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date: 06 December 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This article explores the treatment of violence in Michel de Montaigne’s Essays. Although the essayist deplores it as a particularly human evil, violence is neither universally destructive nor lacking in value in his book, which proposes an agonistic view of violence that tracks an equally agonistic conception of virtue. An examination of cruelty, torture, valor, and vulnerability shows the ways in which violence’s destabilization works to provide an ethical testing grounds for the stability of the soul. Rather than turning to pacifist or compassionate alternatives, Montaigne praises valor as the quality that emerges out of the moral struggle that is violence—not the highest of virtues, but perhaps the most human in a fallen, brutal age.

Keywords: violence, Essays, Montaigne, vulnerability, torture, valor, war, cruelty, soul, pain

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