Machiavelli and Xenophon

Another piece posted on The Municipal Machiavelli this week; this time a short comment about Machiavelli and Xenophon, the ancient Greek writer who Niccolo referred to in The Prince and The Discourses: ianchadwick.com/machiavelli/machiavelli-and-xenophon/ This recent post was sparked by a review of a new book on Xenophon aimed at the business-management reader: Larry Hedrick’s Xenophon’s Cyrus the Great: The Arts of Leadership and War. The review … (more–>)

Montaigne’s cat and Descartes’ reality

“When I play with my cat,” wrote French philosopher and essayist, Michel de Montaigne, “Who knows whether she is not amusing herself with me more than I with her.*” That statement encompasses two very distinct paths of contemplation. First is one of animal sentience. The recognition that animals are conscious, that they are sentient creatures, with feelings and intelligence, not simply biological machines, is fairly new. … (more–>)

Tricks of the mind

Reading involves bit of trickery. Mental trickery. It engages the imagination and fools us into thinking we are there within the book: nestled beside the author, or better yet, beside the characters. Immersed in the created world, floating through it like a ghost in a haunted house movie, or perhaps in the imagined flesh, interacting on the mental stage. We ask ourselves how we would play … (more–>)

Great books: the academic view

In the mid-1990s, journalist David Denby took on a personal challenge to return to Columbia University for a year to take two courses, both focused on reading the “great books” of the Western canon. The results and his observations – along with an entertaining bit of biography about his journey – is told in Great Books (Simon & Schuster, 1996). I was interested in Denby’s narrative … (more–>)

Inanity and vanity

Michel de Montaigne wrote in his usual self-deprecating but sardonic way: If other men would consider themselves at the rate I do, they would, as I do, discover themselves to be full of inanity and foppery; to rid myself of it, I cannot, without making myself away. We are all steeped in it, as well one as another; but they who are not aware on’t, have … (more–>)

Montaigne and Machiavelli

Michel de Montaigne mentioned Machiavelli only twice in his Essays, both in Book Two. This tells us he was aware of the latter, but not whether he was intimately familiar with his works. Nor does it tell us which of Machiavelli’s writings he is referring to (by this date, all of Machiavelli’s major works were in print). Machiavelli himself had died in 1527, some 50 or … (more–>)

Montaigne’s words on anger

“There is no passion that so shakes the clarity of our judgment as anger,” Montaigne wrote in Book II of his Essays (Chapter 31). “It is a passion that takes pleasure in itself and flatters itself.” That strikes me a very Buddhist statement, a comment lifted from the Dhammapada, although Montaigne was a solid Catholic. It certainly has a similar wisdom. I have seen that anger … (more–>)

Montaigne’s library

I read yesterday that Montaigne had a library of 1,000 books, of which he was very proud. It was his retreat – the room he went to where he wanted to get away from things and write. Machiavelli, too, had a study with a small collection of books he treasured, albeit a much smaller selection. Both, however, treasured the classic Greek and Roman authors, the wisdom … (more–>)

Finding my muse in Montaigne

Muse: a source of inspiration; especially a guiding genius; the imaginary force thought to provide inspiration to poets, writers, artists, etc. A muse, for modern writers, is that indefinable force that drives us to write. It’s part imagination, part inspiration. I suspect there’s a heady brew of psychology and biology at work, too. Why write instead of, say, paint? Or sculpt? Or compose? I don’t know. … (more–>)

Fools

Even though for all his life, A fool attends upon a wise man, He no more knows wisdom Than a spoon knows the flavours of soup. The Dhammapada, Chapter 5, verse 64

When good people do bad things in groups

The headline is taken from a piece on Science Daily on a study about how groups change personal behaviour and morality. The study is reported on the MIT website. I’ve seen that change myself, many times over the years, and most recently locally. The study adds intelligence on the neurology of how such group activity changed people. The report itself is called “Reduced self-referential neural response during intergroup … (more–>)

The ethics of politics via Aristotle

Politics, Aristotle wrote in the Nicomachean Ethics, is the “master science of the good.” The good of which he wrote is the greater good, the “highest good” that benefits the state, not the personal. For even if the good is the same for the individual and the state, the good of the state clearly is the greater and more perfect thing to attain and safeguard. the … (more–>)

Marcus Aurelius

I continue to be profoundly moved by the wisdom of the classical authors. It’s often hard to accept that some of them were writing two or more millennia ago: many seem so contemporary they could have been written this century. Of late – within the past year or so – I’ve been reading Lucretius, Aristotle, Horace, Cicero, Seneca, Pliny the Elder*… and more recently Marcus Aurelius. … (more–>)

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