Apology for Raymond Sebond

By Michel de Montaigne; Marjorie Grene et al. | Go to book overview

Apology for Raymond Sebond

Knowledge is indeed a very useful and great accomplishment. Those who despise it give evidence enough of their own stupidity. Yet, all the same, I do not rate its value as extremely as do some, like Herillus the philosopher, who made it the supreme good, and held that knowledge had the power to make us wise and contented.1 This I do not believe, nor what others have said, that science is the mother of all virtue and that all vice is produced by ignorance. If this is true, it needs a lengthy commentary.


[1. Sebond and His Treatise]

My house has long been open to the learned and is well-known to them. My father, who governed it for more than fifty years, was inflamed with the new ardor with which Francis the First embraced letters and brought them into favor. He sought with great care and expense the acquaintance of the learned, welcoming them to his house like sacred persons who had some special inspiration from divine wisdom. He received their pronouncements and their discourse like oracles, with all the more reverence and religion as he was less able to judge of them. For he had no knowledge of letters, any more than his predecessors. As for me, I like letters well enough, but I do not worship them.

One of these was Pierre Bunel,2 a man with a great reputation for learning in his time. After staying a few days at Montaigne in the company of my father and others of his sort, on leaving Bunel made him a present of a book called The Natural Theology of Raymond Sebond.3 Since the Italian and Spanish languages were familiar to my father, and the book was constructed from a Spanish rigged up with Latin endings, Bunel hoped that with just a little help my father would derive benefit from it. So he recommended it to him as a very useful book, appropriate to the period in which he gave it to him. This was when the novelties of

1. Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Philosophers, VII, 165; Cicero, Academics,
II, xlii and De finibus, II, xiii.

2. Pierre Bunel (1499–1546) was a humanist from Toulouse.

3. Theologia naturalis sive liber creaturum magistri Raymondi de Sabunde
(1487)

-1-

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Apology for Raymond Sebond
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  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction vi
  • Apology for Raymond Sebond 1
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