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Charron 1707 [1601] Of Wisdom, Book I, transl. George Stanhope (London: R.

Bonwick and others) [Google digitized books]

"That thing which makes men slaves upon constraint, is avarice; and that which
makes men choose to be slaves, is cowardice, and base degeneracy of spirit; for lords
made men slaves, because, when they had them in their power and possession, there
was more profit to be got by keeping, than there could be by killing them" (Charron
1707 [1601] ch.28, p.439)

On sovereignty and princes (who Charron thinks are in greater need than others of
virtue or excellence, given that they have the same faculties as others, and possibly
greater vices, and also exceed others in misery): "There is honour in abundance, but
very little joy or ease; it is a public and an honourable servitude, an illustrious misery,
a wealthy captivity. The chains of gold, but still they are chains" (Charron 1707
[1601] ch.28, p.449); Princes “are too much exposed to public view, move openly and
in check, and are perpetually watched, controlled, and censured, even to their very
thoughts …” (Charron 1707 [1601] ch.28, p.450); in addition, "they are perfectly
imprisoned within their own country, and generally cooped up within the precincts of
their court; and there they are hedged in, as it were, with their own creatures; exposed
to the view of spectators, and the censure of impertinent tattlers and busy-bodies, that
watch and dog them everywhere …” (Charron 1707 [1601] ch.28, p.453); Princes are
also "less masters of their own wills, than any other persons", because "The greater
any man’s station and capacity is, the less he is at his own disposal" (Charron 1707
[1601] ch.28, p.456-7)

Moreover, Charron quotes a ‘wise man’ to the effect that "the children of princes were
in a very ill way of education, for they learnt nothing as they should do, except the Art
of Riding a Manag’d Horse", and thus only because horses do not flatter and defer to
them (Charron 1707 [1601] ch.28, p.453)

Because things are often too easy for and yielding to Princes, "this takes away [from
them] all that relish and pleasing sharpness, which is necessary to render a thing
delightful; and nothing is, or can be so to us, which has no mixture or difficulty to
recommend and heighten it" (Charron 1707 [1601] ch.28, p.450)

Perceives a “correspondence and similitude” between the outward appearance of the


body and the inner qualities of the soul (Charron 1707 [1601]: p.39)

The common people are said to esteem memory above imagination and
understanding, and hence one with a great memory is reputed to be a great scholar;
and Charron considers this belief to be at the base of "improper Methods of Teaching
Children …; it being the Custom of Country-Schools almost every where, to follow
them close with Tasks to be got by Heart, (as they call it) that so they may be able to
repeat, and quote Things readily out of Books. Thus they stuff their Memories full,
and load them with the Riches of other Men, without taking any care to awaken and
whet the Understanding; to form or to refine the Judgment: Which, after all, is the
most [p.120] necessary Part of Instruction, to show them the true Worth of their
Natural Faculties, to draw out the Stores and Abilities of their own Mind, and by the
Exercise and Improvement of their Home-Growth, to render them considerate, and
wise, and qualify’d for all manner of Business" (Charron 1707 [1601]: 120) and
Charron ridicules those whose memories are “stuff’d full of other Men's Knowledge,
but none at all of their Own" as mere scholars and pedants (Charron 1707 [1601]:
359-60)

criticises Aristotle’s view of the mind as a blank slate or white paper (Charron 1707
[1601]: 123ff)

"it is out of a Man's power to enter deep, and search Things to the Bottom, and … in
many (in most Cases indeed) all the Knowledge we can have is merely superficial,
and goes no further than just the Shell, and Out-side of Things", and it is a mark of
good judgement "for a Man to see, and to acknowledge his own Ignorance and
Personal Defects; to pretend to no more than he really has, and is" (Charron 1707
[1601]: 135)

Despite the fact that it is in our nature to desire and search for truth, "Absolute
Certainty is not a Prize allotted to us; nor does it condescend to be taken, and
possessed by any the most assiduous Humane Soul. Truth lodges in the Bosom of
God; there is its Retreat and proper Apartment; Men understand not any thing in its
utmost Perfection; We know in part, and here we see through a Glass darkly, says the
Fountain of all Truth" (Charron 1707 [1601]: 142, emphasis in the original)

“fools are more than half the world in every age” (Charron 1707 [1601]: 378)

repeats Pliny etc. (Charron 1707 [1601]: 380-1)

compares peoples according to climate, humours, etc. (Charron 1707 [1601]: 386-95)

on power and subjection; commanding and obeying; monarchy, aristocracy and


democracy, etc. (Charron 1707 [1601]: 402ff)

advocates chastising the common people (defined narrowly as those who not only do
not share in the government and must only obey but are also ‘the dregs and rubbish of
the common wealth’): "They cannot endure the Rein when gently manag’d; nor be
content to enjoy a reasonable Liberty …. [ and] always bring Matters to this Issue,
that if you do not make Them stand in awe of You, they will make You stand in awe
of Them. When once you have humbled and terrify’d them soundly, you may give
them a Bit and a Knock, put out their Eyes, trample upon their Necks; nothing is so
reproachful, but they will bear it. But if you do not show them the Rod, and make
them sensible who is their Driver, they grow proud, and daring, and turbulent"
(Charron 1707 [1601]: 472)

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