[Classic] #10. Montaigne’s “Essays”

Montaigne’s “Essays” is a collection of reflections on human nature, written over 20 years. Centered on the question, “What am I?” Montaigne explores various themes such as emotions, will, education, friendship, and morality. The work expresses relativism and tolerance, laying the groundwork for scientific and democratic ideas .

1. Introduction to the Author

Michel de Montaigne, born in the Montaigne Castle in southern France, was a philosopher and writer. He received a Latin education and worked as a counselor at the Bordeaux High Court before retiring in 1571 to focus on writing. His representative work, “Essays,” is a deep reflection on human nature and laid the groundwork for subsequent scientific and democratic thought .

2. Background of the Work

Montaigne lived during the Renaissance and the Reformation. This period was characterized by the revival of classical scholarship and human-centered thought, challenging existing religious authority. Against this backdrop, Montaigne wrote “Essays” to explore humanity and nature .

3. Summary of the Work

3.1 Work Description Montaigne’s “Essays” is a collection of 107 essays written over 20 years. In this book, Montaigne explores the contradictory nature of humans, centered on the question, “What am I?” This deep reflection on humanity expresses relativism and tolerance, providing the foundation for later scientific and democratic ideas .

3.2 Key Content Summary

  1. Emotions Extend Beyond the World We are never content in the present, always worrying about the future, which clouds our perception of reality and can lead to unhappiness.
  2. Without a True Purpose, the Mind Pours Passion into False Goals Our minds constantly seek goals; without them, we easily lose ourselves.
  3. The Will Judges Actions Death frees us from all duties, but the will is the foundation of human duty. Even without the power to fulfill promises, the will frees us from obligations derived from promises.
  4. On Liars Lies are the greatest vice that undermines human trust. We must live by keeping our promises.
  5. On Fear Fear clouds our judgment and can make us abandon duty and honor. The impact of fear varies depending on one’s wealth.
  6. A Person’s Fortune Can Only Be Judged After Death Life is uncertain, and true happiness can only be assessed after one’s death.
  7. Philosophy Is Learning to Die Philosophy teaches us not to fear death, which is the foundation of all wisdom.
  8. On the Education of Children Children should acquire knowledge and develop their own ways of thinking. Physical and moral education is also crucial.
  9. On Friendship True friendship involves complete trust and openness.
  10. On Moderation Moderate behavior is a virtue, and without moderation, even good deeds lose value.
  11. On Dressing Habits The way people dress varies by culture and climate.
  12. On Names Names bring credit and fame. A good name is easy to pronounce and memorable.
  13. On the Uncertainty of Judgment Human judgment is uncertain and can change based on circumstances.
  14. On the Vanity of Language Rhetoric can distort and corrupt the essence of things, misleading judgment.
  15. On the Inconsistency of Actions Human actions are inconsistent and often contradictory.
  16. On Conscience Conscience exposes and criticizes us, leading to inner conflict.
  17. On Practice Studying oneself and evaluating oneself is crucial.
  18. On Fatherly Love Parental love is instinctive, and resources should be shared with children as they grow capable.
  19. On Pride Pride involves overvaluing oneself and undervaluing others. True humility and self-awareness are important.
  20. There Is a Time for Everything There is an appropriate time for all things, and one should prepare when young and enjoy when old.
  21. On Morality Moral actions are reflected in daily behavior, and maintaining order in daily life is important.
  22. On Anger Anger distorts judgment, and controlling it is essential.
  23. On Regret Regret denies our will and past morality. Maintaining order in life and mind is crucial.
  24. On Three Types of Relationships Interactions with people, relationships with women, and relationships with books are important.
  25. On Diversion Shifting one’s mind to other hobbies and thoughts is necessary.
  26. On the Art of Conversation Meaningful and logical conversation is essential for mental training.
  27. On Vanity Vanity leads to personal corruption and should be guarded against.
  28. On Impressions

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