The Barbarians Montaigne

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In his text, Montaigne addresses the question of “barbarians” using methods and arguments uncommon at his time. His argument is divided in two parts. First, he redefines the terms by using an analogy and philosophy. Then, he puts in perspective the "barbarian" behaviour by comparing the "other" and the western society. After, he determines the differences between the two. The comparison is an important method in anthropology, but in his text Montaigne goes further than just comparing the two. He questions his own reason and the popular ideology of its time, the Eurocentric thinking. Yet, he does not excuse the fact that those Brazilians were cannibals, but he thinks about it their rationality and uses logic to understand them. Although, he…show more content…
He agrees on the fact that “barbarians” are closer to Nature in their state of being, but he does not see that as a negative thing. Contrariwise, being closer to nature is more pure. For philosophers as Socrates and Plato, the closer to the nature you are, the less corrupt you are. In that sense, the Brazilian cannibals are purer than any western person corrupted with needs or power. Montaigne uses a fruit analogy to prove his point. Then, a wild fruit is better than one grown with the intervention of a man. Thus, “We have bastardized” the other (p.83), we, as western society, have corrupted the natural state of the man by our pleasures and our needs. So, there is no reason behind the negative meaning of the term…show more content…
Considering, testimonies, written and orals, he shows that the “barbarians” have reason; it is just not the same than the western one. First, he compares the treatment of the war prisoners. The Brazilian cannibals ate the dead bodies of their defeated enemy as a kind of revenge. However, for the time that they are alive they are well treated. On the other side, the Portuguese’s prisoners were tortured is diverse ways. Montaigne argues that, what the Portuguese inflicted to their captives was worst and more barbarian than eating a dead body that was well treated while alive. Plus, according to the Stoic philosophy of Zeno and Chrysippus a dead corps may be used if needed. In that sense, eating someone to completely defeat him is not more barbarous than dissected one to understand how the body works. Another comparison is done, this time, between the marriage of the cannibals and the one of the western society. The Brazilians had more than one wife. Therefore, based on songs and testimonies, Montaigne concludes they were better treated than a single western wife. So, based on comparison and on philosophy, he argues that the behaviour of the Brazilian’s cannibals is not as “barbarian” that the western perceived

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