Michel de Montaigne, Renaissance philosopher: biography, writings

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Michel de Montaigne, Renaissance philosopher: biography, writings
Michel de Montaigne, Renaissance philosopher: biography, writings

Writer, philosopher and teacher Michel de Montaigne lived in an era when the Renaissance was already ending and the Reformation had begun. He was born in February 1533, in the Dordogne area (France). Both the life and works of the thinker are a kind of reflection of this "middle" period, between times. And some views of this amazing person bring him closer to the modern era. It is not for nothing that historians of philosophy argue about whether such an original as Michel de Montaigne should be attributed to the New Age.

Michel de Montaigne


Initially, the family of the future philosopher was a merchant. His father, a German who did not even speak French, was called Pierre Aykem. Mother, Antoinette de Lopez, was from a family of refugees from the Spanish province of Aragon - they left these places during the persecution of Jews. But Michel's father made an excellent career, and even became the mayor of Bordeaux. This city later played a huge role in the life of the philosopher. For outstanding services to Bordeaux, Pierre Eykem was introduced to the nobility, and since he owned the land of Montaigne and the castle, an appropriate prefix was made to his surname.Michel himself was born in the castle. The father managed to give his son the best home education that was possible at that time. Even in the family, he spoke only Latin with Michel so that the boy would not relax.

Michel de Montaigne biography


So, the future philosopher went to college in Bordeaux, and then became a lawyer. From a young age, his impressionable imagination was struck by the atrocities that people were capable of for the sake of religion. Perhaps that is why, during the Huguenot wars in France, he tried to mediate between the fighting parties. At least his sincerity paid off and he was heard by leaders of both Catholics and Protestants. One could also say about him in verses: "And I stand alone between them …". He was also known as a practicing judge trying to negotiate settlements. But in 1565 he married, and the bride brought him a large dowry. And three years later his father died, leaving his son a family estate. Now Michel de Montaigne had enough money to pursue his hobbies and not work. So he did, profitably selling his judicial position as well.

Philosopher Michel de Montaigne


After retiring at 38, Michel finally gave himself up to what he loved. In the estate, he wrote his most famous book - "Experiments". After the publication of the first two volumes of the work in 1580, the philosopher traveled and visited several European countries - Italy, Germany, Switzerland. Like his father, he was twice elected mayor of Bordeaux. The city was happythe reign of Montaigne, although the philosopher at that time was away from France. He also wrote diaries and travel notes. He lived modestly and died at the age of fifty-nine, in 1592, right in the church, while serving in his native castle. The philosopher wrote his works not only in French and Latin, but also in Italian and Occitan.

Bordeaux city

Life's work

Montaigne's main work is an essay. In fact, this genre itself appeared thanks to the philosopher. After all, the translation of the word "essay" from French means "experience." His book is not like those that were popular during the Renaissance. This is not a strict scientific or philosophical treatise. It has no plan, no structure. These are reflections and impressions about life, a collection of quotes, a storehouse of lively speech. We can say that Michel de Montaigne simply sincerely expressed his thoughts and observations, as God puts on the soul. But these notes were destined to survive the centuries.

"Experiments". Summary

Montaigne's essay is somewhere between reflection and confession. There is a lot of personal in the book, which he admits to others. At the same time, analyzing himself, Michel de Montaigne tries to understand the nature of the human spirit as such. He exposes himself to understand others. Montaigne is a kind of skeptic, disappointed in humanity and its ideas, as well as in the possibilities of knowledge. He tries to justify reasonable selfishness and the pursuit of happiness, relying on the Stoics. At the same time, the philosopher criticizes both contemporary Catholic scholasticism and skepticism,questioning all virtues.

Experiences summary

Are there real ideals?

Philosophers around the world obey authorities, says Montaigne. They rely on Thomas Aquinas, Augustine, Aristotle and so on. But these authorities can also be wrong. The same can be said about our own opinion. In some ways it is true, but it cannot serve as an authority for others. It's just that we must always realize that our knowledge is limited. The philosopher Michel de Montaigne swung not only at the authorities of the past, but also at the ideals of the present. He critically examines the question of virtues, altruism and moral principles in general. Montaigne believes that all these are slogans that are used by those in power to manipulate people. A person should live freely and with dignity, as he wants, to enjoy. Then he will love others. Then he will show his courage, incompatible with anger, fear and humiliation.

Michel de Montaigne Pedagogy

God and philosophy

Montaigne clearly identified himself as an agnostic. “I can’t say anything about God, I don’t have such experience,” he told his readers. And if so, then in life, first of all, you should be guided by your mind. Those who say that their opinion is the best, and even trying to force others to obey themselves, do not deserve respect.Therefore, it is better to avoid fanaticism and equalize the rights of all religions.Philosophy should push a person to lead a good life and follow good customs, and not be the arch of the dead andrules that most people don't understand. Then a person will learn to live in reality. Adversity should be treated "philosophically" if you can not change the situation. And in order to suffer less, you need to come to such a state of mind when pleasure is felt stronger, and pain is weaker. Any state must be respected not because it is ideal, but because any change of power will inevitably lead to even greater problems."

Montaigne also devoted much thought to the upbringing of the new generation. In this area, he followed all the ideals of the Renaissance. A person should not be a narrow specialist, but a versatile person, and by no means a fanatic. Michel de Montaigne was absolutely unshakable in this. Pedagogy, from his point of view, is the art of developing a strong will and a strong character in a child, which allows him to endure the vicissitudes of fate and get maximum pleasure. Montaigne's ideas not only appealed to contemporaries, but inspired subsequent generations. Thinkers and writers such as Pascal, Descartes, Voltaire, Rousseau, Bossuet, Pushkin and Tolstoy use his ideas, argue with him or agree with him. Until now, Montaigne's reasoning has not lost popularity.

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