Michel de Montaigne

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Montaigne, Michel de


Born Feb. 28, 1533, at the Montaigne chÂteau near Bordeaux; died there Sept. 13, 1592. French philosopher and writer.

Montaigne was a descendant of members of the Gascon bourgeoisie who had become nobles. He received a classical education at home, graduated from a collège, and studied the law. From 1580 to 1588 he published his main work, the Essays (books 1–3). The term “essay” and the philosophical and literary genre to which it refers—a work of mental reflection on specific historical and contemporary facts and on the mores of people of different positions, classes, and levels of culture—owe their origin to Montaigne. The creation of the essay form was stimulated by the troubling civil and religious wars between the feudal aristocracy and the developing monarchy, between the Catholics and the Huguenots. Montaigne’s broad freethinking and unique humanist skepticism were directed against church orthodoxy and the Scholasticism that dominated the medieval universities, against superstition and fanaticism, against the cruelty and cynicism of rulers, and against feudal anarchy and tyranny.

Montaigne criticized the moral structure of “civilized” society, which seemed barbaric in comparison to the primitive world of savages, in which social relationships rested on natural morality. To Montaigne, primitive societies seemed to embody a more sensible and a far more human way of life than the European societies of his time. Recounting his own experiences and expressing his personal inclinations and his dedication to common sense, Montaigne created a realistically truthful, self-critical self-portrait. He offered good sense mixed with skepticism as a suitable principle for society, the maladjustments of which inflict the greatest suffering on the common people, whose indignation and intensely French, Gallic humor are characteristic of Montaigne.

The age of classicism could not understand Montaigne, many of whose ideas foreshadowed those of Montesquieu, the 18th-century Enlightenment thinkers, and Rousseau.


Oeuvres complètes, vols. 1–6. Paris, 1924–27.
In Russian translation:
Opyty, vols. 1–3. (Afterword by F. A. Kogan-Bernshtein.) Moscow, 1960.


Istoriia frantsuzskoi literatury, vol. 1. Moscow-Leningrad, 1946. Pages 321–24.
Rvkova, N. “M. Monten’.” In Pisateli Frantsii. Moscow, 1964.
Moreau, P. Montaigne: L’homme et I’oeuvre, 4th ed. Paris [1958].
Europe, January-February 1972, nos. 513–14. (Issue devoted to Montaigne.)
Joukovsky, F. Montaigne et le problème du temps. Paris, 1972.
Tannenbaum, S. A. M. E. de Montaigne (A Concise Bibliography). New York, 1942.


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Riggs, herself a poet, examines her impending death through her own lyrical perspective, informed by the writings of her great-great-great-grandfather, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and French philosopher Michel Eyquem de Montaigne.
En sus Essais, Michel Eyquem de Montaigne se quejaba de los libros que leian los ninos para recrearse.
Lo que distingue a Montaigne es que no quiso elaborar la historia individual de Michel Eyquem de Montaigne y ni siquiera su autoexamen, sino que mas bien quiso elaborar una "historia universal de si mismo".
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El gran maestro argentino Ezequiel Martinez Estrada entrego un estudio de un centenar de paginas en el que pinta a Michel Eyquem Lopes en un largo viaje hacia el interior de si mismo, a bordo de su biblioteca, una carabela de piedra.
William Bennett, former Secretary of Education, and Michel Eyquem de Nlontaigne, the French writer and former Mayor of Bordeaux, recently debated the educational value of the Pledge of Allegiance.