The spirit of the Renaissance was likewise manifest in France. Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592), a French nobleman, spent his life in his private castle in the neighborhood of Bordeaux, far removed from the great movements agitating his age, devoting himself to literary pursuits. His interest in a purely naturalistic interpretation of human life, as he knew it from travel, books and above all from introspection, reveals his thoroughly modern spirit. At the beginning of his essays (which appeared 1580-1588) he remarks; je sus moy-mesme le sujet de mon livre. Closer study however reveals the fact that it is the way in which nature manifests itself in his own life that ready appeals to him. Nature, the great Mother of us all, reveals herself in a distinctively unique manner in every individual. Every human being has his forme maistresse, his ruling passion. It is this interest that accounts for Montaigne's own personal observations as well as for his thorough study of ancient literature. His enthusiasm for nature and his insight into the multiplicity of individual peculiarities cause him to revolt against all dogmatism, both the rationalistic and the theological. He opposes them both on the ground of the inexhaustible wealth of experience, which neither the faith of reason nor of dogma can satisfy. Our investigations constantly lead to the discovery of a greater number of differences and variations and thus increase the difficulty of reducing them to general laws. And we must remember, furthermore, that our knowledge of the objective world is through sense perception, and that the sense organs as a matter of fact only reveal their own state, not the real nature of objects. And finally, if we attempt to form a conception of Deity, we imagine Him in human form, just as animals would conceive Him in
Page:A Brief History of Modern Philosophy.djvu/10
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