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Gaby Divay
Gaby Divay's Papers: Montaigne & Nature

Nature, Fortune and God in Montaigne's Essais:
a lexical-semantic analysis
Gaby Divay
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© e-Edition, August 2003 [rev. 2015]
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Note: This paper gives a brief account of the lengthy preparation for my doctoral thesis defense in 1984, at L'Université Laval in Québec City. The rather ambitious project was conceived in 1973, with the objective to determine the semantic field of metaphysical powers in Montaigne's work, and to see if their relative importance allowed some conclusions as to a conceptual hierarchy in Montaigne's thought. The theoretical framework was inspired by European structural semantics in the tradition of Lyons, Greimas, Pottier, Coseriu, Heger, all of whom tended toward the 'Langue" side of Saussure's Langue & Parole dichotomy. Later, I discovered that East German linguists offered more dialectical approaches which were far better suited to an empirical study of that kind.
gd 26.8.2003

I. Only those occurrences appearing in foreign language quotations have not been considered, since Montaigne usually paraphrases them either before or after a citation he uses. This preliminary task was in itself a time consuming undertaking, since R. E. Leake's invaluable concordance did not yet exist. It would have been a considerable help to work from his lists, even though our partial concordances present each occurrence in its context and furthermore include all pronominal references as well. Attributing pronouns to their nouns is as yet too difficult for a computer program to deal with. Their inclusion explains for instance why our nature concordance presents 542 occurrences in 361 contexts of varying length, while Leake only lists 376 occurrences in a truncated sentence environment.

Whereas Dieu behaves like a proper name and refers especially in plural occurrences to culturally determined metaphysical entities, nature and fortune display several different meanings. To a large extent, those are clearly indicated by a combination of grammatical and syntactic characteristics.

In certain prepositional phrases, nature and fortune do not behave like nouns, but fulfill the function of adverbs and adjectives. Because of this, about 10% of the 542 nature and 15% of the 479 fortune occurrences do not belong to any of the possible noun-meanings and are ignored in the subsequent semantic analyses. In the other cases, the syntactic environment of an occurrence suggests a semantic restriction that excludes it from the central field of metaphysical powers. Approximately one fourth of the nature corpus and half of the fortune material belong to this category. One third of the 617 Dieu occurrences bear a syntactic resemblance with this group, except that the resulting restriction is not semantic but referential. For instance, les dieux, un dieu malin, or le dieu de nostre poète always indicate a particular cultural setting; they usually refer to the classical Greek or Roman pantheon, and sometimes designate deities of oriental or North American Indian beliefs. Considering that Dieu in its absolute sense invariably occurs without any articles, those occurrences accompanied by one can be identified quite clearly as being alien to the central semantic field. Before  exploring certain  of  its  aspects,  we  would  like  to  discuss  briefly  the aforementioned excluded word groups. They represent the two necessary steps of progressive elimination leading from the complex totality of the word material to the semantic field indicating exclusively "metaphysical power".

II. Tesnière in his Eléments de syntaxe structurale develops a theory he calls translation for words that sometimes have a syntactic function usually carried out by those of another word category. Obviously, the type of translation we were interested in was the shift from a noun to the adverb or adjective category. We found for instance that the nature and fortune occurrences with a circumstantial object function often corresponded to adverbs, and that in many noun phrases they tended to qualify the initial nouns just as adjectives do.

To give some illustrative examples, par nature can mean "naturellement" in certain contexts, and if that adverb is substituted for the prepositional phrase, no significant difference in meaning can be observed. De or par fortune almost always means "par hasard" and either indicates that something happens by coincidence or, with more precision, by luck which can be good or bad depending on the situation.

    Among those occurrences having an adjectival function and meaning, contre nature clearly means "unnatural"; selon nature acts as its semantic counterpart meaning "natural". While those examples proved to be syntactically clear cut, other cases of adjectival behaviour occurred in noun phrases of extreme semantic complexity. Since their syntactic structure is always the same -- a noun qualified by a preposition and another noun -- the decision whether the qualifying noun had adjectival or nominal status was based entirely on semantic grounds. Therefore, it was sometimes difficult to reach a conclusion, and that conclusion seemed more or less arbitrary. For instance, les loix de nature clearly means "natural laws"; yet, knowing how often Montaigne personifies nature and given that such a phrase indicates a possessive structure, it seems even more plausible to maintain such occurrences within the metaphysical field. However, in other cases the opposite conclusion was reached; when the possessive implication referred to a person, nature's role appeared weakened to such an extent that we opted for an adjectival interpretation: les dons de nature that Montaigne finds extraordinary in his friend Etienne de la Boétie are his "natural gifts" even though nature can be considered an indirect agent in having endowed him with them.

For fortune, the cases are even more complicated since no obvious adjectival equivalent exists. Any adjectives that proved to be acceptable substitutions in the noun phrase environment are linked either to the social position of human beings or the unpredictable character of man's destiny. Both are in close interrelation with two major acceptations of fortune as we shall see in discussing the various meanings of that lexical unit. To give but three examples, les grandeurs de fortune refers to the social position of an individual or class of individuals specified in the context. Sometimes that social importance has an explicitly material connotation, as in les gens de basse fortune, where "poor" would be an acceptable substitute for basse fortune. When man has to anticipate les accidents de fortune, the emphasis is on the unforeseen and the unforeseeable qualities of those mishappenings that occur during his life; de fortune can therefore be interpreted to mean something like "imprévisible" or "inattendu", more often than not with a connotation of disaster.

    The personified aspect of fortune is generally less pronounced than that of nature, and consequently fewer of the doubtful cases are considered to be part of the central field of metaphysical power. What is central in the examples above is what happens to man rather than what fortune attributes.

    The analogous noun phrase structure for Dieu never indicates any ambiguity; even though divin does exist as a possible substitute, the personification is strong enough in all cases to assure an easy decision in favour of the central field. The same holds true for Dieu in circumstantial object functions.

    Given the absence of translation in the Dieu occurrences, it is important to underline the frequent usages that manifest a reduced meaning of Dieu by means of expressions, exclamations and fixed phrases. We have observed about 150 of them, and so clear is their purely modal importance to the contextual statements that we have not even included them in our Dieu concordance. To give a few examples, Dieu mercy, Dieu sait, pleust à Dieu and even si Dieu veut or Dieu veuille que have no other function in their contexts than a rather vague and almost mechanical expression of reverence.

    III. The various acceptations we observed in the remaining word material of nature and fortune were indicated by four types of immediate syntactic environments. The presence of a possessive pronoun, an adjective, a prepositional noun phrase, any plural marks, or a combination of the above suggests a reduced meaning of nature or fortune in comparison to simple occurrences. This is due to the logical relation between extension and intension: la nature has a more general denotation -- that is, a larger extension -- than ma nature, l'humaine nature, la nature du lieu, and les natures bien-nées. Note that the totality of such an expanded noun phrase assumes the same syntactic functions of subject, object or complement as the simple noun does.

    In the case of expanded nature usages we found that each syntactic type corresponded to a large extent to one particular field of meaning. The type of ma nature usually indicates "character" and any of its numerous synonyms; Montaigne himself frequently uses naturel, complexion, composition, and more rarely mon être, caractère and tempérament in that sense. In modern French personnalité would well fit into this semantic paradigm. This field doubtlessly represents an essential theme in the Essais. It indicates Montaigne's moral preoccupation with man, and in particular with his self-analysis, and would warrant a detailed study in its own right.

    Plural occurrences, often accompanied by epithets, tend to indicate individuals in their global aspect. Therefore, "personne" is their central meaning. Contrary to the field of "caractère", it is a semantic paradigm with few synonyms; characteristically, pronouns are a frequent substitute used in actual contexts. Sometimes, a physical trait is predominant: "sa condition robuste" for instance could replace la merveilleuse nature d'Alcibiades who was said to adjust very easily to different customs "sans interest de sa santé".

    When nature is followed by a prepositional noun phrase, the "essence" of usually inanimate objects is indicated. Even though this field can boast several synonyms such as "qualité fondamentale", "façon d'être" and "propriété", its semantic importance is negligible. More often than not, nature de is such a vague and general characterization of the object in question, that it could easily be omitted. That is the case in vue la nature du lieu which simply means "considering the place". Sometimes, the characteristics are a little more precise: in the only case of an inanimate object Montaigne reports on the Indians' "usage de la fauconnerie selon la nature de leurs oiseaux", la nature refers to the specific hunting qualities of their birds, the most important one presumably being speed.

    Nature is qualified by three revealing epithets: humaine, divine, and brutale. It is noteworthy that those combinations are really condensed noun phrases of the previously mentioned type: la nature de l'homme, la nature de Dieu, la nature des brutes or des animaux. They display the fundamental qualities of the animate spectrum of existence, including the projected metaphysical one. The majority of those forty-five examples refer to mankind as a species, for instance when language is presented as "le propre de l'humaine nature". Only two refer to the animal kingdom, and ten speculate about divine essence.

    Looking now at the internal structure of the lexeme nature, we find that three quarters of its content belong to our central field, "personified metaphysical power". The remaining quarter is distributed among three acceptations or sememes describing the ontological spectrum of existence. From inanimate objects which can be either concrete or abstract it leads over the animal world which is mostly seen under its concrete aspects, to man who is explored in all his concrete and abstract qualities, to the purely abstract realm of metaphysical speculation. Since this is man's ontological classification and since any abstraction stems from his reflection, it is not surprising that the metaphysical realm is projected in analogy with his own characteristics: the conception of God and the other metaphysical entities is noticeably anthropomorphic, hence their personification. Montaigne objects repeatedly to and with remarkable eloquence against this widespread anthropo-centrism. In L'Apologie he vividly emphasizes the intelligence of animals together with their physical and moral superiority, and he concludes: "Nous ne sommes ny au dessus ny au dessous du reste" (II, 12, p.459). He insists that man's place in nature is not as privileged as man likes to think: "C'est une mesme nature qui roule son cours" (II, 12, p.467). As to man's tendancy to perceive God in analogy to himself, he argues with Xenophanes that a bird, for instance, might reason on exactly the same premises: "Car pourquoy ne dira un oison ainsi: Toutes les pieces de l'univers me regardent; la terre me sert à marcher, le Soleil à m'esclairer, les estoilles à m'inspirer leurs influances; j'ai telle commodité des vents, telle des eaux; il n'est rien que cette voute regarde si favorablement que moy; je suis le mignon de nature" (II, 12, p.532).

    Whereas the nature-occurrences deal with existence, fortune is limited to the human realm. These expanded fortune-occurrences display less coherence between the type of syntactic environment and a semantic implication than do the nature usages. Most common is the type qualified by a possessive pronoun, which turns fortune into the "destiny" of an individual. Almost half of the semantically restricted examples belong to this acceptation. "Destin" or "sort" turned out to belong to a rich semantic field with many shades of meaning. A person's life seen in its totality is the most common substitute, but often a particular aspect of it emerges from the contexts. Thus, fortune can also mean a specific life phase like childhood, adulthood or old age. Quite often, it refers to death as the end of life. Sometimes it simply indicates the quality of a person's life circumstances, and therefore the condition for his happiness or unhappiness.

    About one quarter of the syntactically expanded fortune usages mean "chance", which again functions in a rather complex semantic paradigm. Characteristically, it covers the external conditions in which a particular and usually short-lived event takes place. "Coincidence", "hasard", "good or bad luck" are the most common synonyms, but sometimes a more concrete meaning can be observed, such as "risk", "success", or simply "result".

    The last acceptation of fortune is "situation", which in the majority of cases refers to a person's social position. Quite often this means the financial situation, and "richesses", "biens" and "moyens" can be considered as synonyms. Sometimes, the social position is more closely related to "influence" and "power", and in yet other cases, it is difficult to determine if "prestige" and long-termed "success" is due to an individual's personality or his material wealth. It is then probably a combination of those two factors. In some instances, "social rank" is determined by class adherence through royal or noble birth, or again by the financial situation that distinguishes the poor from the middle or upper classes.

    "Situation" can also refer to larger social contexts. It is then applied to the state, as in fortune publique, or to wars, as in fortune guerrière. In one case where there is question of an "extreme peril de fortune de mer", it means "sea-storm".

    In all those examples, there is no correspondence between syntactic environment and meaning. Furthermore, about forty-five occurrences belong semantically to the described sememes even though there is no indication of a syntactic nature. This can again only be explained by the relative lack of fortune's personification. We see the distinction between "destiny", "chance", "social position" on one hand and fortune as a metaphysical power on the other hand as a mere difference in perception rather than in a variation in cause: in the first instances, man observes what is happening to him and attributes the causes to some vague and unpersonified force above him. When the perspective switches to fortune as a personified and active power, the cause is brought into focus, and what is happening to man is perceived as her willful intervention. It is the polarity between distributing and receiving; what man receives is tangible and can be observed directly, whereas the distributing cause belongs to the realm of mere speculation.

    As we mentioned earlier, the identical syntactic surroundings do not indicate different meanings in the Dieu-occurrences. About two-thirds of the 223 occurrences are in the plural form and refer mostly to the Greek gods who represent a fractioned viewpoint of divinity. For each element important in man's surroundings there is at least one responsible god: Saturn is "le Dieu du temps et de la durée", Poseidon "le Dieu de la mer", Apollo "le Dieu de science et de lumiere"; Venus reigns over love, Mars over war, etc. Sometimes, Montaigne makes sarcastic use of the word god: he calls the physicians he hates deeply "les dieux de la medecine" (II, 12, p.539), and refers to Aristotle as "le Dieu de la science scholastique" (II, 12, p.563). Many of these examples stem from l'Apologie where Montaigne compiles opinion upon opinion taken from classical and contemporary sources, to demonstrate the inherent weakness and contradiction in man's presumptuous religious reasoning. His intention is not to judge the truth value of those individual beliefs, but rather to paint an impressive tableau of relativism that speaks for itself: God is and stays unknown.

    IV. In order to determine the characteristics of Dieu, Nature and Fortune in the sense of metaphysical powers, we have compared their distribution and semantic behaviour in the main syntactic functions of subject and object. The circumstantial object and possessive pronoun occurrences were found to repeat to a large extent the activities of the subject and object functions. Here is what we have observed:

    a. About half of the nature, two-thirds of the fortune, and 40% of the Dieu occurrences belonging to the central field have a subject function. The majority of the nature and fortune usages demonstrate what they do, and only a few describe what they are. For the Dieu examples, the opposite is true. An important group of verbs explores His being, mostly in form of more or less absurd speculations. Needless to say, those are not Montaigne's: he tends to agree with statements that underline God's superior position, and admits that God is good, just, charitable, omnipotent, omniscient, eternal, and in the last analysis, unknown.

    To give, to cause, and to instruct or direct are the major activities of all three powers. There are, however, considerable differences in their respective applications: Nature and Dieu endow man, but also all other creatures with what is necessary for existence. Fortune deals exclusively with man's affairs on an individual, social and political scale. Furthermore, whatever the two first mentioned powers may distribute always has a positive connotation, whereas fortune's gifts usually have negative implications. Nature and Dieu also share an activity that fortune is excluded from: creating. The difference between Dieu and nature is that the impact of nature is directly observable, whereas God's is removed from observation and therefore only implied. In spite of this distinction, Dieu and nature are quite often almost synonymous and could be interchanged in numerous contexts. However obscure God's and nature's reasons may be, their guidance is always represented as beneficial and reasonable. They represent the mysterious causes of a superior order, and human understanding is unable to grasp their ultimate intentions. Fortune is the antipode of that order. Her actions are arbitrary, and her impact having either good or bad results never corresponds to what is just or reasonable. Her main function appears to de didactic, and her instruction seems to aim at proving man's inability to foresee and counteract her capricious interventions. In other words, she demonstrates that man is not in charge of his destiny, and in many ways this is the reality that affects him most directly. Again, her instruction is marked by a destructive quality, whereas nature's and God's demonstrations display a positive intention.

    b. If the subject functions explore the metaphysical power's activities or attributes, and reveal how they interact with man, the object functions indicate how man perceives them and how he relates to them.

    Only 10% of the metaphysical nature occurrences belong to the object functions. One third of them show that man should follow her standards instead of man-made ones. Those are usually identified with human reason and art, which endeavor to corrupt her guidance. Indeed, man l'étouffe, la tracasse, l'artialise, la sophistique, l'abuse and l'abandonne, all to his own detriment. He furthermore tries to control her, but Nature proves that she governs in spite of those attempts.

    One fifth of the fortune occurrences are object functions and prove that man's principal activity in her regard is an attempt to master her disturbing impact on his life. Two basic attitudes are possible: one is opposition and does not achieve much in Montaigne's opinion. The other is acceptance, which seems to be a more successful means since we can neither escape nor avoid her intervention. Personally, Montaigne is obliged to her because she has not mistreated him in the same way he has seen her abuse many of his contemporaries.

    Of the 30% of object functions found among the Dieu occurrences, the majority explore man's communication with Him. It can be summed up with asking for or even demanding something from Him. Rarely, there is place for thanking in man's dialogue with God. Man should believe in God, he should honor and love Him, and commit himself to Him. Instead, he tries to imprison God within the limits of feeble human reason and unclear definitions, and he generally demonstrates a tendency to lower Him to his own insignificant level. Man's knowledge of God is repeatedly questioned, and Montaigne's opinion is quite clearly that we can neither imagine nor know Him, the distance between God and man being infinite. Nevertheless man seems to take great delight in speculating about God's being, and he usually equips Him with purely human attributes.

    c. We mentioned earlier, that the noun phrases and possessive occurrences repeat to a large extent the subject and object functions. To give an example, l'immense grandeur de nature means that she is immense, le progres de nature eans that she progresses, le dessein de nature or son dessein both mean that she has a certain plan, and ses regles means that she dictates rules. All of these usages are the semantic equivalent of a subject function.Since roughly one third of the nature, fortune and Dieu occurrences fall into this category, it seems worthwhile to give a very brief account of them. It is noticeable that the proportion of descriptive and active implications is very similar to those usages observed throughout the subject and object functions: Dieu is clearly the most personified metaphysical force even though He also is the least known of the three powers. Nature shows somewhat less personification, and fortune is the least personified of all. Dieu is good, just, strong, generous, charitable, all-knowing and tout-puissant. Nature is immense, infinite, majestic, fruitful, and miraculous. Fortune is anything but reassuring in examples like ses assauts, ses injures, ses défaveurs, and even ses faveurs hardly minimizes her capricious character whose essence is instability. She maintains her authority and her rights over man's reason, and his prudence is unable to counteract her role. Very few escape her grip and her disturbing impact. Nature's function of creating is manifest in usages like son ouvrage, sa machine, son bastiment, and ses créatures. She governs through her rules and her laws; she shows her order through son ordonnance and in her generalle police. Even when she is changing, the implication is progress rather than instability. God shares her activity of guiding and governing, but He does not change: by essence, He is immuable.

    d. In conclusion, the semes, which technically speaking are the "minimal distinctive semantic features" within the field of metaphysical power, are the following characteristics, deduced from the Dieu, nature and fortune occurrences, respectively. Personification and dealing with man are common to all three, but to different degrees. These are general semes and determine the adherence to the semantic field. Because personification is lacking in lexemes like hasard and chance, they do not belong to the field of personified metaphysical powers, even though they share a number of its characteristics. Within the field, the following are particular semes distinguishing one field member from the others in what Greimas would call the semantic axes of duration, essence, and field of activity [see the ^TABLE below].

    The semantic relation between the three forces is what Lyons calls hyponomy and which basically is a relation of inclusion. Indeed, in the degree of His personification, God encompasses the less absolute forces of nature and fortune. In His perfection and eternity, He again represents the absolute that absorbs opposites like nature's orderly and fortune's arbitrary characteristics or their various modes of changing. And as far as their respective domains of activity are concerned, man's realm is included in the world's realm, which in turn is included in the universal realm.

    V. To sum up Montaigne's conception of the three forces, the following aspects should be noted: God is clearly the supreme power, but however respectful Montaigne's attitude towards Him may be, there is an undeniable distance in his reverential acknowledgements. In our opinion, Montaigne is hardly preoccupied with religious thinking. Representing him as a fervent catholic, as many French critics have endeavored to do even in recent times, is not justified by the overall evidence of relevant passages in the Essays. Such a misinterpretation seems to stem from Montaigne's practical conservatism, which however is not limited to religious matters and is furthermore the classical option of a more or less skeptical tradition. Socrates, Montaigne's moral idol, accepted the laws of Athens without question, even when they sentenced him to death. Plutarch and Cicero, both eclectics in much the same way as Montaigne himself, adhere to the customs and the political order of their rather disorderly environments. Montaigne's occasional attacks on the protestant parties are invariably due to the upheaval they have caused. He is a catholic not because that denomination represents a truer religious belief, but because it happens to be the established tradition of his country. As such it has chances to guarantee an order that with all its imperfections he considers infinitely more desirable than the chaos he has ample opportunity to observe during the religious wars. Noteworthy is the absence in the Essays of any detailed discussion of controversial Christian dogmata. Several eminent critics have pointed out that Montaigne's religious outlook is in fact unknowingly close to certain protestant views. On the other hand he never bothers to distinguish between Lutheran and Calvinist teachings, precisely because in both he sees nothing else but the source for anarchy. Montaigne sees man very small and infinitely removed from God, and he denies the ability to join God by his own efforts. He believes that God can and sometimes does enlighten certain individuals, and that the immense distance between God and man can be abolished by an act of Grace only. However, that possibility never seems to have been realized in his case. For him, man should modestly accept his place and try to fulfill his terrestrial potential within the given limits.

     If God can be equated to the parental authority in a patriarchal family unit, nature clearly represents the maternal element. Montaigne consistently shows an affectionate and highly emotional attitude towards her, and instead of respectful distance there is warm intimacy. Whereas God is discussed in depth mainly in L'Apologie (II, 12), to a lesser extent in Des prieres (I, 50), and little referred to elsewhere, nature appears more regularly throughout the Essays and constantly gains in importance, so that next to l'Apologie the last two essays of the third book are the most important ones in her regard. Increasingly she is represented as the main principle of a benign order that operates both within man and around him. In some respects this recalls the correspondence between micro- and macrocosm, common during the Renaissance. But Montaigne lacks entirely the intention of controlling nature, an intention present in certain magical and hermetic tendencies of earlier renaissance men, in particular Nicolas Cusanus, Agrippa von Nettesheim, Paracelsus, and Charles Bovelles. Montaigne's ideal is the sequere naturam professed by all classical philosophical schools with the exception of the epicureans, who see in nature an arbitrary and purely materialistic principle devoid of any providential function. The main source of what can be termed his moral realism based on nature's precept is Plutarch. In his writings Montaigne discovers Socrates, whose life he considers the perfection of human conduct conforming to man's natural condition. In particular, Montaigne identifies with his relativism and attitude of moderation. Fighting against such natural impulsions as fear, pain, or even pleasure in order to maintain the rigid ideal of apathy proposed by the stoics as a means of human independence is rejected as unrealistic. After an initial period of attraction due to the fashion of the time and the influence of Etienne de la Boétie, Montaigne comes to consider those efforts to be the expression of excessive human presumption. He realizes furthermore their uselessness when he has to deal with the grief caused by the loss of his best friend and his father, and the physical pain experienced through his gallstone affliction. In his final opinion, death and pain are an essential part of the world harmony, and nature is made up of closely interrelated antonyms. Contrary to the stoic, academic, and Christian perspective that nature as matter is the lowly counterpart of the spiritual and has to be overcome as an obstacle to the immaterial realm, Montaigne underlines their unity. In particular, he does not conceive the body as a prison of the soul. Several times he rejects the possibility of life after death as yet another human attempt to enhance man's importance. His philosophy of nature has been adequately described as an art de vivre. The "jouyir loiallement de son estre" (III, 13, p.1115) he proclaims in the very last essay summarizes the confidence he has in mother nature's provisions.

    In his conception of fortune Montaigne is again mainly classical. Seneca, Cicero and Plutarch are his main sources. In certain respects his outlook is similar to that of Pomponazzi and especially to that of Guicciardini, who represents the pessimistic tendencies of the late Renassaince. According to Villey, no direct influence can be affirmed.

    Fortune is a very complex and controversial concept. Her disruptive and often cruel impact is the manifestation of evil in a supposedly good world order. The obvious contradiction between that order and the lack of perfection therein has been resolved at all times with some sophistic acrobatics: evil has to exist in order to underline the cosmic perfection by contrast, and evil is man's main opportunity to exercise his free will. In the stoic philosophy, fortune as the principle of inexplicable opposition allows man to achieve moral perfection by overcoming adverse circumstances through inner fortitude and virtue. In the Christian tradition, man chooses either worldly imperfection or God and eternal life, for which he can prepare himself through a contemplative lifestyle. In both conceptions the source of evil is teleological, and fortune is seen as a didactic tool in the best of all worlds. In Montaigne's conception, even though fortune's role is clearly instructive, there is no explicit link between her and God. She operates independently. Without teleological explanation she becomes the essence of absurdity, rewarding unethical behaviour and punishing flawless conduct according to an incomprehensible design. Without nature's maternal support and God's distant perfection Montaigne could have easily been led to share that deep existential anguish present throughout Lucretius' De rerum natura. However, Montaigne's perspective is not determined by large theoretical considerations and the ultimate reasons for primary causes or intentions, all of which he accepts as inexplicable axioms. His perspective finds its voluntary limits within himself and the modest acceptance of his existence.

- eternity for Dieu
- slow change for nature
- instability for fortune.
- perfection for Dieu
- order for nature
- arbitrariness for fortune
Field of activity:
- the universe for Dieu
- the world for nature
- man's world for fortune;


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