Montaigne and the Ethics of Compassion

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This study establishes that the Essais are the vehicle of a coherent ethical system whose principles generate valid and genuinely innovative ethical conclusions, expounded in the body of Montaigne’s text. It also suggests that certain features of Montaigne’s ethics have much to offer our own age.


“The implications of this argument for its chosen territories – Montaigne studies and the study of ethics – could hardly be deeper, and in my view Gauna pursues his arguments with a breadth of reference and erudition, and yet with a freshness of approach, which will find a response among a wide range of readers. The professional philosophers will surely see in it a new and original contribution to their discipline, drawing from a writer they have probably over-looked hitherto. Readers of Montaigne will meanwhile find a whole new background against which to project such stock notions as his political conservatism, his intellectual uncertainty and his moral relativism.” – John Parkin

Table of Contents

Table of Contents (main headings)
Introduction: Montaigne and Ethical Progress
1. What We Are: Ethics and Psychology; Reason, the Divine Faculty; the Place of Reason in the Psychology of Montaigne; Memory and Imagination; Will; Identity; Forme, key conclusions
2. Principles: Pain – the Pivot Point; Empathy – the Ethical Cement; Objectivity; the Nature of the Good – Eudaimonism, Ethical Motivation, and the TK Principle; Intellectual Honesty; Elements of Conscience
3. Consequences: -Torture; Animals; Treachery; Justice; Coercion of Belief; Education and the Formation of Conscience; Friendship; Marriage; Men and Women, Love and Sex; Primitivism; Equality, Republicanism, Democracy; Death, Secularity and the Spiritualization of Life
4. Montaigne’s Ethics Now: Hume’s Law and Contemporary Ethical Debate; Montaigne Revisited – Hume’s Law; Virtue Ethics, Emotion, and the Rehabilitation of the Self
Bibliography; Index

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