Montaigne in his Apology for Raymond Sebond begins his exploration into the human capacity for knowledge with this belief that only though God can one achieve true knowledge. God is the only infinite, all seeing, being with divine wisdom. He is not subject to the laws and rules of the human domain, and he exists in a realm outside of human comprehension. God is an unchanging, permanent being, and only from this state can the concept of truth propagate.
Montaigne believes that the one tie that binds all truth is this idea of permanence. Montaigne even states, “Truth must be the same everywhere” (xxvi). He insists that the only product of humanity that has withstood the test of time and has not changed since its inception was the Catholic Church. The dogma of the Catholic is categorized as, “What has been held always, everywhere by all”. The strength in the Catholic faith comes from its static nature, which provides a source of truth for humanity. Catholic truth is in strict conformity with the existence of God, and knowledge can only come from an almighty source.
Montaigne goes on to say that, “No creature ever is: a creature is always shifting, changing, becoming.” Man embodies the idea of impermanence. He is fragmented, does not have divine reasoning abilities, and has a finite amount of time allotted to him. Human reasoning, which creates the concept of knowledge, is in direct confrontation with the qualities of truth. Plato Aristotle, and Sexius Empiricus all conceded the fact that when it comes to the human being, there is no exact standard of truth. All humans view the concept of truth differently, and thus, it can only be associated to an opinion. Like wise a mortal man cannot know everything there is to know about a certain being, or structure or thing. He cannot possibly know the inner workings of such thing only through the use of his senses, he can only for his own opinions.
Opinions in a finite domain are susceptible to different interpretations and uncertainty, and what is true for one person does not necessarily have to hold true for another. Thus, the concept of truth derived by man is ridden with inconsistencies, all of which are in direct violation with the very definition of truth. Since the building block of human knowledge is this flawed truth, then human knowledge itself is flawed. Sim...
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...hem” (Montaigne 20).
On the subject of reasoning Montaigne offers the story of Chysippus and the fox. He tells how Chysippus watched the actions of a dog when it came upon three crossroads when trying to catch up to his master. The dog tries both the first and second paths, by inspecting the furiously and when he had not found any sign, charged down the third path with out even a hint of hesitation. The dog reasoned that his master had gone as far as these roads and had picked on of the three. The first two showed no trace of what he was looking for, so his master had inevitably had gone down the third path. Chysippus noted that the dog did not even attempt to sniff the third path but instead relied on its power of reasoning (Montaigne 28). This story is just one of many that displays the innate and associative reasoning skills of animals, which though rarely observed, destroys the exceptional nature of the human mind.
In addtion to his Apology for Raymond Sebond, Montatinge also analzes the basis of man-made knowledge in his, Essays. In this book Montaigne shows how again truth is based on opinion alone, and this opinon is swayed by a familiarity one’s own culture.
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