Kindness to fellow creatures


More Montaigne stuff… Micheu could not refuse his dog some playfulness to relieve the boredom (the dog’s). This attitude stemmed from his feelings towards living things. As a magistrate in the 16th century, he acknowledges that his abhorrence of cruelty prevented him from administering justice as it was prescribed at that time. But it is not merely the avoidance of harm that he values.

“There is a certain respect, and a general duty of humanity, that attaches us not only to animals, who have life and feeling, but even to tree and plants. We owe justice to men, and mercy and kindness to other creatures that may be capable of receiving it. There is some relationship between them and us, and some mutual obligation.”

(Quote from Sarah Bakewell’s book ‘How to Live – a life of Montaigne in one question and twenty attempts at an answer.”)

The relationship between living things is still debated in terms of our obligation towards living things, including trees. ‘Tree-hugger’ is a pejorative term – but a countryside or urban environment without trees is a frightening thought. The lungs of our cities and the shade on a summer’s day is vital.

It is less clear how the mutual obligation might function in beings without much in the way of sentience. A snake or rottweiler will not willingly acknowledge our mutual obligations, but we humans know what a moral duty is, even if we choose not to exercise it.


One thought on “Kindness to fellow creatures

  1. Ronan McNamee says:

    What an enlightened view for the time. I have always felt that there are too many,otherwise good, kind people, even today, that do not feel as though depriving an animal of anything from sufficient food or exercise to life itself.
    Particularly here, in Ireland, this is an issue. It may stem from the fact that in the recent past we were almost universally a rural, agricultural people but the level of cruelty and neglect heaped on animals that others would love as pets is extraordinary.
    If everyone thought as Michieu, the world would be a perfect place, I think.

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