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On Continuities between Skepticism and Early Ethnography; Or, Montaigne's Providential Diversity

William M. Hamlin
The Sixteenth Century Journal
Vol. 31, No. 2 (Summer, 2000), pp. 361-379
DOI: 10.2307/2671616
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2671616
Page Count: 19
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On Continuities between Skepticism and Early Ethnography; Or, Montaigne's Providential Diversity
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Abstract

Discursive continuities between early modern ethnographic reportage and philosophical skepticism are readily observable in the Essais of Montaigne, but the conjunction of these discourses is also evident, though seldom noticed, in works by many other European writers in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. This discussion explores an intriguing form of reciprocity between skepticism and early ethnography: in essence, one of the principal modes of Pyrrhonian doubt depends upon prior ethnographic inquiry, and, in turn, ethnographers and their readers are always positioned to entertain moments of skepsis. Montaigne, however, despite his adoption of a potent preliminary skepticism, ultimately reinscribes his judgmental suspension as providential intervention, thereby abandoning the skeptical trajectory even as he understands his faith as Pyrrhonian conformity.

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