Front Page Titles (by Subject) Montaigne and the Value of Tolerance - Literature of Liberty, July/September 1979, vol. 2, No. 3
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Montaigne and the Value of Tolerance - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, July/September 1979, vol. 2, No. 3 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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Montaigne and the Value of Tolerance
“Montaigne's Political Skepticism” Polity: The Journal of the Northeastern Political Science Association 11 (Summer 1979): 512–541.
Michel de Montaigne (1533–1592) and his philosophic successors urged the value of earthly well-being over the life-denying pretension of glory and otherworldly virtues. These attitudes are largely responsible for the prosperity and liberty we today enjoy as members of a liberal commercial society. In particular, Montaigne's genial skepticism and tolerance, as expounded in his longest essay, “Apology for Raymond Sebond” (II, 12) make him an early seminal architect of modern liberal political theory.
On the surface, Montaigne's “Apology” professes to be a defense of the rationalist Natural Theology of the fifteenth century writer Raymond Sebond. In reality, Montaigne uses his apparent subject as a cover to inculcate the spirit of tolerant and liberal skepticism. The “Apology” provides a theoretical justification for such central tenets of liberal politics as toleration and a “technologically oriented natural science.” It also critiques both conventional philosophy and religion. Man should see himself in continuity with animals in order to confirm the desirability of such tangible and earthly goods as peace, comfort, and health. But man can transcend mere beastiality through skeptical reason. In fact, nondogmatic reason is politically desirable. Traditional restraints on human barbarism (e.g. religions, moral precepts, fear of punishment) have failed; moderation, skepticism, and science will be humane substitutes for dogmatic extremism. Montaigne's epistemology—a form of moderate falsifiable empiricism—keeps human minds open and tolerant of future innovation. Such a tolerant skepticism will lead to scientific free inquiry and political tolerance.
Montaigne's tolerance for acquisitiveness, self-indulgence, and scientific progress leads to earthly peace. “Thus, each individual will be tolerant of the liberty of others … because his goals do not require that others be subordinate to him.” “The public principle of society ought to be: let each go his own way, so long as he respects the equal liberty of others.” Thus Montaigne's skeptical materialism aimed at a liberal commercial society. Montaigne and his successors—Bacon, Hobbes, and Locke—sought to place earthly happiness ahead of such self- and other-denying “virtues” as glory and salvation. Yet one problem remains and has inspired the criticism of Rousseau, Nietzsche, and Heidegger: Does Montaigne's relativism and tolerance for the free play of commercial bourgeois individuals tend toward the stability of civil liberty?