“What do I know?” (Que sais-je?)
Michel Eyquem de Montaigne, Lord of Montaigne (sometime in the middle of the 16th century.)
Michel Montaigne a French aristocrat, wrote a series of essays covering many varied topics. Some were intellectual attempts to reveal the truth of his subjects whilst others were more anecdotal in their style and content. He never claimed to be an expert and is perhaps best known for his assertion – ‘What do I know?’. This was the starting point for his writing and it seems like a good way to approach the next section of the book.
The question ‘What do I know?’ is an interesting one to use. It can take on subtly different meaning depending on where we put the emphasis. What do I know, with the emphasis on the first word (or with no emphasis at all) is a general examination of the extent of my knowledge – how much do I know might be a different way of asking this. What do I know on the other hand is asking how much do I really understand of that which I am aware and to what depth. We could as easily ask how well do I know this? If we emphasise the ‘I’ in the question then we are challenging our credentials in the matter in hand. The suggestion is that there are other far better qualified than I am but here is my take anyway. Finally, we can put the emphasis on the word do and it becomes apparent I am addressing what I have established up until this point in this – what have I done so far and, perhaps, what am I prepared to ‘do’ in further exploration of the subject.
If challenged on which interpretation applied to their work, for Montaigne and for me, the answer must surely be all four. I am humble and self-aware enough to appreciate that there are many perhaps more qualified than I to write this book. But they didn’t and I have. I also get that my understanding of what I have written about is just that, it is my take on it – what I know. I am in my mid-fifties and, though I have gained some insight throughout those years, I am ready to look again. Is this enough to make this work convincing? What do I know? I will have to leave that to you, the reader.
In Part 1* I have laid out my views regarding the way in which we declare our identities. In this part I will be exploring ideas that might allow us to approach the subject, I, in a way that might prevent us from falling prey to gaslighting, narcissistic populists seeking to exploit us by establishing and then driving wedges through binary ideas of identity.
And so what follows is a series of essays in which I will attempt to suggest better ways for us to express who we are and how we construct our selves.
Part 1 is written but I have chosen at this time not to publish it. I will at some point when I am happier with what I have written, so, for now, you will have to make do with Part 2 (which is better, by the way)