Montaigne A very brief biography with a nice timeline by Bill Uzgalis. Classical Skepticism Superb analysis of the skeptic tradition by Peter Suber.
Note Montaigne's role in this tradition. Montaigne and Skepticism A concise piece from Tom Nickles. The Essays The famous writings that provide a model for the modern essay form.
These are short, interesting, and not too difficult to read if you take your time. Michel Eyquem de Montaigne A brief and informative biography. Miguel de Montaigne. What do I know? That is the question that has driven philosophers for millennia.
For many people the idea of questioning one's own knowledge seems silly. Perhaps you personally know folks like this. Perhaps some of your own beliefs are held beyond questioning. In such cases, questioning one's own knowledge hence searching for sources and evidence is highly unlikely. One quality that philosophers typically share is the urge to question deeply.
Few philosophers remain content to stand on tradition, authority, common opinion, or unquestioning belief. Some philosophers question more deeply than others. Miguel de Montaigne is among the philosophers who question most deeply of all: the skeptics. Perhaps it was Montaigne's experience as a magistrate judge that led him to his view that few cases of dispute are ever cut and dry. He certainly applied this notion of ambiguity to philosophical, scientific, and religious theories. So many great thinkers claim to grasp the inner truth of the world and many people follow them.
Yet over time, even the most celebrated of thinkers and theories lose their strength and are replaced by newer and no less certain claims to knowledge. People will fight, die, and kill for their beliefs. For Montaigne, one need only glance back to the history of abandoned truths to see the arrogance of human conviction. Yet, in politics, religion, business, and everyday life human beings continue as if we can know it all and that all that we come to know belongs to us by right.
Michel de Montaigne
Humans have consistently claimed dominion over all of nature on the basis of a superior capacity for reason. It is this presumed superiority that Montaigne targets with his sharp arguments. If you know cats, you likely understand Montaigne's suspicion. Still, it is very difficult for any educated person to put aside the fundamental feeling that as humans we are different -- more advanced -- than other animals.
We are the top of the evolutionary chain. We have language, art, technology, education, and culture.There is no desire more natural than that of knowledge. We try all ways that can lead us to it; where reason is wanting, we therein employ experience. Reason has so many forms that we know not to which to take; experience has no fewer; the consequence we would draw from the comparison of events is unsure, by reason they are always unlike.
There is no quality so universal in this image of things as diversity and variety. Both the Greeks and the Latins and we, for the most express example of similitude, employ that of eggs; and yet there have been men, particularly one at Delphos, who could distinguish marks of difference amongst eggs so well that he never mistook one for another, and having many hens, could tell which had laid it.
Dissimilitude intrudes itself of itself in our works; no art can arrive at perfect similitude: neither Perrozet nor any other can so carefully polish and blanch the backs of his cards that some gamesters will not distinguish them by seeing them only shuffled by another.
Resemblance does not so much make one as difference makes another. Nature has obliged herself to make nothing other that was not unlike. And yet I am not much pleased with his opinion, who thought by the multitude of laws to curb the authority of judges in cutting out for them their several parcels; he was not aware that there is as much liberty and latitude in the interpretation of laws as in their form; and they but fool themselves, who think to lessen and stop our disputes by recalling us to the express words of the Bible: forasmuch as our mind does not find the field less spacious wherein to controvert the sense of another than to deliver his own; and as if there were less animosity and tartness in commentary than in invention.
We see how much he was mistaken, for we have more laws in France than all the rest of the world put together, and more than would be necessary for the government of all the worlds of Epicurus:.
What have our legislators gained by culling out a hundred thousand particular cases, and by applying to these a hundred thousand laws? This number holds no manner of proportion with the infinite diversity of human actions; the multiplication of our inventions will never arrive at the variety of examples; add to these a hundred times as many more, it will still not happen that, of events to come, there shall one be found that, in this vast number of millions of events so chosen and recorded, shall so tally with any other one, and be so exactly coupled and matched with it that there will not remain some circumstance and diversity which will require a diverse judgment.
There is little relation betwixt our actions, which are in perpetual mutation, and fixed and immutable laws; the most to be desired are those that are the most rare, the most simple and general; and I am even of opinion that we had better have none at all than to have them in so prodigious a number as we have. Nature always gives them better and happier than those we make ourselves; witness the picture of the Golden Age of the Poets and the state wherein we see nations live who have no other.
Some there are, who for their only judge take the first passer-by that travels along their mountains, to determine their cause; and others who, on their market day, choose out some one amongst them upon the spot to decide their controversies. What danger would there be that the wisest amongst us should so determine ours, according to occurrences and at sight, without obligation of example and consequence?
For every foot its own shoe. Whence does it come to pass that our common language, so easy for all other uses, becomes obscure and unintelligible in wills and contracts? As you see children trying to bring a mass of quicksilver to a certain number of parts, the more they press and work it and endeavour to reduce it to their own will, the more they irritate the liberty of this generous metal; it evades their endeavour and sprinkles itself into so many separate bodies as frustrate all reckoning; so is it here, for in subdividing these subtilties we teach men to increase their doubts; they put us into a way of extending and diversifying difficulties, and lengthen and disperse them.
In sowing and retailing questions they make the world fructify and increase in uncertainties and disputes, as the earth is made fertile by being crumbled and dug deep.
We doubted of Ulpian, and are still now more perplexed with Bartolus and Baldus. We should efface the trace of this innumerable diversity of opinions; not adorn ourselves with it, and fill posterity with crotchets.
I know not what to say to it; but experience makes it manifest, that so many interpretations dissipate truth and break it. Aristotle wrote to be understood; if he could not do this, much less will another that is not so good at it; and a third than he, who expressed his own thoughts.
We open the matter, and spill it in pouring out: of one subject we make a thousand, and in multiplying and subdividing them, fall again into the infinity of atoms of Epicurus. I often find matter of doubt in things of which the commentary has disdained to take notice; I am most apt to stumble in an even country, like some horses that I have known, that make most trips in the smoothest way. The hundredth commentator passes it on to the next, still more knotty and perplexed than he found it.
This is most apparent in the law; we give the authority of law to infinite doctors, infinite decrees, and as many interpretations; yet do we find any end of the need of interpretating? On the contrary, we darken and bury intelligence; we can no longer discover it, but at the mercy of so many fences and barriers. There is more ado to interpret interpretations than to interpret things, and more books upon books than upon any other subject; we do nothing but comment upon one another.
Every place swarms with commentaries; of authors there is great scarcity.His skepticism, combined with his desire for truth, drives him to the rejection of commonly accepted ideas and to a profound distrust of generalizations and abstractions; it also shows him the way to an exploration of the only realm that promises certainty: that of concrete phenomena and primarily the basic phenomenon of his own body-and-mind self. Yet, despite his insistence that the self guard its freedom toward outside influences and the tyranny of imposed customs and opinions, Montaigne believes in the value of reaching outside the self.
Indeed, throughout his writings, as he did in his private and public life, he manifests the need to entertain ties with the world of other people and of events. For this necessary coming and going between the interiority of the self and the exteriority of the world, Montaigne uses the image of the back room: human beings have their front room, facing the street, where they meet and interact with others, but they need always to be able to retreat into the back room of the most private self, where they may reaffirm the freedom and strength of intimate identity and reflect upon the vagaries of experience.
Given that always-available retreat, Montaigne encourages contact with others, from which one may learn much that is useful. In order to do so, he advocates travel, reading, especially of history books, and conversations with friends. These friends, for Montaigne, are necessarily men. As for his relations with women, Montaigne wrote about them with a frankness unusual for his time. The only uncomplicated bond is that of marriage, which reposes, for Montaigne, on reasons of family and posterity and in which one invests little of oneself.
Love, on the other hand, with its emotional and erotic demands, comports the risk of enslavement and loss of freedom. Montaigne, often designated as a misogynist, does in fact recognize that men and women are fundamentally alike in their fears, desires, and attempts to find and affirm their own identity and that only custom and adherence to an antiquated status quo establish the apparent differences between the sexes, but he does not explore the possibility of overcoming that fundamental separation and of establishing an intellectual equality.
Montaigne extends his curiosity about others to the inhabitants of the New World, with whom he had become acquainted through his lively interest in oral and written travel accounts and through his meeting in with three Brazilian Indians whom the explorer Nicolas Durand de Villegagnon had brought back to France.
Giving an example of cultural relativism and tolerance, rare in his time, he finds these people, in their fidelity to their own nature and in their cultural and personal dignity and sense of beauty, greatly superior to the inhabitants of western Europewho in the conquests of the New World and in their own internal wars have shown themselves to be the true barbarians.
Involvement in public service is also a part of interaction with the world, and it should be seen as a duty to be honourably and loyally discharged but never allowed to become a consuming and autonomy-destroying occupation. Montaigne applies and illustrates his ideas concerning the independence and freedom of the self and the importance of social and intellectual intercourse in all his writings and in particular in his essay on the education of children.
There, as elsewhere, he advocates the value of concrete experience over abstract learning and of independent judgment over an accumulation of undigested notions uncritically accepted from others. He also stresses, throughout his work, the role of the body, as in his candid descriptions of his own bodily functions and in his extensive musings on the realities of illness, of aging, and of death.
Montaigne seems to have been a loyal if not fervent Roman Catholic all his life, but he distrusted all human pretenses to knowledge of a spiritual experience which is not attached to a concretely lived reality. He declined to speculate on a transcendence that falls beyond human ken, believing in God but refusing to invoke him in necessarily presumptuous and reductive ways. Although Montaigne certainly knew the classical philosophers, his ideas spring less out of their teaching than out of the completely original meditation on himself, which he extends to a description of the human being and to an ethics of authenticity, self-acceptance, and tolerance.
The Essays are the record of his thoughts, presented not in artificially organized stages but as they occurred and reoccurred to him in different shapes throughout his thinking and writing activity.
The Essays of Montaigne/Book III/Chapter III
They are not the record of an intellectual evolution but of a continuous accretion, and he insists on the immediacy and the authenticity of their testimony.
To denote their consubstantiality with his natural self, he describes them as his children, and, in an image of startling and completely nonpejorative earthiness, as the excrements of his mind. As he refuses to impose a false unity on the spontaneous workings of his thought, so he refuses to impose a false structure on his Essays.
Throughout the text he sprinkles anecdotes taken from ancient as well as contemporary authors and from popular lore, which reinforce his critical analysis of reality; he also peppers his writing with quotes, yet another way of interacting with others, that is, with the authors of the past who surround him in his library. Throughout the ages the Essays have been widely and variously read, and their readers have tended to look to them, and into them, for answers to their own needs.
Not all his contemporaries manifested the enthusiasm of Marie de Gournay, who fainted from excitement at her first reading. She did recognize in the book the full force of an unusual mind revealing itself, but most of the intellectuals of the period preferred to find in Montaigne a safe reincarnation of stoicism.Personal essayists continually test the boundaries of shame and embarrassment.
Their bitter humiliations, defects, ignorance, vices, and blemishes all insist on escaping concealment. They demand to be expressed, exposed.
The diminutiveness of his member is not his only cause of embarrassment; now an old man, he must acknowledge that, limp, flaccid, and soft, it hardly works any longer. I hate to see one for an inch of wretched vigor, which enflames him but thrice a week, take-on and swagger as fiercely, as if he hath some great and lawfull dayes-worke in his belly. Never shy about the topic, Montaigne writes about sexual matters throughout his essays, but never with an equivalent concentration.
We are not afraid to utter the words kill, thieve or betray, but those others we only dare to mutter through our teeth. Does that mean that the less we breathe a word about sex the more right we have to allow it to fill our thoughts?
The essay—so wide-ranging it truly resists summary or colligation—then moves suddenly, though strategically, from reflections on our verbal inhibitions to a consideration of love in ancient poetry. All gross and dried up as I am, I can still feel some lukewarm remains from that bygone ardour. You must log in to post a comment. I have absolutely no other passion but love to keep me going. Posted in Covers.We must not rivet ourselves so fast to our humours and complexions: our chiefest sufficiency is to know how to apply ourselves to divers employments.
I say this now in this part of my life, wherein I find I cannot easily disengage myself from the importunity of my soul, which cannot ordinarily amuse itself but in things of limited range, nor employ itself otherwise than entirely and with all its force; upon the lightest subject offered it expands and stretches it to that degree as therein to employ its utmost power; wherefore it is that idleness is to me a very painful labour, and very prejudicial to my health.
Books are to it a sort of employment that debauch it from its study.Seneca: On the Shortness of Life
Upon the first thoughts that possess it, it begins to bustle and make trial of its vigour in all directions, exercises its power of handling, now making trial of force, now fortifying, moderating, and ranging itself by the way of grace and order. It has of its own wherewith to rouse its faculties: nature has given to it, as to all others, matter enough of its own to make advantage of, and subjects proper enough where it may either invent or judge.
Meditation is a powerful and full study to such as can effectually taste and employ themselves; I had rather fashion my soul than furnish it. The principal use of reading to me is, that by various objects it rouses my reason, and employs my judgment, not my memory. Few conversations detain me without force and effort; it is true that beauty and elegance of speech take as much or more with me than the weight and depth of the subject; and forasmuch as I am apt to be sleepy in all other communication, and give but the rind of my attention, it often falls out that in such poor and pitiful discourses, mere chatter, I either make drowsy, unmeaning answers, unbecoming a child, and ridiculous, or more foolishly and rudely still, maintain an obstinate silence.
I have a pensive way that withdraws me into myself, and, with that, a heavy and childish ignorance of many very ordinary things, by which two qualities I have earned this, that men may truly relate five or six as ridiculous tales of me as of any other man whatever.
But, to proceed in my subject, this difficult complexion of mine renders me very nice in my conversation with men, whom I must cull and pick out for my purpose; and unfits me for common society. We live and negotiate with the people; if their conversation be troublesome to us, if we disdain to apply ourselves to mean and vulgar souls and the mean and vulgar are often as regular as those of the finest thread, and all wisdom is folly that does not accommodate itself to the common ignorancewe must no more intermeddle either with other men's affairs or our own; for business, both public and private, has to do with these people.
The least forced and most natural motions of the soul are the most beautiful; the best employments, those that are least strained. My God! A motto of great solidity. We must moderate and adapt our desires to the nearest and easiest to be acquired things. Is it not a foolish humour of mine to separate myself from a thousand to whom my fortune has conjoined me, and without whom I cannot live, and cleave to one or two who are out of my intercourse; or rather a fantastic desire of a thing I cannot obtain?
My gentle and easy manners, enemies of all sourness and harshness, may easily enough have secured me from envy and animosities; to be beloved, I do not say, but never any man gave less occasion of being hated; but the coldness of my conversation has, reasonably enough, deprived me of the goodwill of many, who are to be excused if they interpret it in another and worse sense. I am very capable of contracting and maintaining rare and exquisite friendships; for by reason that I so greedily seize upon such acquaintance as fit my liking, I throw myself with such violence upon them that I hardly fail to stick, and to make an impression where I hit; as I have often made happy proof.
In ordinary friendships I am somewhat cold and shy, for my motion is not natural, if not with full sail: besides which, my fortune having in my youth given me a relish for one sole and perfect friendship, has, in truth, created in me a kind of distaste to others, and too much imprinted in my fancy that it is a beast of company, as the ancient said, but not of the herd.
Yet do I very well discern that he who has the conveniences I mean the essential conveniences of life for his end, as I have, ought to fly these difficulties and delicacy of humour, as much as the plague. I should commend a soul of several stages, that knows both how to stretch and to slacken itself; that finds itself at ease in all conditions whither fortune leads it; that can discourse with a neighbour, of his building, his hunting, his quarrels; that can chat with a carpenter or a gardener with pleasure.
I envy those who can render themselves familiar with the meanest of their followers, and talk with them in their own way; and dislike the advice of Plato, that men should always speak in a magisterial tone to their servants, whether men or women, without being sometimes facetious and familiar; for besides the reasons I have given, 'tis inhuman and unjust to set so great a value upon this pitiful prerogative of fortune, and the polities wherein less disparity is permitted betwixt masters and servants seem to me the most equitable.
If people of quality will be persuaded by me, they shall content themselves with setting out their proper and natural treasures; they conceal and cover their beauties under others that are none of theirs: 'tis a great folly to put out their own light and shine by a borrowed lustre: they are interred and buried under 'de capsula totae"—[Painted and perfumed from head to foot.
What need have they of anything but to live beloved and honoured? They have and know but too much for this: they need do no more but rouse and heat a little the faculties they have of their own. When I see them tampering with rhetoric, law, logic, and other drugs, so improper and unnecessary for their business, I begin to suspect that the men who inspire them with such fancies, do it that they may govern them upon that account; for what other excuse can I contrive? It is enough that they can, without our instruction, compose the graces of their eyes to gaiety, severity, sweetness, and season a denial with asperity, suspense, or favour: they need not another to interpret what we speak for their service; with this knowledge, they command with a switch, and rule both the tutors and the schools.
But if, nevertheless, it angers them to give place to us in anything whatever, and will, out of curiosity, have their share in books, poetry is a diversion proper for them; 'tis a wanton, subtle, dissembling, and prating art, all pleasure and all show, like themselves.
They may also abstract several commodities from history. In philosophy, out of the moral part of it, they may select such instructions as will teach them to judge of our humours and conditions, to defend themselves from our treacheries, to regulate the ardour of their own desires, to manage their liberty, to lengthen the pleasures of life, and gently to bear the inconstancy of a lover, the rudeness of a husband; and the importunity of years, wrinkles, and the like.
This is the utmost of what I would allow them in the sciences. There are some particular natures that are private and retired: my natural way is proper for communication, and apt to lay me open; I am all without and in sight, born for society and friendship. The solitude that I love myself and recommend to others, is chiefly no other than to withdraw my thoughts and affections into myself; to restrain and check, not my steps, but my own cares and desires, resigning all foreign solicitude, and mortally avoiding servitude and obligation, and not so much the crowd of men as the crowd of business.
Local solitude, to say the truth, rather gives me more room and sets me more at large; I more readily throw myself upon affairs of state and the world when I am alone. At the Louvre and in the bustle of the court, I fold myself within my own skin; the crowd thrusts me upon myself; and I never entertain myself so wantonly, with so much licence, or so especially, as in places of respect and ceremonious prudence: our follies do not make me laugh, it is our wisdom which does.
I am naturally no enemy to a court, life; I have therein passed a part of my own, and am of a humour cheerfully to frequent great company, provided it be by intervals and at my own time: but this softness of judgment whereof I speak ties me perforce to solitude. Even at home, amidst a numerous family, and in a house sufficiently frequented, I see people enough, but rarely such with whom I delight to converse; and I there reserve both for myself and others an unusual liberty: there is in my house no such thing as ceremony, ushering, or waiting upon people down to the coach, and such other troublesome ceremonies as our courtesy enjoins O the servile and importunate custom!
Every one there governs himself according to his own method; let who will speak his thoughts, I sit mute, meditating and shut up in my closet, without any offence to my guests. The men whose society and familiarity I covet are those they call sincere and able men; and the image of these makes me disrelish the rest.He had his books for company, his Muses for inspiration, his past for seasoning, and, to support it all, the income from a large estate, not to mention a fortune built on the salt-herring and wine trades, which, in the last century, had turned his family into landed gentry.
His full name, as most oenophiles can tell you, was Michel Eyquem de Montaigne. When he died, at fifty-nine, he was still revising and, apparently, not at all surprised, since Myself was a protean creature, impossible to anticipate but also, being always at hand, impossible to ignore. I like to think of the essays as a kind of thriller, with Myself, the elusive prey, and Montaigne, the sleuth, locked in a battle of equals who were too close for dissimulation and too smart for satisfaction.
And it may be that Montaigne did, too, because he often warned his readers that nothing he wrote about himself was likely to apply for much longer than it took the ink he used, writing it, to dry. He was wrong. News of the essays travelled fast. The first known English translation, by an exuberantly prolific language tutor named John Florio, went on sale in London at the turn of the seventeenth century, in time for Shakespeare to buy a copy.
Thirty years later, the Oxford professor M. Screech did the same for Britain. I admit to tweaking a few of the English quotes, in the spirit of competition and interpretation. You could call them the autobiography of a mind, but they made no claim to composing the narrative of a life, only of the shifting preoccupations of their protagonist in an ongoing conversation with the Greek and Roman writers on his library shelves—and, of course, with himself.
In fact, he went to the best parties in the neighborhood. He corresponded with beautiful, educated women who read his drafts. But he never forswore women or, for that matter, the thrill of watching a good battle, or any of the other indulgences of his class. He left his tower in for a year of travelling. Two years later, he agreed to a second term. And if Montaigne did not take sides in those wars, it may be that he thought of them as a family matter, which in a way they were.
Authors are, of course, sneaky. His evasions are legendary. He writes a great deal about the tyranny of laws but nothing about his fourteen years as a magistrate or his four years as a mayor, or even about his response, as mayor, to the plague that struck Bordeaux toward the end of his second term, leaving a third of the population dead.
He fled. Montaigne, at the time, was thirty-two and, he says, ready to be a dutiful and respectful husband. As for his mother, he alludes to her twice, but only in passing. Her name was Antoinette Louppes de Villeneuve. She came from a far-flung merchant clan, similar to the Montaignes in wealth and influence, but with the notable exception that, while the Montaignes were then solidly and safely Catholic, some of the Louppes were Protestant, and the family themselves were Sephardic conversos from Saragossa, where their name was Lopez de Villanueva.
She arrived at the castle a reluctant bride of sixteen, to marry Pierre Eyquem, an eccentric but apparently exemplary chatelain and a future mayor of Bordeaux himselfand, once having settled her duty to her children by bearing them, she was attached mainly to herself. For him, the subject of Protestants and Jews who had been barred from practicing their religion in France since the end of the fourteenth century seems to have been, at most, food for his meditations on the absurdities of persecution and the fatal distractions of disharmony.
But, when it came to seeing an old Jew herded naked through the streets of Rome, he remained a reporter—curious, compassionate, but not particularly disturbed.
He did not expect much better from the world. Relatives, to his mind, were accidents of birth, consideration, and proximity. The genealogy that interested him was the genealogy of thought. He was far more interested in thinking about religion with the Sophists and Skeptics in his library than he was in the part that religion, even his own Catholicism, played in him.
For all that, he was a passionate traveller. His search for the spa that would cure his kidney stones—the disease had killed his father and would eventually help kill him—took him to Switzerland, Austria, and Germany. His love of the classics took him to Italy. He prowled the ghetto, visiting a synagogue, watching a circumcision, and happily cross-examining the rabbi. By the end of his visit he had met the Pope and was made an honorary Roman citizen.
Today, we would call him a gentleman ethnographer, more enchanted than alarmed by the bewildering variety of human practices. The only things I find rewarding if anything is are variety and the enjoyment of diversity.Matthew Sharpe is part of an ARC funded project on modern reinventions of the ancient idea of "philosophy as a way of life", in which Montaigne is a central figure.
When Michel de Montaigne retired to his family estate inaged 38, he tells us that he wanted to write his famous Essays as a distraction for his idle mind. He neither wanted nor expected people beyond his circle of friends to be too interested. Reader, you have here an honest book; … in writing it, I have proposed to myself no other than a domestic and private end.
Therefore farewell. The ensuing, free-ranging essays, although steeped in classical poetry, history and philosophy, are unquestionably something new in the history of Western thought. They were almost scandalous for their day. Modern art no longer restricts its subject matters to classical myths, biblical tales, the battles and dealings of Princes and prelates. Montaigne frequently apologises for writing so much about himself. He is only a second rate politician and one-time Mayor of Bourdeaux, after all.
But the message of this latter essay is, quite simply, that non, je ne regrette rienas a more recent French icon sang:.
Were I to live my life over again, I should live it just as I have lived it; I neither complain of the past, nor do I fear the future; and if I am not much deceived, I am the same within that I am without … I have seen the grass, the blossom, and the fruit, and now see the withering; happily, however, because naturally.
Within a decade of his death, his Essays had left their mark on Bacon and Shakespeare. He was a hero to the enlighteners Montesquieu and Diderot.
So what are these Essays, which Montaigne protested were indistinguishable from their author? Anyone who tries to read the Essays systematically soon finds themselves overwhelmed by the sheer wealth of examples, anecdotes, digressions and curios Montaigne assembles for our delectation, often without more than the hint of a reason why.
Many titles seem to have no direct relation to their contents. Nearly everything our author says in one place is qualified, if not overturned, elsewhere. Certainly, for Montaigne, as for ancient thinkers led by his favourites, Plutarch and the Roman Stoic Seneca, philosophy was not solely about constructing theoretical systems, writing books and articles. Montaigne has little time for forms of pedantry that value learning as a means to insulate scholars from the world, rather than opening out onto it.
He writes :. We are great fools. Their wisdom, he suggestswas chiefly evident in the lives they led neither wrote a thing. In particular, it was proven by the nobility each showed in facing their deaths.
Socrates consented serenely to taking hemlock, having been sentenced unjustly to death by the Athenians. Indeed, everything about our passions and, above all, our imaginationspeaks against achieving that perfect tranquillity the classical thinkers saw as the highest philosophical goal.
We discharge our hopes and fears, very often, on the wrong objects, Montaigne notesin an observation that anticipates the thinking of Freud and modern psychology. Always, these emotions dwell on things we cannot presently change.