The New Knowledge

The Essays of 1578–80
  • Craig B. Brush
Part of the Archives Internationales D’Histoire des Idees / International Archives of the History of Ideas book series (ARCH, volume 14)


The greater part of the “Apologie” is a counterattack rather than a defense, just as skepticism in general is an aggressive attitude in philosophy which refuses to establish any system and contents itself with destroying the assurance of its opponents. Montaigne continued in his later essays to hold in contempt the objects of his skeptical attack in the “Apologie,” the inanities of the so-called learning of his day, the arrogance of dogmatic philosophers, the artificiality and futility of the stoic moral code, and the totally unfounded claims of reason to be an instrument for determining the truth. Some of the more paradoxical positions of the “Apologie,” such as the praise of ignorance, he will persist in maintaining, though in a modified form. Others, such as the equality between man and the animals, he will pretty much neglect, even deny.


Natural Passion Aggressive Attitude External Thing Sound Judgment Knowledge Introspection 
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  1. 1.
    See II : xxxvii, passim. Google Scholar
  2. 1.
    The same ideas appear in a late addition to II : vi; “Il y a plusieurs années que je n’ay que moy pour visée à mes pensées, que je ne contrerolle et estudie que moy; et, si j’estudie autre chose, c’est pour soudain le coucher sur moy, ou en moy, pour mieux dire. Et ne me semble point faillir, si, comme il se faict des autres sciences, sans comparaison moins utiles, je fay part de ce que j’ay apprins en cette-cy : quoy que je ne me contente guere du progrez que j’y ai faict” (p. 358c).Google Scholar
  3. 1.
    See also I: xl, 247b, c; III: i, 779c; III: v, 823b; III: ix, 944b, c; and III: x, 997b.Google Scholar
  4. 2.
    See also the first sentence of I : lli, 296a.Google Scholar
  5. 3.
    See I: ix, 34–37a, b, c; II: xii, 474a; III: ix, 939b, c; and III: xiii, 1051b, c. Google Scholar
  6. 1.
    This is exactly the same contradiction noted earlier, and in very similar contexts, supra, pp. 51–52 (where it is a matter of reason) and p. 107 (where it is a matter of judgment).Google Scholar
  7. 1.
    See for example III: ii, 784b: “Excusons icy ce que je dy souvent, que je me repens rarement; adjoustant tousjours ce refrein, non un refrein de ceremonie, mais de naifve et essentielle submission; que je parle enquerant et ignorant, me rapportant de la resolution, purement et simplement, aux creances communes et legitimes. Je n’enseigne point, je raconte.”Google Scholar
  8. 1.
    For further remarks against the Stoics, see II: xxxiii, 711–7120; II: xxxvii, 738–739a, 740a.Google Scholar
  9. 2.
    The same idea appears in II : xxxvii, 742a where Montaigne remarks that any natural propensity (he is speaking of his distrust of doctors) is vicious unless reason agrees with it.Google Scholar
  10. 1.
    See for example II: i, 321a and III: xiii, 1055b.Google Scholar
  11. 1.
    Several passages of I : xxvi are devoted to eulogies of philosophy and its usefulness in moral education. Setting as his goal the cultivation of a sound judgment, Montaigne inevitably includes a certain interest in developing his pupil’s discursive faculties, among them reason. In later additions to this essay, we find some very strong assertions in favor of the rational direction of behavior (note that this means practical reason, not speculative reason). In the a version, however, it is surprising how carefully Montaigne concentrates on judgment and avoids reason.Google Scholar

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© Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague, Netherlands 1966

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  • Craig B. Brush

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