photo by Frizztext
“My library is in the third story of a tower; on the first is my chapel, on the second a bedroom with ante-chambers, where I often lie to be alone; and above it there is a great wardrobe. My library is a very neat little room, in which a fire can be laid in winter, and which is pleasantly lighted by a window…” Michel de Montaigne (1533 – 1592) wrote in his chapter “On Three Kinds of Relationships”.
Montaigne liked being retired, seeking distance to a world of bloody fights between religious groups. Did these things develop, 400 years later? Montaigne tried to escape dogmatic thoughts finding a new way of hammering out thoughts via his typical relaxed method of writing. Living 200 years earlier than the other genius of essay, the poor Soeren Kierkegaard, Montaigne was not as filled up with anxiety as the Danish philosopher – he instead managed to stay calm with a solid resource of optimism, though things outside his favorite tower often run very worse.
His courageous goal was the overcoming of the stereotyped medieval conception of the world, in which humans usually had been overwhelmed by church- or government-authorities like puppets on a string. Montaigne established the departure to individual noticing, founded an anthropocentric view of world. This probably has something fresh to his contemporary readers.
Montaigne’s program was to dip down in one’s own mind: “Everyone, who is listening to his inner landscape of thoughts, is able to discover his identity, so that he is able to repel everything, which does not fit this.” About his style of writing essayist Elias Canetti noticed: “Montaigne is most beautiful, because he does not hurry.”
Aged 17 Michel de Montaigne had ridden to Paris, to complete his humanistic education. There he had attached important relations, had operated with prostitutes notoriously and had squandered the family wealth, until the father pulled the emergency brake and called him back to Bordeaux, where he had to begin a boring job at the local court (if we can trust the speculations of the French biographer Lacouture).
Historically more safe is the knowledge about Montaigne’s political identity: France of his time had torn up, the faith splitting escalated to the “St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre” in Paris on 24 August 1572, bloody amok in many other French cities followed, also in Montaigne’s Bordeaux. He had been the mayor, and particularly in the second term of office 1583-85, he skillfully succeeded to calm down the parties (Catholics tried to slaughter the Protestant Huguenots).
His “ideology-free” position had been developed in expanded studies of the classical philosophers – and in a thereupon diametrically opposite literary attempt to justify an own individual kind of thinking and writing: precisely analyzing human conditions (using oneself as the only field, one can explore without too much strange mistakes) without being paralyzed by social regulations of how to search and communicate.
“I do not proclaim doctrines of faith, but not obligatory opinions, which one can classify as a gesture alike done by children, trying to show their experiments: they only want to learn, not to instruct or indoctrinate.”
The skeptical, further-asking, essentially open dialog of Montaigne influenced such thinkers as Diderot, Lichtenberg or Nietzsche. His writing method encouraged philosophy, psychology – and hundreds of essayists. Indeed we hope, that Montaigne’s voice will never get lost …
more at Montaigne, book review by frizztext
- Two Books on Montaigne: review (telegraph.co.uk)
- My hero Michel de Montaigne (guardian.co.uk)
- Montaigne, mimicry and the mirror neurons (herd.typepad.com)
- Montaigne: The Anti-Fanatic (pinkbananaworld.com)
- When I Am Playing With My Cat, How Do I Know That She Is Not Playing With Me? Montaigne And Being In Touch With Life (macleans.ca)
- Of Montaigne (3quarksdaily.com)
- Montaigne: The Anti-Fanatic (andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com)
- In praise of … the essay | Editorial (guardian.co.uk)
- Montaigne, a Man for All Seasons (3quarksdaily.com)
- Michel de Montaigne: “Literally” an Ancestor? (gherkinstomatoes.com)
- As Michel de Montaigne Puts It (bello2buono.com)
- Montaigne and the acceptance of uncertainty (richardgwyn.wordpress.com)
- Montaigne’s Case For Ignorance (nybooks.com)
- 100 Words, 100 Days: Day 49. On Montaigne. (aardvarkian.com)