Montaigne on witches and the authority of religion in the public sphere

Philosophy and Literature 33 (2):pp. 235-251 (2009)
While contemporary readers may find what appear to be appealing streaks of liberalism in Montaigne's 'Essays', I argue that a more careful analysis suggests that Montaigne's overall stance is quietistic and conservative. To help support this claim I offer a close reading of 'Essays' III.11 ("Of Cripples"), where Montaigne offers his famous critique of the witch trials of early modern Europe. Once Montaigne's objections to the witch trials are properly understood, we see that Montaigne did not seriously or consistently dispute the church's authority in political matters, though certain undeveloped seeds of liberalism do leave an unresolved tension in his writings.
Keywords French Catholicism  witches  witch trials  church and state
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