Maladies of western civilization according to Montaign's "Of Cannibals."

Essay by WopUniversity, Bachelor'sA, October 2005

download word file, 2 pages 3.0

What are the maladies of western civilization and what are the cures for these maladies?

Drawing on Montaigne's "Of Cannibals", the maladies of western civilization are embodied through the ostensibly simple minded noble savages. This can be explained via the era of Montaigne's writing. It was during this time that explorers from the "enlightened" western civilization, that being Europe, began their epic saga of discovering, conquering and benevolently coercing native inhabitants of the new world. We need not dissect Montaigne to deduce why the indigenous populace of a barbarous colony would fascinate him. His frustrations with the functionality, or rather disfunctionality, of his enlightened society appear in most of his essays. "Of Cannibals" is an attack on the intellects of Montaigne's epoch. Using the common explanation that barbarians are groups who practice what frequent culture does not, Montaigne then begins to exploit his theme of an inverse cannibalism.

Believing that newly discovered nations are barbarous only in the sense that they have not been shaped by the demands of popular human mind, that they are still close to nature, Montaigne paints an image of cannibalism in a different sense; the enlightened drinking from a pool of human intellect. The savageness of the unshaped mind is only in the sense that it has not been raped by the corrupted modern laws or popular notions. The barbarians follow two laws, valor against the enemy and love for their wives. They have no concept of scientific explanations, political superiority or treachery. In response to western civilization, the barbarians argue, "...there is more barbarity in eating a man alive than in eating him cooked..." Montaigne then begins to form a subtle attack on the religious figures of western civilization. Again using the example of the barbarians, he contends that the...