Friday, February 17, 2012

The Essay in Religion

The nature  of the essay...... this brief rumination goes for all essays - but also expresses a view shared by all religious people:  that perfection is an attribute of God, not humanity....


Charles-Louis de Secondat, baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu, known more commonly and simply as 'Montesquieu'  invented the essay. 

Here is what he invented - and what is still the core of an essay:

He thought about things ... usually the nature of humanity, human society, ideas, etc. ... then sat and wrote his ideas down.... then he might walk his dogs and think some more, rush home and change a paragraph or sentence because he had thought more... or he might read something written by someone else which would cause him to change his mind on a point, and go back and revise his essay.....

The word 'essay' comes from the French 'essai', meaning 'a try, or an attempt' .... that is, unlike science, or mathematics, or engineering, or auto mechanics, an essay in the Humanities, that is that branch of human thinking about humanity, is never complete - because you will always be learning new things, thinking more deeply, encountering other ideas from other people that cause you to change your mind..... 

In our case, of course, we have deadlines - so, your essay will be the state of the art of your thinking at the moment you finish it and hand it in.... but I do not expect perfection, only a good 'attempt'


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