Michel de Montaigne examines life using himself as the subject. The essays offer a revealing, fun, direct, and levelheaded view.
“We do not know where death awaits us: so let us wait for it everywhere.”Michel de Montaigne, the essays, book1, chapter 20
This selection of essays takes us on a philosophical journey with the occasional sides step to subjects like cannibals and coaches (the carriages). Even here, Michel de Montaigne reveals a side of the world to us that not many look at.
He is very frank and open and that is what gives this intimate voyage its profound meaning. Since he is studying himself and exposing his own revelations to us, there is no one to deny that he is not the expert and authority on this matter.
In his life, he has had many encounters with death, from most of his children at an early age, to his best friend and his father. This last one resulted in him retreating to his chateau and picking up the pen. His famous essay relating to this topic is called: To Philosophize is to learn how to die.
Throughout his writing, he shows us that philosophy is not only for the scholars but should be for the common man. He even advises us against reading Plato and gives us some tips on reading and why we should read.
Although it was written in the sixteenth century, a lot of it resonates in our current age. He displays views that are far ahead of his time. His view on the female role in society, for example, although not to where it is now, still quite different from his contemporaries. He also takes a different take on how the explorers described the people they met on their voyages to the Americas.
“For those who want to learn, the obstacle can often be the authority of those who teach.”Cicero, De natura Deorum, I, v, 10, quoted by Michel de Montaigne, The Essays, Book 1, Chapter 26
This book is as close to a view into someone else’s mind as you can get. There is no topic he shies away from. You can read not only his opinions, but also his struggles with things like the medicine of his age, sexuality, and the different aspects of family and friends.
It is one of my favorite philosophical books to read, mainly because it is well-written and easy to follow. Of course, there are some essays that I don’t find as appealing, but the others make more than up for that.
It was through this book that I learned that even I could learn about philosophy and apply it to my life. That’s what Michel de Montaigne emphasized, that it needs to be appliable and practical for everyone.
The Essays by Michel de Montaigne is one of those books that I would highly recommend people to read. Ok, it might not be the top tier of books, but still up there. The reason being is that there are some parts that are not as suitable for everyone’s liking.
“I would rather be an expert on me than on Cicero.”Michel de montaigne, the essays , Book 3, Chapter 13
That being said, it is such a lovely read and it is striking how much of it holds true even now. Michel de Montaigne gives you his mind and life, for you to learn how to make yours better. That alone deserves a recommendation.
Although it is one of my favorite books, I will only give it four out of five. That is because there are some essays that are less interesting and some of them go on a bit too long. But it is still a fascinating read and one that should be in the philosophy section on your bookshelf.
Because how can you go wrong with sentences like these:
“And on the highest throne in the world, we are seated, still, upon our arses.”Michel de montaigne, the essays, Book 3, Chapter 13