Summaries of Events
The following are brief summaries of some of the events run by Macclesfield Lit & Phil during the 2017 to 2018 season.
Stephen Leach: Montaigne and the Meaning of Life
This was a slow-paced meditative talk, suitable to the gravity of the question. Montaigne was a contemporary of Shakespeare. A recent Life by Phillippe Desan is good. One can visit Montaigne's chateau, and the tower where he wrote.
Stephen pointed out that the question "What is the meaning of life?" was dismissed by twentieth century philosophers. And it seems humorous to us (he observed that we tittered). Should we expect a straightforward answer? No.
Stephen offered Montaigne's likely answer—"Work it out for yourself"—early on in his talk. But his essays occupy 3000 pages, is that all? Montaigne advised thinking for yourself, and use your own resources, advice he followed in word and deed.
Montaigne invented the essay form, he called his work Essais, or Attempts. He started by commenting on the past philosophers, but the work became his independent thought more and more. He returned to topics, and did not rewrite the work, but added to it. He turns from stoicism to scepticism, does not remove the stoic thoughts but just adds his scepticism.
His thought ranges very widely, he is very conversational and readable. He points out for example that security is boring, we want adventure.
There was a thoughtful set of questions after Stephen's talk, people were keen to make sense of Montaigne's answers and the usefulness of the question and the advice.
Jon Whiteley: Oxford and the Pre-Raphaelites
We had a great talk from Jon Whiteley in October. Jon spoke in a very easy to follow style with images of paintings, some more, some less familiar. We learned about the beginnings of the Pre-Raphaelite movement, which most of us knew little about. The early Pre-Raphaelites were focussed on a new realistic style, with a lot of impact, and offering a strong religious message in line with the Tractarians. This was a fascinating presentation of a little-known part of art history.