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.

WORKS

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

REFERENCES

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.

V. I. EFIMOV

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References in periodicals archive ?
La particular nocion de estudio de Michel de Montaigne encuentra su fundamento en la naturaleza humana que, para nuestro autor, es infinitamente diversa y variada, (36) al grado de que es imposible conocerla del todo.
Es en este escenario que el Profesor Vicente Raga (2016), con auspicio de la Universidad de Antioquia, publica su libro: Escepticismo y modernidad: una relectura del pensar esceptico en Michel de Montaigne, para el publico colombiano en particular e hispanohablante en general, con el generoso fin de suplir el vacio que existe de estudios sobre el escepticismo de Montaigne en espanol.
Dicha euforia, ingenua o irresponsable, sera el leitmotiv de la critica honesta del callejon sin salida que muestra Michel de Montaigne. En si, el frances desnuda ensayo a ensayo a una globalizacion des-humanizada (producto de un proyecto humanistico agotado), que parece fundamentada en la barbarie naturalizada de un lenguaje politicamente correcto y establecida fuertemente a traves de un pensamiento dogmatico.
A poco de nacer, Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592)--nacido en el castillo que su padre Pierre Eyquem heredo de sus ancestros--fue enviado a la casa de unos lenadores que trabajaban al servicio de las propiedades familiares.
Michel de Montaigne sentia ya una fascinacion personal por el mundo moderno que comienza a partir de los inicios del siglo XVIII en Occidente.
Cavallini C (2003) L'italianisme de Michel de Montaigne. Paris: Presses Paris Sorbonne.
Ciertamente, la decepcion que Jorge Edwards experimento en relacion con la Revolucion Cubana tendra un impacto sobre su escritura semejante a la que las Guerras de Religion y la Revolucion Mexicana tuvieron para Michel de Montaigne y Carlos Fuentes, respectivamente: "La experiencia cubana me habia producido una crisis profunda: no podria reanudar mi trabajo de creacion literaria si antes no transcribia esa crisis y no me la explicaba, de paso, a mi mismo" (Edwards, Persona non grata 354).
(9) Me refiero al famoso amigo de Michel de Montaigne, Etienne de La Boetie, jurista y escritor cuya temprana muerte precipitaria la escritura de los Essais de Montaigne, iniciados como una suerte de homenaje a la amistad perfecta.
The essays, however, are The Essays of Michel de Montaigne. Yet he presents himself as weak: his mores have not been formed by philosophy.
Tambien a escribir sobre la vida diaria de Michel de Montaigne, sus largos viajes a caballo, las lecturas de los clasicos latinos y helenos, las citas que manda pintar en las vigas de la torre en donde se recluye a escribir y meditar, asi como acerca de sus relaciones con la esposa, la hija adoptiva (?quizas amante?), y la cercania con Enrique IV, entre otros.
It's the sort of phenomenon Michel de Montaigne would fasten upon if he were alive today--he spent much of his life disciplining himself to live in the here and now--and one more reminder of why the essays of this minor French nobleman and vintner have resonated with so many readers in the four centuries since he wrote them.
Michel de Montaigne as a philosopher is often reduced to helping revive and popularize Pyrrhonism; by extending skeptical tendencies into a crisis affecting all knowledge, he influenced Descartes and founded "an important intellectual movement that continued to plague philosophers in their quest for certainty." (1) Although Montaigne's Essais clearly establish him as a skeptical thinker influenced by Pyrrho, by itself this view of his writings does not do justice to the deeply philosophical and distinctive nature of Montaigne's own thought.