Essays by Montaigne and Me
I am lucky. My native culture has had wonderful translators of classic French literature. I could read them when I was much younger. One of them was Michel de Montaigne’s Essays. I took from him the idea of humanism and how to perform culture. Also, I got interested in what we call today cultural diversity. By humanism, I understand focus upon the lot of individual living in society. The individual is important. By writing his essays he showed us his unique way of seeing things. And it is no phantasy. Rather an interpretation of the real issues that happen around and inside of you. And this is, at the same time, cultural life. Because you take inspiration from the world outside. And you create your interpretation of the world. And you are careful about the difference between reality and illusion. It must have influenced me by setting to write text on different things to express myself. From the present perspective, I can see how therapeutic for me was such writing.
Renaissance Humanism: Then and Now
Reference to the Greek and Roman philosophy and literature. This includes different schools of thought. scepticism, Stoicism, Epicureanism (Hedonism), and others. Also, different languages. Renaissance person nowadays, if this phrase is still used at all – has many interests. Yet, not for profit but rather for self-development. Such a person does not learn languages to do business. Rather, to get deeper into other cultures. Such a person travels not to take photos into FB and stay at hotels for tourists. Instead, she wants to get into the customs of this or that country. It does not have to mean that you must be rich to do it. It means that you are curious about various things around you. Ciceronian model of doing culture – the cultivation of your mind.
Many Meanings of the Term ‘Culture’ in Essays by Montaigne
Ciceronian – the cultivation of the individual mind. It is not egocentric though because you are not the main focus or centre of the world. Rather, you see the variety and greatness of the world and you put yourself in proportion. It is more intellectual and spiritual. It is rational, comparative and critical in the sense of critical thinking. Social: an established way of living of a certain group of people. For example, we can talk about French culture. Or about contemporary Western culture. This type of culture may determine the identity of its members. Cultural Studies – field of social sciences. It is like ethnography and sociology. Much debate about religions, ethnicity, social norms, and traditions. And we can see different perspectives of various people.
Cultural relativism in Essays by Montaigne
He did not use this term. Yet, his analysis had exactly the character of what today we call the problem of cultural relativism. Relativism vs Absolutism. Comparing different cultures in a search for a better one in this or that area. First of all, is it possible to find out a common platform? Common norms, morality, political aims? The discovery of America and other parts of the world was a big stimulation. The Renaissance people discussed the status of Indian culture. And the cultures of other nations. Montaigne compared Western and Christian civilization to the ‘uncivilized’. He was not sure if ours is better, at least from some viewpoints (moral corruption, fight for power, etc.)
Cultural Relativism: Is Hedonism a Good Way Out?
Montaigne referred to a common nature of living organisms. He wrote about animals and their right to meet their basic biological needs. Food, drink, shelter, love, and pleasure. He believed that pleasure can be a good test for the well-being of people. Whatever their cultural background would be.