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Montaigne’s Essais

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Wendell John, Jr. Coats

This book provides an extensive and textual analysis of Montaigne’s essays – both the relevant Villey French texts as well as the Frame English translations. It identifies and illustrates a unifying, recurring theme in the ostensibly diverse and often apparently contradictory essays of the sixteenth-century writer – the attempt at psychic harmony through «temporal solipsism», or living insofar as possible in the present moment by doing things for their own sake rather than for extrinsic purposes. Placing Montaigne in historical context, Montaigne’s Essais argues that he implicitly provides his own synthesis of pagan and Christian ideas, with no fewer tensions than the Aquinian synthesis. A concluding bibliographic essay addresses some issues of scholarly controversy, primarily from the perspectives of philosophy and political theory.