MICHEL DE MONTAIGNE
Michel Eyquem de Montaigne (1533-1592), a descendant of Aragonese Jewish-converted and of a wealthy family of Gascony, was born in the Montaignes’ castle near Bordeaux, but was soon sent to live with farmers to become aware of poverty. It was his father, the mayor of that town, who wanted it, and who gave the little Michel a liberal and humanist education. He learnt music, Latin, Greek and German even before knowing his own language, French. After studying at the prestigious Collège de Guyenne, he attended university and graduated in Law.
For twelve years, he was the city’s judge, although his intellectual work as a philosopher, moralist writer and politic would make him become an important figure of the French culture. Thus, at age 38, he retired to his castle to develop humanistic thesis on the role of human beings in this world. He did so through a new genre of his own creation: the essay.
From the main references to classics like Socrates, Seneca, Plutarch and Virgil, he delves into the knowledge, culture, science and religion in his ‘The Essays’ -he actually criticizes dependency, inconstancy, violence, bigotry. He shows an interest to the so-called cultural relativism, and recognizes the value of different laws and dogmas. Considered an skeptic, he believes that uncertainty is the center of life, and nothing can be taken as absolute.
His writings, in books like the aforementioned ‘The Essays’, ‘On Friendship’, ‘Master of Life’ or ‘On Experience’ contain quotes worth pondering:
Consciousness makes us discover, denounce or accuse ourselves, and out of a lack of witnesses it often testify against us.
The most certain sign of wisdom is a constant serenity.
He who does not live in any way for others, does not live for himself.
Although I could become fearful, I’d rather become friendly.
I reject all violence in the education of a tender soul who is trained to bring honour and freedom.
The clearest proof of wisdom is a continual cheerfulness.
Wrinkles in our spirit make us older than the face’s.
Even being on the highest throne, one always sits on their own backside.
A hundred times a day we would mock our own shortcomings by censuring others’.
Nothing makes me more fearful than fear.
As the outward man is destroyed, the inward man is renewed.
Desert is to live without friends. Friendship multiplies good and divides evil, it is the only remedy against adversity, and an outpouring of the soul.
No win for anyone, while not ending the war.
I’d rather be praised less as long as I learn more.
A wise man who is among my favorites and whom I invite you to know better.
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