Montaigne’s Essays

Montaigne’s Essays is a big book that’s well worth reading, mainly so you can draw out pithy quotes to be cited at future moments and make yourself sound intelligent.

Honestly, it’s not my favourite philosophy book out there, but I do enjoy something that ranges over a wide set of subjects and provides a look inside the mind of the author, and I think Essays fulfils both of those criteria.

Montaigne Essays“‘Do what thou hast to do, and know thyself’ – that great precept is often cited by Plato; each clause of it embraces our entire duty.”

“You ask where you will lie after death? Why, where the unborn lie.” – The Trojan Women

(on our deeds being judged by their intention) “That is why – since actions and performances are not wholly in our power and since nothing is really in our power but our will – it is on the will that all the rules and duties of Man are based and established.”

“It is only our words which bind us together and make us human.”

“The Aristotelian sage is not exempt from the emotions: he moderates them.”

“So we must bring [the soul] back, haul her back, into our self.”

“Withdraw into yourself, but first prepare yourself to welcome yourself there.”


“When King Pyrrhus was planning to cross over into Italy his wise counsellor Cyneas… asked him, “Well now, Sire, what end do you propose in planning this great project?”
“To make myself master of Italy,” came his swift reply.
“And when that is done?”
“I will cross into Gaul and Spain.”
“And then?”
“I will go and subjugate Africa.”
“And in the end?”
“When I have brought the whole world under my subjection, I shall seek my repose, living happily at my ease.”
Cyneas then returned to the attack: “Then by God tell me, Sire, if that is what you want, what is keeping you from doing it all at once? Why do you not place yourself now where you say you aspire to be, and to spare yourself all the toil and risk that you are putting between you and it?”

“What madness it is to expect to die of that failing of our powers brought on by extreme old age and to make that the target for our life to reach when it is the least usual, the rarest kind of death. We call that death, alone, a natural death, as if it were unnatural to find a man breaking his neck in a fall, engulfed in a shipwreck, surprised by plague or pleurisy, and as though our normal condition did not expose us to all of those harms.”

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