Montaigne's "Of Cannibals"

Essay by A_lexusUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, February 2006

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To be quite truthful, reading Montaigne's "Of Cannibals", was overwhelming, due to the many ideas and how modern his thinking. The main theme or focus of this essay is liberation in the face of ethnocentrism. All in all, this essay could have many different themes but this one stuck out the most. We should be less narrow-minded and more open to diverse settings, not so judgmental. In this essay, Montaigne is well aware of the shortcomings and far from perfection atmosphere where he lives. He isn't trying to put his society on a pedestal. Here in this excerpt, he is saying that we are so narrow-minded that we think everything in our society is perfect, whereas we look to nature and it is far more perfect than anything that we could ever hope to accomplish.

"...for indeed it seems we have no other level of truth and reason than the example and pattern of the opinions and customs of the country we live in.

There is always the perfect religion, the perfect government, the perfect and accomplished manners in all things."

"All our efforts cannot even succeed in reproducing the nest of the tiniest little bird, its contexture, its beauty and convenience; or even the web of the puny spider. All things, says Plato, are produced by nature, by fortune, or by art; the greatest and most beautiful by one or the other of the first two, the least and most imperfect by the last."

Montaigne is saying throughout the essay that even though we may not live like certain groups of people, that we should not be quick to judge them or criticize them in comparison to our way of life. Who is to say that our way of life is better?

"So we may well...