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The Review of Metaphysics

Volume 71, Issue 3, March 2018

Ann Hartle
Pages 551-568

Reordering the World
The Modern Philosophical Act in the Essays of Montaigne

The modern philosophical act, as it appears in the Essays of Montaigne, reorders the world by radically altering the relationship between the mind and the world. Montaigne replaces the premodern philosophical act of contemplation with the modern philosophical act of judgment. While contemplation is the natural end or natural completion and perfection of the mind, judgment is the freedom of the mind from nature. Contemplation is the receptive attitude of the mind toward the world; judgment is the attitude of mastery. Contemplation is the ordering of the human to the divine, while judgment reorders man to man himself. This reordering entails a revaluation of all things in relation to man as man. Judgment eliminates the classical distinction between actions that are good in themselves and actions that are for the sake of production, thereby undermining the hierarchy of leisure and work, the foundation of classical civilization. The liberal order is the new form of human association, which replaces the old order.