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Monday, October 8, 2018

Michel de Montaigne and the human condition


Photo source: Wikimedia Commons


Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) was a French philosopher best known for his analysis of human nature. Writer William Carew Hazlitt said,


"[Montaigne] was, without being aware of it, the leader of a new school in letters and morals. His book was different from all others which were at the date in the world. It diverted the ancient currents of thought into new channels. It told its readers, with unexampled frankness, what its writer's opinion was about men and things, and threw what must have been a strange kind of new light on many matters but darkly understood." (


Philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty said,


"Montaigne [puts] not self-satisfied understanding but a consciousness astonished at itself at the core of human existence." (Signs, 1964)


The rest of this post is some quotes from Montaigne.




"There is no man so good that if he placed all his actions and thoughts under the scrutiny of the laws, he would not deserve hanging ten times in his life." (Essais, 1580)


"I will follow the good side right to the fire, but not into it if I can help it." (Essais, 1580)


"My life has been full of terrible misfortunes most of which never happened." (Essais, 1580)


"The thing I fear most is fear." (Essais, 1580)




"It is a thorny undertaking, and more so than it seems, to follow a movement so wandering as that of our mind, to penetrate the opaque depths of its innermost folds, to pick out and immobilize the innumerable flutterings that agitate it." (Essais, 1580)


"I have seen no more evident monstrosity and miracle in the world than myself." (Essais, 1580)


"The greatest thing in the world is to know how to belong to oneself." (Essais, 1580)


"Not being able to govern events, I govern myself." (Essais, 1580)




"I do not speak the minds of others except to speak my own mind better." (Essais, 1580)


"It is more of a job to interpret the interpretations than to interpret the things, and there are more books about books than about any other subject: we do nothing but write glosses about each other." (Essais, 1580)


"Since I would rather make of him an able man than a learned man, I would also urge that care be taken to choose a guide with a well-made rather than well-filled head." (Essais, 1580)