Montaigne’s Political Education: Raison D’Etat in the Essais

DOUG THOMPSON
HISTORY OF POLITICAL THOUGHT 34.2 (2013): 195-224

Abstract: Montaigne is generally portrayed either as a principal proponent of the mix of scepticism, neo-Stoicism and Tacitism that feeds the early-modern reason-of-state literature or as a thoroughgoing political moralist who rejects this literature’s politics of necessity and princely deception in favour of a politics of classical or Christian virtue. Thompson argues that Montaigne inhabits neither of these positions exclusively. Instead, he argues in utramque partem, both for and against reason of state, in order to educate his readers about the perils of following elites who would use either political necessity or religious moralism as pretexts for violence in pursuit of political gain.