Zen & The Art Of Pyrrhonian Scepticism: Sarah Bakewell On Montaigne

In a previous blog post I sought to explain how Michel de Montaigne‘s Pyrrhonian scepticism, far from being indicative of “atheism”, was in fact a mark of his orthodoxy. I have just noticed an article in the Guardian by Sarah Bakewell which argues a similar point. Bakewell writes:

Montaigne was a good Catholic. He was also a man who doubted almost everything: the most influential sceptic of his day.

Bakewell goes on to explain that,

When we hear the word “sceptic”, we probably think of someone who insists on proof, refuses to take anything on faith, and perhaps takes issue with organised religion. A modern sceptic may trust firmly in reason and direct observation. In Montaigne’s time, the lines were drawn differently: reason and observation were the very things a sceptic was most likely to be sceptical about, yet one could still be devout.

There then follows a nice introduction to Pyrrhonian scepticism, with a bit of Zen thrown in for good measure!

Montaigne, philosopher of life, part 3: Believer and doubter, by Sarah Bakewell

David Hurley

P. S. This is another excellent article on Montaigne in the same Guardian series: