Michel de Montaigne was one of the greatest Renaissance philosophers, remembered for his interesting conclusions, sarcasm, wit, overall humor, and modesty. Montaigne was responsible for inventing the essay genre, which is the form we use to express our own thoughts today, and is basically a version of free thinking. Do you need a better reason to stop and pick up some great advice from this fellow?
The topics Montaigne deals with are various, from boredom and free time, to liars and human relationships, love, education, parenthood, books, etc. We have prepared ten quotes from Montaigne’s essays that can serve as true life lessons (read all of his essays online for free). Make sure to read the whole essay collection! It will open up new perspectives and make you laugh along the way.
- About lying
It is not without good reason said that he who has not a good memory should never take upon him the trade of lying. In plain truth, lying is an accursed vice. We are not men, nor have other tie upon one another, but by our word. If we did but discover the horror and gravity of it, we should pursue it with fire and sword, and more justly than other crimes.
- About dignity and death
In the judgment I make of another man’s life, I always observe how he carried himself at his death; and the principal concern I have for my own is that I may die well—that is, patiently and tranquilly.
- About his attitude towards death
Now, of all the benefits that virtue confers upon us, the contempt of death is one of the greatest, as the means that accommodates human life with a soft and easy tranquility, and gives us a pure and pleasant taste of living, without which all other pleasure would be extinct.
- About the importance of physical education (healthy body and mind)
It is not enough to fortify his [a child’s] soul; you are also to make his sinews strong; for the soul will be oppressed if not assisted by the members, and would have too hard a task to discharge two offices alone. I know very well to my cost, how much mine groans under the burden, from being accommodated with a body so tender and indisposed, as eternally leans and presses upon her.
- About the importance of thinking for yourself
Who follows another, follows nothing, finds nothing, nay, is inquisitive after nothing.
- About teaching our children of the real world and injustice
Let him [the child] be advised, being in company, to have his eye and ear in every corner; for I find that the places of greatest honor are commonly seized upon by men that have least in them, and that the greatest fortunes are seldom accompanied with the ablest parts.
- About what a true friendship means
If a man should importune me to give a reason why I loved him [my friend], I find it could be no otherwise expressed, than by making answer: because he was he, because I was I.
- About the natural need of every human to occasionally be alone
Wives, children, and goods must be had, and especially health, by him that can get it; but we are not so to set our hearts upon them that our happiness must have its dependence upon them; we must reserve a back-shop, wholly our own and entirely free, wherein to settle our true liberty, our principal solitude and retreat. And in this we must for the most part entertain ourselves with ourselves, and so privately.
- About the other side of books and reading
Books have many charming qualities to such as know how to choose them; but every good has its ill; ‘tis a pleasure that is not pure and clean, no more than others: it has its inconveniences.
10. About the human need to cooperate in order to reach a common goal
The society of men is maintained and held together, at what price so ever; in what condition so ever they are placed, they still close and stick together, both moving and in heaps; as ill united bodies, that, shuffled together without order, find of themselves a means to unite and settle, often better than they could have been disposed by art.
The School of Life youtube channel also prepared 6-minutes video about Montaigne and his main ideas. Make sure to check it out.
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