Jim Bowman's Blithe Spirit draws our attention to Blupete, a blog out of Nova Scotia filled with interesting information about poets, essayists, history and much else.
There is, for example, a nice page on Montaigne, which gives me an opportunity to resume discussing that great Perigord gentleman.
In response to a post of mine last month titled Exploring the mind, Melville Goodwin pointed out that Joseph Epstein's method of writing essays is often like Montaigne's. I have not read a lot of Epstein, but everything that I have I've liked. And I did not know about his method of just ruminating over a quote, say, and being taken wherever.
In my original post, though, I don't think I succeeded in making the point I set out to. What I wanted to say was that, as I see it, Montaigne used writing as a philosphical method. He is, of course, the exact opposite of the grand, systematic thinker -- and attempts to derive a system of thought from his writings miss the point of those writngs.
I studied philosophy and still read a good deal of it, but I think attempts to encompass reality in a system of thought are futile. I don't think life can be "figured out." But you can figure out how to live -- and that's what Montaigne was about. One of the fundamental things he understood about is that human reason and understanding are profoundly limited. And he found that out by recording his trains of thought. He wasn't aiming to prove a thesis, or demonstrate a theory. He was observing thought, noting its inconcsitencies and contradictions, how prejudice and feeling get in the way of logic, how we are usually able to find that what we would like to be true somehow is true. In some ways, the modern thinker Montaigne most resembles is J. Krishnamurti, who repeatedly counseled his listeners to engage in "choiceless awareness" while examining "the contents of consciousness." It's not as easy as it sounds.