The insight into human nature provided by his essays, for which they are so widely read, is merely a by-product of his introspection. Though the implications of his essays were profound and far-reaching, he did not intend, nor suspect his work to garner much attention outside of his inner circle,  prefacing his essays with, "I am myself the matter of this book; you would be unreasonable to suspend your leisure on so frivolous and vain a subject. Montaigne wrote at a time preceded by Catholic and Protestant ideological tension. Christianity in the 15th and 16th centuries saw protestant authors consistently attempting to subvert Church doctrine with their own reason and scholarship. Consequently, Catholic scholars embraced skepticism as a means to discredit all reason and scholarship and accept Church doctrine through faith alone. He reasoned that while man is finite, truth is infinite; thus, human capacity is naturally inhibited in grasping reality in its fullness or with certainty.
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Shelves: essays , philosophy , folio-society , favourites Clive James says somewhere that certain people throughout history are like ambassadors from the present stationed in the past: though separated from us by centuries, to read them is to share in thoughts and feelings that we recognise intimately as our own. And this is what Montaigne has been for me since I started reading him several years ago. He is the first person in history who strikes me as modern or at least, the first to put that modern sense of uncertainty and existential nerviness down Clive James says somewhere that certain people throughout history are like ambassadors from the present stationed in the past: though separated from us by centuries, to read them is to share in thoughts and feelings that we recognise intimately as our own.
He is the first person in history who strikes me as modern — or at least, the first to put that modern sense of uncertainty and existential nerviness down on paper, to write something that is not didactic or improving or even purely entertaining, but animated instead by curiosity, doubt, overeducated boredom, trivial irritations. Les fantasies de la musique sont conduictes par art, les miennes par sort.
To write bookes without learning is it not to make a wall without stone or such like thing? Conceits of musicke are directed by arte, mine by hap. The range of topics addressed by Montaigne is gloriously all-encompassing: stick a pin in the nearest encyclopaedia and he will have something to say on whatever subject has been thus perforated.
I loved reading his thoughts on religion, which are incredibly undogmatic and open-minded given the context of sixteenth-century Europe. In Book II, chapter 12 — one of the longest essays and often printed separately — he ostensibly sets out to defend Christianity, but in his clear-sighted assessment of the arguments against religion he articulates intelligent agnosticism better than many atheists.
Following his mind through these arguments is quite a thrill. He also comments on current events, of all kinds. After France adopts the Gregorian calendar in December , he takes the time to write irritably on the missing eleven days a circumstance which leads him, via a typically Montanian series of tangents, to end up discussing the merits of sex with the disabled. And his thoughts on the Spanish conquest of the Americas — the full details of which were still then emerging — make for a welcome reminder that not everyone at the time was gung-ho about the excesses of the colonial project.
Who ever raised the service of marchandize and benefit of traffick to so high a rate? So many goodly citties ransacked and raged; so many nations destroyed and made desolate; so infinite millions of harmelesse people of all sexes, states and ages, massacred, ravaged and put to the sword; and the richest, the fairest and the best part of the world topsiturvied, ruined and defaced for the traffick of Pearles and Pepper.
Oh mechanicall victories, oh base conquest. Never did greedy revenge, publik wrongs or generall enmities, so moodily enrage and so passionately incense men against men, unto so horrible hostilities, bloody dissipation, and miserable calamities. On gender relations he offers an intriguing mix of traditionalism and forward-thinking. He makes frequent off-hand remarks about the place of women which seem to suggest that he is pretty representative of his time — commenting, for instance, that if women want to read they should confine themselves to theology and a little poetry — but then at other times he can be amazingly progressive.
Women are not altogether in the wrong, when they refuse the rules of life prescribed to the World, forsomuch as onely men have established them without their consent. Many were the times that I turned to the Middle French to illuminate what seemed an obscure passage in my native language. Take another look at the very end of that quote on the conquest of Mexico, above.
Pour le destruire, on cerche un champ spacieux en pleine lumiere; pour le construire, on se musse dans un creux tenebreux et contraint.
Shelves: literature-fiction , non-fiction Ive read a handful from the Donald Frame translation but prefer Screech. If anyone can be placed on a plane with Shakespeare for me, it is Montaigne. This selection includes some of the big ones, such as On some lines of Virgil, On experience, On education, On fear, and so on to the tune of superlative pages. The Complete Essays is the true gem, but I bought that for the apartment; this one is for the train.
Denemeler / Montaigne (Ciltsiz)