Tuesday, March 27, 2007

“The same purpose can be reached by different means”- Montaigne

In his first essay, with the title "The same purpose can be reached by different means", Montaigne shows with the help of examples mainly derived from classic texts (as always) how army commanders are saved or pardoned for different reasons. It may be because they showed bravery or perseverance, or it may be because they begged for mercy. Or they aren’t pardoned. Man is fickle and it is difficult to say how he will react when confronted with a certain circumstance. In his "The place of scepticism in the philosophy of Montaigne", Foglia draws the conclusion that this article by Montaigne "rejects both the project of a science of man and of a science of action". However, this is true only, if one thinks that a science of man or a science of action must be constructed the way a natural science is: as a science with strict laws and hypotheses derived from these laws. But why would that be so? What Montaigne’s article supports is the idea that a science of man or a science of action cannot be nomological but that it must be interpretative. In an interpretative science of man or action, it is not social laws that explain what men do but his or her reasons and motives tell us why a man did what he or she did. It is just that what Montaigne does, looking for reasons and motives, when he tries to explain Alexander’s actions.