Did Montaigne intuitively know that by inviting his would-be enemy into his living room, and into the moral equivalent of his peripersonal space (or something like it), he was simultaneously invading the moral intimacy of his assailant, and was therefore in a better position to influence him, and precipitate in him a decency similar to his own?

Montaigne’s general point is clear: that we have an inbuilt propensity for sympathy and understanding, but that proximity matters. And whilst some could see this as a depressing limit on the jurisdiction of our moral sympathies, we can also see it as something on which to build. Montaigne is no political theorist, but rather a man who wishes to remind us of a fragile but significant fact: that the preservation of our moral awareness relies on the preservation of the nearness between us – something that no number of emails or tweets can ever properly replace.