On Montaigne’s moment

Could Montaigne be the philosopher for the early 21st C.? When Montaigne wrote in the 1580s, the Wars of Religion were raging all around him in France. The Reformation had already put the “problem of the criterion” center stage: How do we know God, and for that matter how do we know anything? Pyrronian skepticism had been unearthed and used to good effect. And explorers were discovering and describing the strange customs of foreign people. All this made for a complex world–a world not unlike our own.

Anthony Gottlieb, in “Montaigne’s Moment,” writes favorable reviews of Sarah Bakewell’s How to Live and Saul Frampton’s When I am Playing With My Cat… and an unfavorable review of Paul Kent’s clotted What do I Know? From these books, it can be gleaned that the virtues of humility, empathy, and judgment may get us through this difficult moment in history.

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