Sunday, April 4, 2010

Michel de Montaigne

Michel Eyquem de Montaigne (1533 – 1592) was a French renaissance scholar who is famous for his "Essays", a series of short topical works which are partially autobiographical. In these essays, Montaigne talks openly about good and evil, education, customs. religion and other subjects from his own point of view.

What sets Montaigne apart is his great skepticism, suspended judgment and tolerance. He asks us not to accept ideas, laws and beliefs without careful investigation and justification. Montaigne provides examples from his own life and experience, and frequently quotes authors from antiquity (Plutarch, Livy, Cicero, Seneca) to support his case. Being a proponent for skepticism, Montaigne even tells the reader to doubt him. His often used and most well-known quote is, "What do I know?"

I found Montaigne essays easy to digest, entertaining and surprisingly applicable to contemporary life.

Some quotes that I enjoyed:

"Obsession is the wellspring of genius and madness."

"Life in itself is neither good nor evil, it is the place of good and evil, according to what you make it. "

"To forbid us anything is to make us have a mind for it. "

"Not being able to govern events, I govern myself."

"Nothing is so firmly believed as that which least is known."

"When I play with my cat, how do I know that she is not passing time with me rather than I with her?"

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