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Putting Cruelty First Author(s): Judith N. Shklar Reviewed work(s): Source: Daedalus, Vol. 111, No. 3, Representations and Realities (Summer, 1982), pp. 17-27 Published by: The MIT Press on behalf of American Academy of Arts & Sciences Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20024800 . Accessed: 20/08/2012 16:09
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JUDITH N.

SHKLAR

Putting Cruelty First

friend said to me, with deeply religious Roman Catholic must you liberals bring everything down to cruelty?" irritation, "Why What could he have meant? He was, and is, the most gentle and kindly of men, and a principled defender of political freedom and social reform. As a Christian, as a dreadful vice. He was not he obviously defending cruelty regarded cruelty or abandoning liberal politics; rather, he was explicitly rejecting the mentality abhor brutality, but that regards cruelty as the summum that does not merely most evil of all the evils. And he was reminding me that, although malum, the us we also, and of far might agree about right and wrong, intuitively, most of we rank the virtues and vices. more significance, in the way differ enormously it as a sin. They Those who put cruelty first, as he guessed, do not condemn the Seven Deadly those that do not have all but forgotten Sins, especially are a divine rule and offenses of involve cruelty. Sins transgressions against God; pride, as the rejection of God, must always be the worst one, which gives as the willful rise to all the others. Cruelty, inflicting of physical pain on a is a wrong done weaker being in order to cause anguish and fear, however, to another creature. When it ismarked as the supreme evil, it is judged so entirely it signifies a rejection of God or any other in and of itself, and not because a world where norm. It is a occurs as judgment made from within cruelty higher our part both of our normal private life and daily public practice. By putting it or first?with nothing above it, and with nothing to excuse irrevocably forgive to any order other than that of acts of cruelty?one closes off any appeal Many some years ago, actuality. a

hate cruelty with utmost intensity is perfectly compatible with biblical but to put itfirst does place one unalterably outside the sphere of religiosity, revealed religion. For it is a purely human verdict upon human conduct, and so this tension is inherent in the puts religion at a certain distance. But while decision to put cruelty first, it is not just religious skepticism that prompts this that the habits of the moral choice. It emerges, rather, from the recognition faithful do not differ from those of the faithless in their brutalities, and that a line. To put had triumphed before he had ever written Machiavelli long To is to be at odds with both religion and politics. My cruelty first, therefore, Catholic friend perhaps thought all this through carefully, but I suspect that he sensed it, for I think few people have really considered most of the merely one might well investigate the implications of putting cruelty first. That iswhy 17

18 matter more

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and one way of illuminating it is to examine the most closely, of those moralists who hated cruelty most of all, specifically distinguished and his disciple Montesquieu. Montaigne should one hate cruelty with the utmost intensity? Montaigne Why thought an it looked first of all into himself and question. He entirely psychological found that the sight of cruelty It was a instantly filled him with revulsion. wholly negative reaction, for as he put it, "the horror of cruelty impels me more to clemency than any model of clemency could draw me on."1 There was or humane here, no particular nothing positive approval of charity feeling. soft men: they tended to be unstable and easily became Indeed, he distrusted like lying, repels instantly, because it is "ugly." It is a vice that cruel. Cruelty, word human character. We need not doubt Montaigne's that he disfigures hated cruelty, and as he put it, "What we hate, we take seriously."2 But simply was a personal choice, it was not random, nor although his loathing of cruelty did it occur in an intellectual or historical vacuum. It is clear that well before he began to write his Essays, Montaigne had lost most of his faith in Christianity. The next step for him and his contemporaries was a return to the never of classical antiquity, and Montaigne philosophers a in this neo ceased to depend on their wisdom. There was, however, danger his sensibilities, he was bound to that he could not ignore. Given paganism was also a refugee from Christian restraints, and that that Machiavelli recognize of enemies of revealed religion was also the foremost this most outspoken to have seemed It must that cruelty was teacher of cruelty. Montaigne that it was the ubiquitous moral disease of Europe. He put it first everywhere, it had become the most conspicuous and the least among the vices, because in the course of the then-current wars of religion. The reformed evil, especially first three of the Essays are, therefore, not surprisingly aimed at Machiavelli. down. In The Prince, Machiavelli The opening one turns Machiavelli upside had asked whether it was more efficient for a self-made ruler to govern cruelly or leniently, and had decided best. that, on the whole, cruelty worked it better raised the question that the prince's victims might ask:Was Montaigne are no to plead for pity or to display defiance in the face of cruelty? There certain answers, he concluded. Victims have no certainties. They must cope,

to help them. The second of the Essays deals with the guidebooks sadness of those whose children and friends die. And the third suggests that one an If there were the terrors of princes. take precautions against might established review of the deeds of princes as soon as they died, their passion for restrain them here and now. Even Machiavelli fame might had posthumous that an indiscriminate noted butcher was not likely to enjoy the best of in all his enterprises. in history, even if he should have succeeded reputations was only too aware of how cruel the passion for fame made Montaigne ambitious princes, and he did not really place much hope in any restraining set a devices. But by reading The Prince, as one of its victims might, Montaigne own and Machiavelli's classicism. great distance between his Putting cruelty It did not reconcile first was thus a reaction to the new science of politics. without Montaigne Christianity to revealed religion. Indeed, it only reinforced his conviction had done nothing to inhibit cruelty. He could not even admit that that

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his hatred of cruelty was a residual form of Christian morality. On the contrary, to established it only exacerbated his antagonism religiosity. after him, the failure of Christianity and for Montesquieu For Montaigne, from a moral point of view was made perfectly manifest by the conduct of the as the supreme in the New World. Montaigne regarded them Spaniards It preached a purer doctrine than any of the failure of Christianity. example and other religion but had less influence on human conduct. Mohammedans to behave better. What an opportunity was lost when the New pagans tended was discovered How might the New World have World by Spaniards! to the natives! and Roman virtues had been introduced if Greek flourished Instead, there was unexampled slaughter for the sake of gold, with hypocritical to Christianity. For hypocrisy and cruelty go together, and talk of conversions are, as it were, unified in zeal. Zeal had taken the place of both religion and to hatred, and it works wonders "when it seconds our propensity philosophy, rebellion," and the like.3 This indictment cruelty, ambition, avarice, detraction, went well beyond the tradition of Christian reformers who had always invoked to rebuke a wayward of Christ and the Apostles the memory Church. To the distance between and behavior profession Montaigne, appeared indeed, did use the image of a charitable Christ to unbridgeable. Montesquieu, shame a cruel Inquisitor, but only ironically, for he put the argument into the the professions no longer mattered. mouth of an Iberian Jew. For Montesquieu, All religions were to be treated as forms of social control?necessary, but not, on the whole, admirable. The Spaniards were, to be sure, "superbly Christian" as but in fact they were about their slaughter, like all other they went and present. But we are meant to feel more than a touch of conquerors, past at this disgust species of cruelty. saw them, had created a new as The Spaniards, Montesquieu nightmare world. They had not only through prejudice renounced all gentle and humane to reorder a feelings, but had also contrived reality. When they encountered with habits and an appearance unlike their own, they found it easy population to say that God could not have put souls into such that clearly ugly bodies, those creatures lacked the higher rational qualities. Once the Spaniards had important to say that "it is impossible begun their cruelties, it became especially to suppose these creatures to be men, because allowing them to be men, a

we were not Christian."4 For both and suspicion might arise that Montesquieu the Spaniards in the New World served as the ultimate example of Montaigne, public cruelty. It was the triumph of Machiavellism by those who claimed to be its chief opponents. and pious pretense had joined to prove Here, cruelty Machiavelli right. are Because cruelty is made easier by hypocrisy and self-deception, they bound to stand high on the list of vices that begins with cruelty. And in fact, the intelligent and cruel tyrant of Montesquieu's Persian Letters, is Uzbek, He believes that the women who are tormented self-deceived. in his typically all love him, since they are all so unlike him. Dishonesty becomes here seraglio less a violation of truth than an aid to cruelty. And other traditional vices that are remote from cruelty did not shock at all. He was not disturbed Montesquieu even if it was of genuine manifestation incestuous. And affection, by any

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and cruelty as far knot of lying, treachery, malice, regarded the Montaigne worse than adultery, so much berated by other moralists. Lust, in fact, was not worse by our self a fault at all. We are, Montaigne infinitely argued, made acts. What could be more the most natural and necessary hatred in performing than to hide in the dark when we create a new life, while we destroy appalling life with whoops of joy in broad daylight as we cry, "Kill, rob, betray"?5 It was well beyond the mere rejection this transvaluation of values that took Montaigne of his of Christian doctrine. Indeed, it put him outside most of the conventions felt for their physical nature was, in his that Europeans world. The contempt view, just one more sign of mankind's general moral imbecility. In spite of their own advice and habitual good humor, hatred of cruelty to a profound and Montesquieu both Montaigne reduced philosophical was a master of black humor and satire, while Montesquieu misanthropy. In one essay of had simple outbursts of loathing for his fellowman. Montaigne he decided that it was better to laugh rather than concentrated disgust, really is the former "expresses more because disdain," which cry at mankind, It is not since "we can never be despised more than we deserve." appropriate, as we even a matter of intelligent evil, but of inanity. "We are not so wretched is surely one of the hazards of putting cruelty first. If it are vile."6 Misanthropy of daily life, always be in a state of horrifies us, we must, given the facts was evil. Montaigne like Hamlet, by the density of outrage, overwhelmed, as to suggest that mankind nor so desperate so neither simply stop paralyzed to say in itself, but at times he could not think of a single thing reproducing he therefore looked to those ultimate For positive qualities, favor of humanity. victims of human cruelty, the animals. to in every significant way, are our moral Animals according superiors while we have seek only "tangible" and "attainable" goods, They Montaigne. sense of have an unimpaired "wind and smoke" as our portion.7 They only and peace, while we pursue security, health, reality, seeking only repose, the and renown, which bring us nothing but grief. With reason, knowledge, and know nothing want only to preserve themselves, exception of the bees, they at sea, had no more of war or terror. Phyrrho's pig, untroubled by a storm to the animals, we are ardent admirer. Montesquieu thought that, compared because animals do not seem "to make so bad a use of nature's stepchildren, nature was entirely fair. their passions" as we do.8 But Montaigne thought that he was to blame for our follies and cruelties. Although We have only ourselves not accept the latter's melancholy to Lucretius, he could devoted picture of have taken cruelty out of the That would destructiveness. nature's mindless men to animals, not realm of human choice and morality. Montaigne compared to condemn nature, but to reveal human folly. No greater mark of idiocy that man was the best of creatures, than the doctrine seemed imaginable destined to lord it over the vegetable and animal kingdom. The result is that we in to be cruel from our earliest years to plants and beasts. What are encouraged who is and puny creature, fact could be more absurd than that "this miserable . . should call himself master and emperor of not so much as master of himself. the universe"?9 Such is the extremity one looks at people through the eyes The need to escape from such obvious if one is led to it by the hatred to which one is driven if of misanthropy of our chief victims, plants and animals. is particularly a degree of misanthropy of cruelty. For loathing of one's kind and

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is therefore great not of oneself is hardly the best cure for us. The temptation to identify with but to idealize them and to attribute the victims, only came to overrate the to them as well. That is how Montaigne improbable virtues overestimated animals and the peasants. Montesquieu the Jews, at least for the women. idolized children; Hawthorne, purposes of political argument. Dickens It is of course a perfect way to shame the cruel, but even more significantly, it is The the only way to avoid the nausea of misanthropy. virtues most saving to a victim are fortitude and pride, and it is these that are usually becoming ascribed to them. Pride may be a deadly sin for those who preach meekness, but one of Uzbek's it recommends itself to those who put cruelty first. Roxanne, wives in the harem, commits suicide both as a final act of defiance and to escape not only her own courage, but also from the seraglio. In this she demonstrates suicide because he is a bored her superiority over her owner, who contemplates and frustrated despot who wants to quit this life because his existence has no while cosmic significance. His chatter is typical of a tyrant's self-importance, and liberation. her death is an act of heroic self-assertion the greatest virtue, even though he was often Valor was for Montaigne unsure of even that. He could dissociate it from aggression best by recognizing in defeated soldiers, but not in victorious ones. Only its perfection the Indian the marauding valor as a spiritual, rather Spaniards display kings conquered by than as amerely physical, quality. Their invincible courage is a dignified refusal to placate their conquerors, rather than just a desire to triumph. Peasants, a fuss. another victimized live in resignation and die without making group, That is also a form of valor. Montesquieu's hold philosophical discourse in Jews of the stake and openly hold fast to the faith of their fathers, without sight and they alone, engaged in deceit. That was not their only virtue. They, and prohibitions. commercial activities in spite of Christian persecutions They thus preserved for Europe the social activity most likely to save it from war and For the spirit of commerce Machiavellism. is the spirit of peace. Montaigne in an earlier age would not have understood this improbable hope. He found it a beautiful country peculiarly horrible that the Spaniards had turned upside down merely "for a traffic in pearls and pepper."10 For him, only pure, aristocratic valor, courage as a style of life, was admirable and a claim to noble standing. it is the obverse of cruelty, which Valor is generous; is the expression of cowardice. But more often, valor appears to be quite indifferent to others, for its aim is self-perfection. It serves to satisfy a heroic self-image. It can be an extreme saw in its military but it context, Montaigne individualism, as a brave men, and he admired it as he valued among occasionally comradeship the company of his peers. He could do this without the purposes considering that brought them together: war, which he despised. War, he wrote, is "a our imbecility and was not the first or testimony of imperfection."11 Montaigne last man to be puzzled by the fact that the most brutal of all social enterprises should also be the occasion of so much and personal nobility, fellowship, courage. not only detested war, he did not admire victors. Montaigne particularly wars is entirely a matter of fortune. Unlike Machiavelli, he did not Winning to be manhandled think that Fortune was a woman determined and by he thought, was the sum of uncontrollable and Fortune, aggressive princes.

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Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar were circumstances. unpredictable in short, are deprived of all merit. Their its beneficiaries. Conquerors, merely victories are not due to their efforts or character. Only victims can rise to true fortitude, because Fortune has obviously deserted them. The glamour of glory is how bravely one endures defeat. Putting cruelty is quite gone. What matters in this way lead on to an ideology of heroic self-destruction. And first may as the dignified suicide, was Montaigne's ideal figure. Cato's indeed Socrates, to him very inferior. showy act seemed about idealizing the defeated. They is surely something disturbing There also are pawns of Fortune, no better than her favorites. They are just losers. To favor them extravagantly and is, however, a way of escaping from misanthropy an ethos that, unlike revealed religion, to zeal nor to leads neither finding as a defiant refusal to live as a slave or a victim, may be a cruelty. Valor, recipe for isolation and potential suicide, but not for cruelty. It is the pride that saves. When Montaigne said, "It is fear that I stand most in fear of," he was thinking of both the victims and the victimizers.12 Fear makes the latter cruel and increases the suffering of the former. If we could learn not to fear the void after death, The infliction of pain lose both its appeal and its apprehension. killing would over the of the and Montaigne would insisted, remain, explicit objections mere was cruel. that any punishment ecclesiastical authorities, beyond killing to have thought that a more rational view of death would He seems, however, to discourage do much already knew better. cruelty generally. Montesquieu Much as he admired the stoic temper, he did not think that a rational attitude to in any way decrease our cruelty. He thought itmight be better if death would we of men as sentient rather than rational beings. Uzbek, his tyrant, is thought and free from any fears of the of enlightened indeed a model rationality, but he is as cruel as the next despot. Valor in the face of death might be afterlife, to lessen mankind's murderous admirable, but it did not seem to Montesquieu In either case, learning how to die is hardly a social virtue. And propensities. that generally may be one of the costs of putting cruelty first. It leads to an ethic for isolates.

are other equally significant this social ideas that emerge within There an easy acceptance of cultural variety and a mental world, negative especially Since the most spectacular public brutalities are usually visited egalitarianism. were bound to and Montesquieu upon alien peoples, Montaigne investigate the of barbarians. The offered for the slaughter and enslavement justifications inferior. oldest and most common argument has been that they are naturally it was clear that she intended Since nature was taken to issue rules of conduct, to enslave those lesser peoples whom she had marked out by color Europeans was indeed our for that very purpose. Montaigne entirely agreed that nature to conduct. It was therefore amatter of some importance to him best guide good and which cultures were indeed natural, between whether the differences in terms of their if any, were inferior and superior, when cultures, judged habitual cruelty. he soon discovered, was anything that "does not fit in with our Barbarism, seems barbaric to some other tribe. Moreover, the usages." Every people customs and opinions that he loved to list proved that not of endless multiplicity one of them stood out as natural. All were human contrivances. There is

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that is not decent nothing nature's original simplicity, are, for "nature puts to

or indecent somewhere. All are departures and their variety only proves how insignificant our vain and trivial efforts."13 Customs as

from they such shame

are all equidistant from nature, and the differences are therefore unimportant in eat the flesh of dead is who is cruel. Cannibals themselves. What does matter we recoil in horror, but it iswe who torture and persecute the living. people and There are no naturally superior or inferior peoples, Our pride is unwarranted. as not those whom but arrogance and cruelty mark Europeans, they disdain inMontaigne, barbarians. There was, in fact, a vein of primitivism but that is to his purpose. Montesquieu not necessary did not share it, and he no longer also used the looked to nature for human standards at all. He nevertheless the pride of the European civilization. It was of customs to undermine variety amatter of the triviality of the excuses offered for the enormous simply exposing harms inflicted on primitive peoples. "Because negroes prefer a glass necklace to ... it is proven that they have no common sense."14 American Indians gold an unfamiliar manner, so were trimmed their beards in they legally enslaved by knew enough not to dwell on the Spaniards. Unlike Montaigne, Montesquieu It was enough to show that no any fancied superiority of the native peoples. ever justify cruelty. He had, moreover, difference could another reason for to know and understand all the cultures. He really believed wanting his readers as that "knowledge makes men gentle," hardens us.15 Not the just ignorance but the supracivilized may recover from cruelty after all. primitive, were the creations of All inferiority and superiority for Montesquieu policy. in our ignorance we despise, we reduce them to Once we enslave aliens, whom not the other way around. imbeciles, inferiority. Slavery makes "Nothing makes one more like a beast than always to see free men without being oneself free."16 Once they have been reduced by enslavement, cruelty acts to make the distance between owner and slave even greater. In Asia, Montesquieu claimed, black slaves were castrated to that end. And in his Persian Letters, black eunuchs are employed to maintain the steady flow of submission and dominance in the are the abject tools of their common owner, who rules all by harem. They remote control. If such social distances create the climate for cruelty, then a had known that one greater equality might be a remedy. Even Machiavelli cannot rule one's equals with but only one's inferior subjects. cruelty, admired those ancient democracies whose occasionally Montesquieu frugality to lord it over one another. and equality made the citizens unable or unwilling came to admire the And Montaigne simplicity of the peasantry, whose relations to one another, he were better thought, regulated than those of the nobility. But not a reflection on this was just a rejection of aristocratic competitiveness, as a social nor situation. And neither Montaigne indeed, inequality were at all to treat social as a Montesquieu disposed equality positive good. was a insofar as it encouraged Inequality mattered cruelty. Theirs purely rooted in a suspicion of the paltry reasons offered to negative egalitarianism, moreover justify not merely inequality, but its worst consequences. Inequality that it dims our common sense so badly, illusions. Montaigne generates thought that we forget that "the pedestal is no part of the statue."17 There was more here than the usual complaint that we fail to value real merit because we are easily taken in by mere finery and trappings. What Montaigne feared was the pure

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it, and the cruelty that glamour of power, the show of valor that accompanies both encourage. Montesquieu and all it stood for, was, thanks to Versailles that surrounds obsessed by the politics of courtly power. The vacuum the and separates him from his subjects is the condition of both the despot maximum of inequality and of cruelty. Nothing could, then, be more dangerous than the deification of political superiors. The desacralization of politics was, in chief objects. Equality was not required for that, and fact, one of Montesquieu's a hierarchical he preferred he did cherish one highly pluralism, although the jury chosen by lot. For juries determine the outcome institution, egalitarian the ordinary citizen is confronted by the criminal law. is really a fear of the consequences of inequality and Negative egalitarianism of the dazzling effect of power. It is an obvious result of putting especially cruelty first. when but modesty is the cure for arrogance. And no form of equality than the claim that some of us are God's agents, his ismore obnoxious arrogance on earth It was, after all, in his enemies. deputies charged with punishing defense of the divine honor that all those heretics had been tortured and burned. saw that torture had infected the entire official world, both secular Montaigne a It had become the ubiquitous evil. Montesquieu, and ecclesiastical. living in milder age, was still outraged by the judicial prosecution of sins and relatively in these sins any minor faults. That was partly because neither one believed but also because they put cruelty first. The crimes so brutally punished longer, were not themselves acts of cruelty. They therefore appeared particularly in contrast to the horrors of official torture. unimportant precisely when put advised the courts to leave belief and sexual habits alone, and to Montesquieu on the serious business concentrate of protecting the security of life and had no faith in even this kind of legal reform. He thought property. Montaigne most laws useless, because general rules never really fit the actual diversity of are so cruel, that individual cases, and most judicial procedures they terrified were at much else. He and Montesquieu citizens without achieving law-abiding in insisting that the discretion of judges must be as limited as one, however, a considerable both thereby expressing distrust of the judiciary in possible, That should not surprise us. Both were, after all, experienced general. who had spent years on the bench at Bordeaux. They did not trust magistrates, any ruling class, certainly not their own. of experience only enhances the skepticism of those who put The wisdom could it be otherwise? The usual excuse for our most cruelty first. How are these acts is that they are necessary. How genuine public unspeakable nor was blind to the in fact? Neither necessities, Montaigne Montesquieu Not reason of state, but they knew that much of what imperatives of law and of To respond to under these names was merely princely willfulness. passed in the Machiavellian is one thing, but necessity far vocabulary means danger more than that. It expresses a great confidence events once they in controlling is to rule. It is, together have been intelligently analyzed. To master necessity the power of an astute ruler. Once with the subduing of Fortune, quite within it is just a matter of plotting and grasped, has been mapped and necessity of efficiency, with is the utopianism all the cruelty This and executing. were far too chaotic treachery that it invites. Montaigne thought that politics of those occasions

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to any and uncertain to be managed according plan. He dismissed Machiavelli and just as than any other political as being no more plausible schemer, as most. In short, Montaigne did not think these amoral arguments shortsighted conclusive. They did not really amount to rational responses to any necessities. one doubts everything. If princes must commit But when one doubts necessity, let them at least regret it and let them make some effort to avoid going atrocities, concluded. That to war in order to indulge some personal whim, Montaigne to throwing up one's hands in despair. "The is no temper that is less Utopian than this sort of skepticism. world is incapable of curing itself; it is so impatient of the weight that oppresses the cost,"18 rid of it, without it, that it only aims at getting considering wrote. Montesquieu had more faith in legislation and social change, Montaigne in but he was no enthusiast. He wrote an account of a little Utopian community his novel. But even in this imaginary world, utopia appears only to prove that it are the best recommendations for and continuity must quickly end. Age not because they are anything but "barbarous" and "monstrous," institutions, incline to the worst."19 Most argued, but because "we wonderfully Montaigne our laws and customs are beneath contempt, but ifwe alter them, we only fall of which might well be worse. A decent, into instability and direct destruction, to the existing order, without excuses, seemed to him but not excessive, loyalty the only way. To that extent he had chosen sides in the civil war, since it could not be avoided. But he remained fair to the opposition. As an admiring Emerson amounts There of him, he found himself "equally at odds with the evils of society the projects that are offered to relieve them," and went on to say that saw no in this case meant that Montaigne he "denies out of honesty."20 Honesty reason to suppose that changes in belief altered human behavior significantly. to correct the world by new beliefs, he noted Those who have attempted have only removed the surface vices; the essential ones have not been wearily, touched. The best religion, therefore, with peace in view, is the one into which one is born, the one most established in one's country, and that which one is most used to. This is not an attempt to disregard the enormous faults of existing that the alternatives are It is rather the recognition ideologies and institutions. at all. no better. It is the conservatism if it is conservatism of universal disgust, For in what sense can one be said to support an existing order of affairs if one cannot think of anything to say on its behalf except that it is there? It is an act of a retreat from the but not necessarily public world. perfect dissociation, When one begins with cruelty, an enormous gap between private and public life seems to open up. It begins with the exposure of the feebleness and pettiness and goes on to a sense that of the reasons offered for public enormities, are unreal and remote from the actualities about which governments they to talk. It is not that private life is bettor than public: both are equally appear of cruel. It is rather that one has a sense of the incoherence and discontinuity that itwas impossible that and public experience. Montesquieu thought private the good man and the good citizen should ev^r be the same. The two were of so:ial life and those of personal The demands inherently incompatible. are simply different. This may cause us much unhappiness, but it morality cannot be altered. "It is one of the misfortunes of the human condition," he that "legislators must act more celebrated phrase, wrote, using Montaigne's was to write and with

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and more upon the citizens than upon upon society than upon the citizens, men."21 He did not despair, because he believed that, on the whole, we can control our public life more than our personal characters. The effectively climate works directly upon us, and while its effects can be modified by forcing us into specific social directions, we do not as individuals really change. The an excellent constitution, are solid citizens, but awful English have perfectly also suffer from incurable melancholia and suicidal tendencies. people. They Laws can make collective life better or worse, but each of us is fundamentally and morality unalterable, is, at some point, a personal matter. He was in fact to moved optimism by believing politics and morality were wholly dissimilar, amoral revolution because laws made social reform possible without demanding that would be both impossible and tyrannical in the extreme. To in this way and politics is to open the door to separate morals to a that was impossible and intolerable for Montaigne. Machiavellism degree He thought, in any case, that our ability to control our personal life, even if only in isolation, was greater than our collective existence where Fortune ruled. Human simply reduced in politics, and public men are forced to as if out of necessity. For Montaigne did not deny that perform abominations in politics, but he would not call it right, there was much that was unavoidable and he wanted no part of it. And even when he was resigned to public cruelties, he could not quite accept them as inevitable. There had always been generous a and great men who had avoided them. His mind was self-divided, picture of distraction. Of his public career, he said that the mayor and Montaigne have the mayor, been two, very distinctly had always separated."22 Montaigne, a part on a stage as a matter of and fulfilled its demands as best he duty, played could. He was not one of those fastidious souls who preserve their inner purity he tells us, he did as little as by shunning politics altogether. As mayor, a that he defended as the least harmful course of action available policy possible, to him. He obviously felt more helpless in public offices than in his library, but remained the same under all there was for him no moral difference. Loyalty circumstances. He would not betray his prince for a private individual, but neither would be betray the latter for the sake of the prince. Epaminondas admirable because he would not kill in battle seemed toMontaigne particularly an enemy who had once been his guest. Nevertheless, the irrelevance of in politics did impress him deeply. Let princes be just; if they tried to goodness not be magnanimous, they would only be arbitrary. Moreover, society did on virtue for its survival. A society of complete villains would personal depend in general. Not be glued together just as well as ours, and would be no worse but physical need and laws, even the most ferocious, keep us together. morality, mind was a miniature civil war, After years of religious strife, Montaigne's of the world. But his jumble of political confusion the perpetual mirroring reflected not intellectual failure, but a refusal to accept either the perceptions comforts of political passivity or of Machiavelli's platitudes. most literature on Machiavelli, There has been in recent years a considerable of it admiring his most "realistic" pages. I have tried to present the views of those who rejected him, not because they were moved by religious or moral illusions, but because they were more realistic, had read Plato's remarks about more carefully, is a position that goes and were more honest. This dirty hands volition was

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well

one can call liberalism. My Catholic friend was wrong in beyond anything that putting cruelty first amounts to j ist that, but he was quite correct thinking in seeing that it is incompatible with his faith. What he should have asked is, are how many people, excepting Montaigne, really prepared to accept all the of doing so. It has been my purpose to show at least what itmight consequences involve. References at Columbia on at the Lionel Seminar delivered paper was originally University Trilling and Stephen Holmes like to thank my friends Stanley Ca^ell, Harry Hirsch, 2, 1981. Iwould April are first to Oeuvres to All references for their help and encouragement. Moitaigne compl?tes (0), are those of The Rat (Paris: Pleiad *, 1962). The translations and Maurice edited by Albert Thibaudet Press, n.d.). All (E), (New Yo'k: Oxford University by E. J. Trechmann Essays of Montaigne, are to Oeuvres to Montesquieu references (Paris: Nagel, Masson, compl?tes, ed ted by Andre are my own. translations 1950). The This III, 8, (0) 'Of the Art of Conversing, I, 50, 20f Democritus and Heraclitus, ?Apology for Raimond Sabond, II, 12, *De l'Esprit des Lois, XV, 5, vol. 1, (E, vol. 2) 3 S3. 291, (E, vol. ) 296. (0) 421 (E, vol. 1) 434. 330-31. 900, (0) 2) 3C3.

50n Some Lines of Vergil, III, 5, (O) 825, (E, vol. (0) 296, (E, vol. 1) 291. 60f Democritus, 1 (0) 478, 483; (E, vol. 1) 464, 468. Apology, HEsprit, I, i, vol. 1,4. 441. 9Apology, (0) 427, (E, vol. 1) wOJ'Coaches, (O) 452,

III, 6, (O) 889, (E, vol. 2) 372. (E, vol. 1) 466. "Apology, "Of Fear, I, 18, (O) 76, (E, vol. 1) 71. (E, vol. 1) 205-06. I, 31, (O) 203-04, "Of Cannibals, ?Esprit, XV, 15Ibid., XV, 5, vol. 1, 330. 4, vol. 1, 329. 13, vol. 1, 338. 16Ibid.,XV, that is Among "Of the Inequality HI, 9, (O) 935,

Us, I, 42, (O) 251, (E, vol. 1) 255. (E, vol. 2) 423. II, 17, (O) 639, (E, vol. 2) 107. "Of Presumption, in English Traits Men," Emerson, 20Ralph Waldo "Representative 1908), pp. 237, 242. c. 1, vol. 2, 170. "Esprit, XXVII, ones Will, HI, 10, (O) 989, (E, vol. 2) 482. 220fHusbanding ^Of Vanity,

etc.,

(London:

J. M.

Dent,…...

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