And that is why constantly stressing hell and damnation is so very effective in cutting through oppressive and tyrannical systems.
I have been reading Montaigne’s Essays off and on four the last forty years or so, but I had never read a biography of the man, until I picked up Sarah Bakewell’s How to Live: Or a Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer. It’s quite readable, and I like her thematic treatment of his life, rather than a detailed run-through of what happened where and when. After all, Montaigne’s life was his reading and writing, or at least that was the part of his life he valued most.
Bakewell is very informative and lively on the topic of how the Hellenistic Stoics, Epicureans, and Skeptics provided the intellectual context for Montaigne, and his friends in the educated upper stratum of Renaissance French society. How to live is a question that never goes out of style, and their answers still have power, especially…
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