Thursday, October 12, 2006

Open Letter to Andrew Sullivan

Dear Andrew,

Heard you mention Montaigne on NPR today and I have to agree with you that the guy was a great thinker, fair and good humored. I included him in a Philosophy course I taught a couple of years ago to a Continuing Ed. class (mostly senior citizens) at Queensborough Community College in Bayside, Queens, NY.

I used him as an excellent example of a man who understood why prejudices develop. I liked him so much for so many reasons but the fact that he had painted on one of the beams of his library ceiling an inscription by Terence which said: I am a man, nothing human is foreign to me.
He is credited with developing the literary form of the essay, and he quit public life (politics, smart guy!) at age 38 to devote himself to writing such essays which ran to 3 books of them before he died at age 59.

Montaigne would have been horrified at the claims we Americans make of superiority. He believed that different customs in different countries were just that - different - not better than. Montaigne noticed, too, that people never let "differences" just be... they had to comment on the differences and make negative judgments about them.

Here in America Montaigne could teach a lot of us a lesson about prejudice, differences and diversity.

Andrew, I hope you don't mind, but I'm going to post this e-mail on my blog right after I mail it to you. More people need to know about Montaigne and maybe they'll even come to read him! Wouldn't that be marvelous!

maryt (the teach)

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