- Essays (Montaigne)
"Essays" is the title of a book written by
Michel de Montaignethat was first published in 1580. Montaigne essentially invented the literary form of essay, a short subjective treatment of a given topic, of which the book contains a large number. "Essai" is French for "trial" or "attempt".
Montaigne wrote in a kind of crafted rhetoric designed to intrigue and involve the reader, sometimes appearing to move in a stream-of-thought from topic to topic and at other times employing a structured style which gives more emphasis to the didactic nature of his work. His arguments are often supported with quotes from classical Greek and Roman texts.
Montaigne's stated goal in his book is to describe man, and especially himself, with utter frankness. He finds the great variety and volatility of human nature to be its most basic features. A typical quote is "I have never seen a greater monster or miracle than myself." He describes his own poor memory, his ability to solve problems and mediate conflicts without truly getting emotionally involved, his disgust for man's pursuit of lasting fame, and his attempts to detach himself from worldly things to prepare for death.
Montaigne is disgusted with the violent and, in his opinion, barbaric conflicts between
Catholics and Protestants of his time, and his writings show a pessimismand skepticismquite uncharacteristic for the Renaissance.
Overall, Montaigne was a strong supporter of
humanism. He believed in Godbut declined to speculate about His nature.
He exhibited a quite modern
cultural relativism, recognizing that laws, morals and religions of the various cultures, while often quite different, may all be equally valid. He opposed the conquest of the New World, deploring the suffering it brought upon the natives.
Citing the case of
Martin Guerreas an example, he believes that humans cannot attain certainty, and he rejects general and absolute statements and all dogma. His skepticism is best expressed in the long essay "An Apology for Raymond Sebond" (Book 2, Chapter 12) which has frequently been published separately. We cannot trust our reasoning because thoughts just occur to us: we don't truly control them. We do not have good reasons to consider ourselves superior to the animals. He is highly skeptical of confessions obtained under torture, pointing out that such confessions can be made up by the suspect just to escape the torture he is subjected to (the first known use of this argument against torture). In the middle of the section normally entitled "Man's Knowledge Cannot Make Him Good," he wrote that his motto was "What do I know?". The essay on Sebond ostensibly defended Christianity. However, Montaigne eloquently employed many references and quotes from classical Greek and Roman, i.e. non-Christian authors, especially the atomist Lucretius.
marriagenecessary for the raising of children, but disliked the strong feelings of romantic loveas being detrimental to freedom. One of his quotations is "Marriage is like a cage; one sees the birds outside desperate to get in, and those inside desperate to get out."
In education, he favored concrete examples and experience over the teaching of abstract knowledge that is expected to be accepted uncritically.
The remarkable modernity of thought apparent in Montaigne's essays, coupled with their sustained popularity, made them arguably the most prominent work in French philosophy until the Enlightenment. Their influence over French education and culture is still strong. The official portrait of former French president
François Mitterrandpictured him facing the camera, holding an open copy of the Essays in his hands.
Montaigne heavily edited "Essays" at various points in his life. Sometimes he would insert just one word, while at other times he would insert whole passages. Many editions mark this with letters as follows:
* A: passages written 1571-1580, published 1580
* B: passages written 1580-1588, published 1588
* C: passages written 1588-1592, published 1595 (posthumously) [Montaigne, Michel de. "The Complete Essays". Trans. M. A. Screech. London: Penguin, 2003 (1987), p. 1284] , ["Les Essais" (1595 text), Jean Céard, Denis Bjaï, Bénédicte Boudou, Isabelle Pantin, Hachette, Pochothèque, 2001, Livre de Poche, 2002.] Analysis of the differences and additions between editions shows how Montaigne's thoughts evolved over time. Not unremarkably, he does not seem to remove previous writings, even when they conflict with his newer views.
Charles Cottontranslation of some of Montaigne's essays:
** [http://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/webbin/gutbook/lookup?num=3600 plain text version] by
** [http://etext.library.adelaide.edu.au/m/m76e/ HTML version] at the University of Adelaide
** [http://oregonstate.edu/instruct/phl302/texts/montaigne/m-essays_contents.html searchable HTML version] at Oregon State University
*The complete, searchable text of the [http://www.lib.uchicago.edu/efts/ARTFL/projects/montaigne/ Villey-Saulnier edition] from the ARFTL project at the University of Chicago (French)
* [http://darkwing.uoregon.edu/~rbear/montaigne/ English translation by John Florio (1553-1625), First published in 1603]
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Essays (disambiguation) — Essays are short pieces of writing from an author s personal point of view.Essays may refer to:* Essays (Montaigne), a book written by Michel de Montaigne * , a book written by V. S. Naipaulee also* Essay (disambiguation) … Wikipedia
Montaigne, Michel de — ▪ French writer and philosopher Introduction in full Michel Eyquem de Montaigne born Feb. 28, 1533, Château de Montaigne, near Bordeaux, France died Sept. 23, 1592, Château de Montaigne French writer whose Essais (Essays) established a new… … Universalium
MONTAIGNE, Michel Eyquem de — (1533 1592) Michel Eyquem de Montaigne is famous for his essays, a genre of writing he largely originated, and for the honest, frank observations found within these essays. Montaigne also served as the mayor of Bordeaux and was friends with Henri … Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary
Montaigne — auf einem zeitgenössischen Gemälde Michel Eyquem de Montaigne (* 28. Februar 1533 auf Schloss Montaigne in der Dordogne; † 13. September 1592 ebenda) war Politiker, Philosoph und Begründer der Essayistik … Deutsch Wikipedia
Montaigne — [mɔ̃ tɛɲ], Michel Eyquem de [ɛ kɛm ], französischer Schriftsteller und Philosoph, * Schloss Montaigne (heute zu Saint Michel de Montaigne, Département Dordogne) 28. 2. 1533, ✝ ebenda 13. 9. 1592; erhielt eine humanistische Schulbildung,… … Universal-Lexikon
Montaigne und die Moralistik — 1580 erschien die erste, zweibändige Ausgabe der »Essais« des Landedelmanns Michel de Montaigne in Bordeaux bei Simon Millanges; 1588 folgte die ergänzte und um einen dritten Band bereicherte bei Abel l Angelier in Paris, der auch die postume… … Universal-Lexikon
Montaigne, Michel de — (1533 1592) French moral philoso pher and author, commonly regarded as the inventor of the personal essay as a literary genre. His father was a wealthy lawyer who had risen to the minor nobility. The father was himself attracted to classi cal… … Historical Dictionary of Renaissance
Montaigne, Michel de — (1533–92) Philosopher. Montaigne was born into a noble French Périgord family. He was educated in Bordeaux and he studied law in Toulouse. By 1571 he had retired from public life and it was in this period that he wrote the majority of his… … Who’s Who in Christianity
Montaigne, Michel Eyquem de — (1533–1592) French essayist. The father figure of scepticism in France and modern Europe, Montaigne was born near Bordeaux. He followed a sporadic career in public life before retiring in 1571, although he continued to play a role in politics on… … Philosophy dictionary
MONTAIGNE, MICHEL DE — a sceptico speculative thinker and moralist, born in the Château of Montaigne, Périgord; an easy going mortal, but a keen observer of the ways and manners of other people, which some experience in travel gave him opportunities to do, as well… … The Nuttall Encyclopaedia