that pleasantly displays their point of view.

    • Montaigne relies on Authorities throughout his essay “Of Cannibals”. Specifically in the first excerpt, Montaigne references King Pyrrhus and his army showcasing Authority through military might from the get go. Montaigne quotes King Pyrrhus relaying this message: “I do not know what barbarians these are but the formation of this army that I see is not at all barbarous”. This message, along with the references to other mighty kings serves to illustrate the place authority has throughout time in the unification of different peoples under a single political structure/ruler.

    • One of the most fascinating quotes from Montaigne is, “I am afraid we have eyes bigger than our stomachs, and
      more curiosity than capacity. We embrace everything, but we clasp only wind.”. This quote is a clear example of the over-exuberance of people in real-life situations, which is perfectly personified by Montaigne here.

    • In his essay “On Cannibals”, Montaigne examines and ultimately discredits the popular view that Eureopeans are superior, both in intelligence and culture, to “barbarians” (natives of the New World). Montaigne draws on real-world experiences to repudiate this, specifically citing how the “barbarians” treat their prisoners of war with more humanity that Europeans do: “I think there is more barbarity in eating a man alive than in eating him dead; and in tearing by tortures and the rack a body still full of feeling.”

    • Within Montaigne’s essay “Of cannibals”, he asserts that we cannot simply believe everything we hear and we must draw our conclusions from facts and evidence and not “popular say”. A moment where he uses evidence to prove this assertion is when he challenges the so-called discovery of Atlantis, in which he argues that based on what he knows and the facts that exists, “there is no great likelihood that that island was the new world which we have just discovered,”; highlighting how we must be prudent in our thinking when coming to a judgement

    • In his essay, Montaigne explores deeper into Harari’s idea of ignoramus in which humans condemned knowledge beyond what was written in scriptures. He examines the routine of the inhabitants as “They are still in the happy state of desiring only as much as their natural needs demand; anything beyond that is superfluous to them,” despite having the resources to expand their land.

    • In Montaigne’s essay “Of Cannibals,” he makes the argument that there is no true definition to barbarism by stating: “…from what I have been told…each man calls barbarism whatever is not his own practice; for indeed it seems we have no other test of truth and reason than the example and pattern of the opinions and customs of the country we live in.” In this section, Montaigne is drawing on evidence that is based on what he has seen and heard from others around him.

    • Montaigne’s essay “of Cannibals” asserted that the term barbarism is subjective; by looking through different perspectives, the defining term can change. While we may see other people as wild, without order, it can be said that “we have changed artificially and led astray from the common order, that we should rather call wild. “

    • One quote from Montaigne is “These nations, then, seem to me barbarous in this sense, that they have been fashioned very little by the human mind, and arc still very close to their original naturalness. The laws of nature still rule them, very little corrupted by ours; and they are in such a state of purity.” Montaigne argues that ignorance is bliss and that these people are not as barbaric as others make them seem.

    • Throughout his essay “On Cannibals”, Montaigne makes a statemnet that Barbarians or Natives as we know them are not as barbaric or savages as we tend to describe them. In his essay he says and I quote “They are close shaven all over, and shave themselves much more cleanly than we, with nothing but a wooden or stone razor.” Here Montaigne used evidence to strengthen his argument that natives in some cases were even more civilized than europeans.

    • In Montaigne’s “Of Cannibals,” Montaigne discusses greatly on the idea of evidence and how any person can misconstrue evidence to fit a certain narrative. In this essay Montaigne states, “They never show you things as they are, but bend and disguise them according to the way they have seen them; and to give credence to their judgment and attract you to it, they are prone to add something to their matter, to stretch it out and amplify it.” This shows not only Montaigne’s reliance on evidence but also shows the consciousness and awareness Montaigne has towards using evidence — at least evidence solely based on anecdotes and witness.

    • When Montaigne says ” except that each man calls barbarism whatever is not his own practice; for indeed it seems we have no other test of truth and reason than the example and pattern of the opinions and customs of the country we live in”, he realizes that his people were merely judging the natives based on their own customs and what they knew and were used to and acknowledges that he first saw them as barbarous because of how close they lived to their original wildness.

    • I believe that Montaigne relies more on evidence than on authority. However, he addresses that evidence can also mislead people. People misuse certain evidence to support their claim. Their goals are to get people on their side, so they can sort of manipulate evidence to fit in their argument.

    • In Montaigne’s “Of Cannibals”, specifically on pages 186 to 187, he deeply describes a culture that would be considered barbarous by those who perceive order as superior to naturalness, but his detailed evidence works to challenge this notion. He writes of their climate, shelter, entertainment, diet, and much more, only to draw upon similarities between objects of modern day that we owe to these past cultures instead of highlighting wild differences that this subjectively barbaric culture has.

    • In his attempts to discredit the widely held notion that Europeans are far superior when compared to the indigenous “barbarians” of the New World, Montaigne relies on a plethora of cultural examples that reveal the hypocrisies of this superiority complex. For example, Montaigne states, “So we may well call these people barbarians, in respect to the rules of reason, but not in respect to ourselves, who surpass them in every kind of barbarity” when recalling how the European’s brutally torture their prisoners publicly for the sake of vengeance.

    • Montaigne presents contradicting passages from ancient authorities, and examines them closely, as he tries to reach a better understanding of his topic of choice, discover and explore further ideas while his thinking unfolds as he writes. However, like many other figures affected by the Renaissance, Montaigne seeks to diverge from the absolute trust in authorities, experience the world around him, and rely on empirical evidence to find true knowledge.

    • In Montaigne’s essay “Of cannibals”, the reliance on evidence seems to go hand and hand with authority. Montaigne remarks “Each man brings back as his trophy the head of the enemy he has killed”. It’s an example of how the evidence—in this case the prisoner’s head— is almost used to obtain authority such that it can help one gain respect from others. Therefore in efforts to obtain authority one must need some kind of evidence to prove their worthiness for it.

    • Montaigne, in his essay, “Of cannibals,” is more dependant upon Evidence through natural life and existence to further explain any conceptual claims. He supports the notion that human beings grasp facts and knowledge that is beyond what is written and have the capacity to think naturally independently.

    • In Montaigne’s essay “On Cannibals,” the author relies on evidence and authority working together in order to further his examinations and unravel his thoughts. Montaigne acknowledges the sense of caution in trusting authorities, and uses evidence to establish accuracy.

    • As displayed in his essay, Montaigne depends more on evidence for his reasoning as seen through pure thoughts rather than any type of superior claim. He unintentionally uses more of this technique because he is confident in his thinkings to the point where he does not need other forms of persuasion to convince his listeners.

    • In his essay “Of Cannibals,” Montaigne relies on authority and evidence in his examination of different groups of people. The uses of authority and evidence go hand in hand because the evidence he’s referencing doesn’t come directly from Montaigne but from other people’s accounts.

    • Montaigne relies nicely on a balance between authority and evidence. For example, he draws from authoritative figures like Aristotle and evidence like saying each man thinks things that are not his own practice are barbaric.

    • Montaigne leans much more heavily on evidence and empirically based observations than on authority in his work “Of Cannibals”. He speaks a great deal of the natural world and the way it compares to the artificial one created in the Europe of his time, and makes his points based off of his own opinions and views built off of observations of these two worlds.

    • In Montaigne’s “Of Cannibals” he appears to rely more on evidence than authority throughout the reading. This does not mean he pushes reasoning through authority to the side entirely however, as he frequently brings up authority figures to boost his arguments ethos points and total strength.

    • While Montaigne utilizes both “Authorities” and “Evidence” to get his points across, it seems that he relies a little more on Evidence based reasoning. The evidence Montaigne uses in his essay “Of Cannibals” heavily incorporates his own opinions and observations within the natural world.

    • In Montaigne’s “Of Cannibals,” he incorporates both the usage of authority and evidence to push forth his argument. Although authority is relied on consistently throughout his essay such as bringing up God or Aristotle, he seems to rely more on concrete evidence by applying his observations on the real world to further strengthen his claims.

    • In Montaigne’s essay “On Cannibals”, he relies more on evidence while he employs both evidence and authorities for reasoning. Montaigne seems to present his ideas through his thoughts and observations rather than simply granting full trust to authorities.

    • Montaigne’s essay is dependent more on evidence rather than authority for the reason that he constantly introduces examples of barbarism in the context of different cultural backgrounds to prove his points. It is noteworthy that authority also plays a big part in proving his point but it is not as abundant as shown in the passage.

    • Montaigne utilizes many of the key factors that Hall attributes as important to an essay including an open ending, the reevaluation of preconceived ideas, and a level of trying to show his readers how he connects his ideas. Hall often references Montaigne, and even specifically references “Of Cannibals” to exhibit the idea that these essays connect to the current world to bring about new ideas, or to change existing ideas.

    • In Montaigne’s “Of Cannibals”, he portrays many of the themes and concepts that Hall expressed throughout his explanation of the essay, including Hall’s description of essays as an “examination of conventional wisdom” and “exploration of received opinion” as he uses this writing to record his thoughts, almost as some of them concurrently develop in his mind. He freely discusses and inspects human nature, allowing him to explain his views exploratively, without truly reaching a final synthesis, yet still posing deep inquiries about the actions and preconceived ideas of humans in his modern world.

    • Montaigne begins his essay ‘Of Cannibals’ by placing the reader in an exact moment in history, orienting the audience to feel personally attached and involved in the context he is setting up for his work, differing from Bacon who begins ‘The Essays or Counsels, Civil and Moral’ with a theoretical statement. Bacon’s writing continues on this theoretical path, whereas Montaigne speaks of specific figures and events that would have been fairly common knowledge at the time, making his work much more intellectually accessible and applicable.

    • Montaigne writes an essay that contains a number of the characteristics of an essay that Hall writes about. He repeatedly reiterates his past claims and makes certain claims without reaching a single conclusion, leaving his arguments up for discussion.

  1. Here’s a puzzling instance: Authority or Evidence?

    When King Pyrrhus passed over into Italy, after he had reconnoitered the formation of the army that the Romans were sending to meet him, he said: “I do not know what barbarians these are” (for so the Greeks called all foreign nations), “but the formation of this army that I see is not at all barbarous…. Thus we should beware of clinging to vulgar opinions, and judge things by reason’s way, nor by popular say.”

  2. The New World as a challenge to authorities

    I had with me for a long rime a man who had lived for ten or twelve years in that other world which has been discovered in our century, in the place where Villegaignon landed, and which he called Antarctic France [Brazil]. This discovery of a boundless country seems worthy of consideration. I don’t know if I can guarantee that some other such discovery will not be made in the future, so many personages greater than ourselves having been mistaken about this one

  3. The value of Ignorance

    In connection with the New World, Montaigne offers first Plato’s story of Atlantis and then Pseudo-Aristotle’s story of a Carthaginian colony in the Atlantic, before dismissing both: “This story of Aristotle does not fit our new lands any better than the other.” Immediately after, he recommends his eyewitness for his ignorance: “This man I had was a simple, crude fellow—a character fit to bear true witness; for clever people observe more things and more curiously, but they interpret them. “

Add a Response