Life without Law
288 pages, 5.50 x 8.50
Hardcover | 9780268107819 | August 2020
eBook (EPUB) | 9780268107833 | August 2020
eBook (PDF) | 9780268107840 | August 2020
In Montaigne: Life without Law, originally published in French in 2014 and now translated for the first time into English by Paul Seaton, Pierre Manent provides a careful reading of Montaigne’s three-volume work, Essays. Although Montaigne’s writing resists easy analysis—Montaigne includes seven essays before he even explicitly states the purpose of the Essays—Manent finds in it a subtle unity, and demonstrates both the philosophical depth of Montaigne’s reflections and the distinctive and even radical character of his central ideas. To show Montaigne’s unique contribution to political discourse, Manent compares his work to other influential modern philosophers, including Machiavelli, Hobbes, Pascal, and Rousseau. For example, whereas Hobbes proposed the modern state as necessary because of humanity's supposedly natural condition in a “war of all against all,” Montaigne did not see the state as the remedy to civil-religious discord. But in fact, speculation on the state does not play a large role in the Essays. Rather, Montaigne’s philosophical reflection focuses on the concept of what he calls la condition humaine, the human condition. In Montaigne: Life without Law, Manent tracks how Montaigne develops this concept. Above all, Manent encompasses Montaigne’s analysis in three terms: virtue, pleasure, and death. As Manent shows, by deploying these and other categories, Montaigne’s Essays present not a philosophical system, but rather a new form of thinking and living, which provides us with a way of engaging in a truly thoughtful life.
What might human life look like without the imposing and even towering presence of the state? In raising this critical question, Montaigne’s Essays makes an important inquiry that remains of great relevance for Europe and other areas of the world alike. In showing the unity of Montaigne’s work, Manent’s study will appeal especially to students and scholars of political theory and philosophical history.
Pierre Manent is professor emeritus of political philosophy at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales. He is the author of numerous books, including Natural Law and Human Rights: Toward a Recovery of Practical Reason (University of Notre Dame Press, 2020).
Paul Seaton is associate professor of philosophy at St. Mary's Seminary and University. He has translated a number of works in French thought, especially political philosophy.
"Pierre Manent shows repeatedly how Montaigne's views have come to inform much of what we take for granted in modern life. To know ourselves, we must know Montaigne. Manent proves an invigorating and sure guide." ~Thomas Hibbs, author of Wagering on an Ironic God
"Pierre Manent's Montaigne is an extraordinary book. It stands out brilliantly among works in the history of ideas in form and in content. It fills a major gap in our interpretation of modernity in an arresting manner and with great erudition and finesse, and in a way that addresses today's European and Western malaise at a profound level." ~Ralph C. Hancock, author of Calvin and the Foundations of Modern Politics