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Montaigne on Free-Thinking

Scholar, Richard



Philippe Desan


Abstract and Keywords This essay suggests that free-thinking is an important and often misunderstood context for the venture—and adventure—of Montaigne’s Essays. Where free-thinking is now generally understood to indicate a principled independence from the dogmas of any church or creed, it is argued here that Montaigne belongs to a different age, in which free-thinking was a much wider anti-authoritarian and experimental cast of mind that he and his contemporaries could bring to bear on all kinds of questions. That kind of free-thinking was both a Renaissance inheritance of the libertas philosophandi of the ancients and a contemporary trend among certain French humanist-statesmen admired by Montaigne. Montaigne’s response to his precursors and contemporaries, in “Of the education of children” (I, 26) and elsewhere, nonetheless, confirms that his thinking floats free from any determinations of context and remains irreducible to the expression of an “-ism.”


Scholar, R. (2017). Montaigne on Free-Thinking. In P. Desan (Ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Montaigne (434-452). Oxford University Press.

Publication Date 2017
Deposit Date Feb 15, 2019
Publisher Oxford University Press
Pages 434-452
Book Title The Oxford Handbook of Montaigne
Publisher URL