December 12, 2005
In regards to Montaigne's statement on page 23 in Apology for Raymond Sebond, I would deduce that he was using the metaphor of nature and natural tendencies in opposition to man's vain, self-seeking façade that displaces God the creator. Montaigne's statement appears to (on the surface at least) value mans naturalistic tendencies and graces in a much better light than our own vain-striving presumptions that claim that our "competent utterances" hold the very answers to the "right" way in which to conduct oneself. Montaigne constantly uses the contrast of animals and humans with the former representing a more pure, natural existence that I assume is to be more highly regarded because of it's proximity to the "original" way in which we were created by God. I think that Montaigne held in contempt his contemporaries and particular predecessors who he felt held themselves up above others and flaunted their intelligence and self-importance for all others to see.
In response to Montaigne's statement that posited the superiority of human nature over the practice of "owing our competence to our own powers", I believe that Augustine would firmly disagree and claim that in order for humans to truly come into communion with their creator, that they would need to transcend their natural urges and inclinations by way of prayer, confession, and piety. In his Confessions, Augustine spoke of a drunkard who, through the procurement of a few begged coins, had seemingly obtained happiness (although, admittedly, it was not true happiness) due to the dulling of his senses and thus finding a temporary escape in his cognitive awareness and regressing to more of his natural or animal state. Augustine later commented that he on more than one occasion felt like the drunkard in search of temporal happiness, but knew that the way was not to be gained by regressing or dulling ones intelligence and intellect...