Essays By Montaigne Summary

My defects are therein to be read to the life, and any imperfections are my natural form, so far as public reverence hath permitted me. Michel de Montaigne If the world find fault that I speak too much of myself, I find fault that they do not so much as think of themselves.

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Such is the case with the selections here, “Of Friendship” and “That To Study Philosophy Is To Learn How To Die.” Rather than a systematic “argument,” we encounter a dialogue, a discussion.

In the spirit of essayer, we can attempt to answer this first question: what are these essays doing together in this Mouse book? Montaigne posits friendship as possibly the highest human good, a spiritual endeavor.

This spiritual practice is available to everyone (an update of Montaigne’s attitude).

Where, then, do you experience true friendship in your life?

Montaigne subscribes to a radically different definition of “essay,” one especially suited for writing.

The French word essayer means “to try, to attempt, to test.” An essay, in Montaigne’s conception, is a trial, a test-drive of an idea, a throwing of noodles against the wall.

We still want to think of life in terms of knowable systems, within which an individual life, and even the life of our species, is a random manifestation of measurable forces.

We came about randomly; we will pass on randomly (and the world will be better off for it). Where do we find friends amid all our “connections”? Is female friendship different from male friendship? For Montaigne, friendship is a spiritual practice rooted in divulgence and sharing.

“The sense I have,” he writes of friendship, “surpasses even the precepts of philosophy.” Friendship can not be thought into, only experienced.

It is rooted in divulgence, communication, dialogue.


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