Essay on Montaigne

This essay has a total of 1512 words and 6 pages.


Montaigne in his Apology for Raymond Sebond begins his exploration into the human capacity
for knowledge with this belief that only though God can one achieve true knowledge. God
is the only infinite, all seeing, being with divine wisdom. He is not subject to the laws
and rules of the human domain, and he exists in a realm outside of human comprehension.
God is an unchanging, permanent being, and only from this state can the concept of truth

Montaigne believes that the one tie that binds all truth is this idea of permanence.
Montaigne even states, “Truth must be the same everywhere” (xxvi). He insists
that the only product of humanity that has withstood the test of time and has not changed
since its inception was the Catholic Church. The dogma of the Catholic is categorized as,
“What has been held always, everywhere by all”. The strength in the Catholic
faith comes from its static nature, which provides a source of truth for humanity.
Catholic truth is in strict conformity with the existence of God, and knowledge can only
come from an almighty source.

Montaigne goes on to say that, “No creature ever is: a creature is always shifting,
changing, becoming.” Man embodies the idea of impermanence. He is fragmented, does
not have divine reasoning abilities, and has a finite amount of time allotted to him.
Human reasoning, which creates the concept of knowledge, is in direct confrontation with
the qualities of truth. Plato Aristotle, and Sexius Empiricus all conceded the fact that
when it comes to the human being, there is no exact standard of truth. All humans view
the concept of truth differently, and thus, it can only be associated to an opinion. Like
wise a mortal man cannot know everything there is to know about a certain being, or
structure or thing. He cannot possibly know the inner workings of such thing only through
the use of his senses, he can only for his own opinions.

Opinions in a finite domain are susceptible to different interpretations and uncertainty,
and what is true for one person does not necessarily have to hold true for another. Thus,
the concept of truth derived by man is ridden with inconsistencies, all of which are in
direct violation with the very definition of truth. Since the building block of human
knowledge is this flawed truth, then human knowledge itself is flawed. Simply put, the
concept of human knowledge is false and consequently knowledge cannot exist. Knowledge is
just an opinion taken for the truth, and can be seen as only one side in an ever evolving
story. Just think of what we considered the book of human knowledge today. No matter in
what aspect of life one considers whether it be math, physics, biology, history, or
computer science there is never really any truth. The book of knowledge is rewritten
daily as new opinions enter the foray, and will never be as static or held as high as
divine truth.

Although we have established the fact the knowledge cannot exist from the human
standpoint, it is this concept that all of mankind believes in most deeply. From a
man’s perspective, it is our knowledge, which sets us apart from the rest of the
animal kingdom. The fact that we can communicate to each other the knowledge of our
thoughts and ideas is the dividing line between man and beast. However, Montaigne is in
strict disagreement with this rational and believes the only the inese sense of vanity
displayed by all humanity separates men from the rest of the animals.

Montaigne flatly states that, “That of all vain things, Man is the most vain; that a
man who dares to presume that he knows anything, does not even know what knowledge
is” (Montaigne 13). He characterizes man as being the most vain of all his
creatures because he clings to this notion of knowledge and that though this attainment of
knowledge he perceives himself as enlightened. Montaigne then shows the absurdity of this
claim by taking a hypothetical situation in which Man is in isolations with not outside
help and stripped of the “grace and knowledge of God” those things that are
“…his power and the very ground of his being” (Montaigne 13). With out
the true knowledge the God bestows upon man, he cannot found or erect any such rational as
to why he is different than his fellow animals. With out this basis of heaven, which man
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