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Michel de Montaigne ("Of Cannibals")

Swift satirically suggests eating babies in order to reduce the population. The bureaucratic attitude of the writer also reflects the modern era's tendency to deal with problems in an abstract way, so that the horrible suffering which would accompany Swift's "modest proposal" is not taken into serious consideration. Man's inhumanity to man, then and now, is emphasized in such a bureaucratic, "logical" solution to the problem of overpopulation.

In "Of Cannibals," Montaigne, not writing satirically one fears, analyzes life and death in a society of cannibals and concludes that these human-eating fellows are not evil entities with no sense of their own or others' humanity, but instead are people who should be seen as examples of the purest form of society. Montaigne compares his own society with that of the cannibals, and finds his own wanting in that comparison. He sets aside their cannibalism, as well as the fact that they first murder their meal-to-be with swords, and finds that no modern human could ever hope to live up to their high standards of behavior: "The very words that signify lying, treachery, dissimulation, avarice, envy, belittling, pardon--unheard of. How far from this perfection would [Plato] find the republic that he imagined" (Montaigne 153).

With such a claim, assuming that Montaigne is writing seriously and sincerely, and not ironically as Swift writes, Mo


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Michel de Montaigne ("Of Cannibals"). (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 03:40, October 26, 2014, from
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