Próby de Montaigne’a, czyli apologia życia prywatnego


  • Andrzej Waśkiewicz


Renaissance scepticism; political disengagement; individualism; friendship


De Montaigne’s Essays, or the apology of private life: The paper presents Michel de Montaigne’s Essays as an apology of his life on the margin of society. Montaigne lives at the time of a civil war in which he refuses to take sides; accordingly, the only thing that he absolutely expects from national government is for it to guarantee peace in the realm. His expectations of the institutional Church are similarly minimalist. Universally respected laws should safeguard public order; all those who invoke philosophical wisdom or religious revelation do is destroy that order. The truly wise ancient philosophers lived outside the polis, aware that it is not reason but common sense that forms its foundation. Having no competences to run a polity, the philosopher has no particular obligations toward it, either. And yet, even with his sceptical philosophy and egocentric personality, Montaigne does not shut himself in an ivory tower, but merely protects his privacy, the right to devote his time to himself. As any philosopher, he highly treasures friendship, which he regards as an intimate relationship, a communion of two souls merged into one. Nonetheless, he needs other people, too, even if it is only to share his thoughts with them: he needs their judgment on his own reflection. He presents this reflection in the Essays in a novel way, drawing the attention to himself, something for which he does not intend to explain himself. For he regards stupidity, including his own stupidity, as a natural human vice; his essays are designed to protect him against it, and him alone, as he will not embark on a crusade against stupidity of others. He does not make his life part of any great narrative: he lives for himself, but he does not argue that the readers of the Essays should imitate him in that. For Montaigne consistently avoids any kind of categorical moralising or viewing human life in terms of obligations.