Montesquieu and Social Theory by John Alan Baum (Auth.)

By John Alan Baum (Auth.)

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Sample text

Man here was free and rational, herein lay the key to man's re-emancipation from the dogmatic traditions of thought which had grown up in European society. It was man's duty to study such societies said Bergeron, to discover his lost innocence. He stresses, for example, the cult of deism. Madagascar was portrayed as a land of peace and plenty, without churches, without priests and without all forms of external religion. Formalised religion had driven a wedge between man and his true self; it existed as a form of alienation.

Indeed, if we are to accept Tornezy's word, Montesquieu took this antipathy further by originating a number of slanderous anecdotes about the poor lady that did both her reputation, and that of her salon, considerable harm (which was not entirely justified),63 a njc by leaving to posterity some lettres which slandered the patroness by referring to her a s : "une femmelette accariStre et m6chante". and a s : "la harengere du beau monde-la dame de charite de la ^ Q u o t e d in Glotz and Maire o p .

The Anti-Philosopher*, Famllle op. , du XVIllleme Slide. "55 At the salon meetings, Montesquieu was able to achieve this spontaneity and charming sense of humour, which was evident in his LettACA VeAAanCA but seemed to have disappeared from his writings in these years. Though not a great conversationalist, he chose his words carefully and was always eloquent and entertaining. In some ways, it was this Candide-like view of life which set him apart from many of his contemporaries; and which ultimately made it possible for him to break away from the shackles of old-fashioned rationalism and cartesian empiricism to develop a new, more sociological view of man and his raison d'etre.

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