The Essays

The Essays

by Michel de Montaigne

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Living at a time of religious strife and the decline of the intellectual optimism that had begun in the Renaissance, Michel Eyquem de Montaigne (1533-1592) expressed in his writings both a deep skepticism about human affairs and a wide-ranging intellectual curiosity reflective of the age. His was not a systematic philosophy; rather, he wrote pieces that were attempts at knowledge-essays in understanding, or essais, as he called them in French. He thus inaugurated a new literary genre that proved to be very influential.

Despite his skepticism, Montaigne realized that the intellectual horizon of his day was full of exciting new developments. His essays reflect many interests, plus a refreshing honesty about the frailties of human nature. Montaigne writes about vanity, the value of friendship, "That to Study Philosophy Is to Learn to Die," and a host of other topics.

Filled with insights and keen observations that have inspired later writers as diverse as William Shakespeare, Francis Bacon, Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Gustave Flaubert, Virginia Woolf, and Roland Barthes, the Essays of Montaigne should be on the essential reading list of every student, scholar, and book lover.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9788893453882
Publisher: Passerino
Publication date: 10/16/2017
Sold by: StreetLib SRL
Format: NOOK Book
Sales rank: 375,312
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Born on February 28, 1533, in Château de Montaigne (near Bordeaux,France), the sixteenth-century French writer MICHEL EYQUEM DE MONTAIGNE perfected the art of the essay, a short written piece that conveys the author’s thoughts on a particular subject. His influence on many writers radiates across the centuries, from Voltaire to Virginia Woolf.

Montaigne, the son of a prominent Catholic landowner and a Spanish-Jewish mother, spent his childhood speaking nothing but Latin until age six. For seven years he studied at the Collège de Guyenne in Bordeaux before embarking on a career in law. He married Françoise de la Chassaigne in 1565 and had one daughter. While serving as councillor of the Bordeaux Parliament, Montaigne met lawyer Étienne de La Boétie, with whom he formed an extremely close friendship. Some scholars have speculated that La Boétie’s death in 1563 led Montaigne to shun close relationships and focus instead on his writing career.

During the Renaissance, Europeans leaped forward while looking back. Their revived interest in the Greek and Roman culture and literary works flourished alongside the growth of scientific discovery. This expansion of knowledge widened Europeans’ horizons, and they began to question the relevance of long-held beliefs. Scientific advances provided skeptics with the arsenal they needed to dismantle medieval thought and replace it with a more modern outlook.

Montaigne, the first to use the term essai to describe his particular type of literary endeavor, tried to discover the nature of humankind by exploring himself. He covers a wide variety of subjects in a straightforward style and in a sincere yet skeptical voice, supporting many of his arguments with quotations from Roman and Greek literature. Montaigne’s topics range from the mundane, such as how to converse properly, to the sublime. “An Apology for Raymond Sebond” revolves around Montaigne’s skeptical view of human knowledge, an outlook uncharacteristic of most Renaissance thought and embodied by his motto, “Que sais-je?” (“What do I know?”). Refusing to accept the validity of any absolute statement, Montaigne writes that humans are unable to attain certainty about anything. He sees little, if any, difference between humans beings and animals.

Although Montaigne advocated humanism, he also strongly believed in fideism, or the skeptical technique that relies on faith rather than reason in probing religious truths. Montaigne deplored the way in which Europeans treated the native peoples they conquered, and he supported the view that each culture has its own inherent value, contrary to the prevailing notion of cultural superiority. His essays covered many other subjects, including the necessity of marriage, how to raise children, and the value of experience over abstract theory in education.

In 1581, while in Italy, Montaigne was elected the mayor ofBordeaux, a position that he held for four years. He died in his childhood home on September 13, 1592. Quoted by William Shakespeare and imitated by Francis Bacon, Michel de Montaigne has had an immeasurable influence that is readily demonstrated by René Descartes, who expanded upon Montaigne’s thoughts to reach his now-famous conclusion that “I think; therefore, I am.”

Table of Contents

Of His Task and Theme11
Of Pedantism19
Of the Institution and Education of Children; to the Lady Diana of Foix, Countess of Gurson35
It is Folly to Refer Truth or Falsehood to our Sufficiency85
Of Friendship91
Of Solitariness109
Of the Inequality That is Between Us125
Of the Inconstancy of Our Actions137
Of Drunkenness147
Of Books159
Of Cruelty177
We Taste Nothing Purely193
Of Anger and Choler199
Of Profit and Honesty209
Of Repenting223
Of Three Commerces or Societies241
How One Ought to Govern His Will257

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Essays 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
JonahW More than 1 year ago
The page for this book says it is John M. Cohen's translation, but the NOOK edition (for which I paid $2.99) is Charles Cotton's translation.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
if you buy this publication of Montaigne's Essays you will not be disappointed: a joy to behold.
isabelx on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Montaigne comes across as a tolerant man, interested in a huge range of subjects, from cruelty, education and friendship to cannibals and the custom of wearing clothes, but he always comes back to the necessity of knowing and understanding yourself.My favourite chapter was 'On Vehicles', in which he discussed his travel sickness (with which I can truly sympathise, being extremely prone to it myself), moving on to a discussion of why it is not a good idea for princes to be too liberal with their subjects' money, the extravagances of the Roman circuses and the barbaric behaviour of the Spanish conquistadors in the Americas, before returning to the subject of vehicles.Now I cannot stand for long - and found it even more difficult to stand in my youth - either a coach, a litter, or a boat, and I detest every means of travel except a horse, either in the town or country.
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