Category Archives: Montaigne

Vivere si (..)

“Vivere si rectè nescis, decede peritis;
Lusisti satis, edisti satis atque bibisti;
Tempus abire tibi est, ne potum largius aequo
Rideat et pulset lasciva decentius aetas;”
Horatius as quoted by M. de Montaigne in: Essais II, Editions Gallimard, 1965, Chapitre XII (Apologie de Raimond Sebond), p. 213.

[Amateuristic English translation: “If you don’t know how to live well, leave your place to those who do; you have fooled around enough, eaten enough and have drunk enough; time for you to withdraw for fear of having drank more than reasonable and in so doing, of becoming the laughing stock of the young,  to whom cheerfulnes is more becoming.”]

[Re-posted from The Old Site, original dd. 07-04-2010. Only one to go ;-]

I wanted to talk about essential differences between absolutes and universals. The wish not to live beyond your expiration data is universal. The requirement to live until such time as ‘one is called’ is an absolute. The difference between the two is the meaning that is conferred to to what it is ‘to live’.

I (try to) explain.

Continue reading

De la ressemblance des enfants aux pères

“Et ne fut jamais au monde deux opinions pareilles, non plus que deux poils ou deux grains. Leur plus universelle qualité, c’est la diversité.”
Michel de Montaigne, Essais II, chapitre XXXVII, p. 569, Gallimard, 1965.

[Amateuristic English translation: “And there were never in the world two opinions that were similar, not more than two hairs or two grains. Their most universal quality, is there diversity.” (the two hairs and two grains stuff you’ll have to google together with “Cicero”)]

[Re-posted from The Old Site, original dd. 19-02-2010. I’m getting to the end of the recycling bin so there will be new material soon.]

Back to basics 😉

One of the remaining problems in modern culture is that we are thinking in terms of success. The problem is not so much with the sensation of success. Not at all, it is an enjoyable sensation and nobody should be cut off from it. No, the problem is that we want to make a snapshot of it. We want to frame it and put it on our walls.

Continue reading

De la colère

“Je lui disais que c’était bien quelque chose, notamment à ceux comme lui d’éminente qualité sur lesquels chacun a les yeux, de se présenter au monde toujours bien tempéré, mais que le principal était de pourvoir au-dedans et à soi-même; et que ce n’était, à mon gré, bien ménager ses affaires que de se ronger intérieurement: ce que je craignais qu’il fit pour mantenir ce masque et cette réglée apparence par le dehors.” Montaigne, Essais Livre II, Chapitre XXXI, folio classique, editions Gallimard, p; 488.

[Amateuristic English translation below: “I told him that it was quite something, certainly in those – like him – of eminent quality on whom everybody has their eyes, to present oneself to the world as always well tempered – but that the important thing was to provide for oneself internally; and that it was – to my taste – not a good way to manage one’s affairs to be eating oneself from the inside: which was what I feared he did to maintain that mask and that temperate appearance on the outside.”]

[Re-posted from The Old Site original dd. 14-07-2009. Finally Montaigne again, I’m not so sure about my translation so don’t rely on it. I should look for a quote on impatience, I really should.]

Let me be clear: I’m fed up with all this excitement and passion and live fast stuff – even if I wouldn’t mind the ‘die young’ bit. Continue reading

De la gloire

“Toute la gloire que je prétends de ma vie, c’est de l’avoir vécue tranquille: tranquille non selon Métrodore, ou Arcésilas, ou Aristippe, mais selon moi. Puisque la philosophie n’a su trouver aucune voie pour la tranquillité qui fût bonne en commun, que chacun la cherche en son particulier!” Montaigne, Essais II, Gallimard 1965, chapitre XVI, p. 375.

[Re-posted from The Old Site, original dd. 09-09-2008. I unfortunately do not have the time to produce new material (or fortunately, whatever) so we’ll have to settle for old.  I will come back!]

[Amateuristic English translation: “All the glory that I pretend to have from my life, is to have lived it tranquilly: tranquil not following Metrodorus, or Arcesilas, or Aristippus, but following myself. Since philosophy has not been able to find any road to tranquility in common, let everybody find it for his specific situation.”]

Strange self-referring quote. Do I mean I live my life according to Montaigne in trying to live it in my own way? Maybe so. Continue reading

Sur des vers de Virgile

“Sommes-nous pas bien brutes de nommer brutale l’opération qui nous fait?” M. de Montaigne, Essais III, Chapitre V, p. 132, Éd’s Gallimard, 1965.

[Amateuristic English translation: “Aren’t we brutes for calling the action that made us brutal?”]

It’s been a while. Let me talk about myself a bit: Continue reading

Que le goust des biens et des maux dépend en bonne partie de l’opinion que nous en avons

“J’en faisoy un secret; et moy, qui ose tant dire de moy, ne parloy de mon argent qu’en mensonge, comme font les autres, qui s’appauvrissent riches, s’enrichissent pauvres, et dispensent leur conscience de jamais tesmoigner sincerement de ce qu’ils ont. Ridicule et honteuse prudence.”  M. De Montaigne,  Essais, Livre 1, Flammarion 1969, Chapitre XIV, p. 105.

(amateuristic English translation: “I made it a secret; and I, who dare say so much about myself, did not speak about my monery except in lies, as do the others, who make seem they are poor when they are rich, or make seem they are rich when they are poor, and discharge their conscience of ever saying truthfully what they own. Ridiculous and shameful prudence.”)

I am rich. Worse than merely being rich, I became rich by complying to the social pressure towards a profession which was almost sure to make me rich; and abandoning what hope I had from achieving something meaningful in the line of things that were of real interest to me.

Shame on me?

Continue reading

De l’utile et de l’honnète

“La voie de la vérité est une et simple, celle du profit particulier et de la commodité des affaires qu’on a en charge, double, inégale et fortuite.” Michel de Montaigne, Essais Livre III (Flammarion 1969), Chapitre I, p. 34.

(amateuristic English translation – On the useful and the honest: “The way of truth is one and simple, that of personal gain and the good of the business one is in charge of, double, uneven and accidental.”)

[Re-posted from The Old Site (original dated 17-02-2008). I’m glad to find this one now because it shows that there is at least some system to my madness. In light of recent comments it shows there is an original, persistent, resistance to a view that privileges the conscious and the explicitly known; at least that priviliges it as the target outcome.]

As complex as the notion of truth may be, walking the way of truth is felt by all as something immediate. To be truthful is, basically, to be ‘authentic’. Other than other basic feelings, instincts or emotions this feeling however has a basis in reason, it is the instinct proper to reason.

There is no contradiction between utility and intellectual honesty; no conflict between doing the right thing and doing the reasonable thing.

Continue reading

Que philosopher, c’est apprendre à mourir

“Il faut estre tousjours boté et prest à partir, en tant qu’en nous est, et sur tout se garder qu’on n’aye lors affaire qu’à soy:

Quid brevi fortes jaculamur aevo

M. de Montaigne, Essais, Livre I, Chapitre XX, Flammarion 1969, p. 134 [quoting from Horace, Odes, II, XVI, 17.]

[I am not so sure about the below translation but it fits exactly with the idea of negligence/responsibility I am carrying around, lately.]

(amateuristic English translation:  We always have to be prepared & ready to leave, insofar as we have it in us, and above all ensure that at that moment we only need to heed ourselves:

Why, in a life so short, form projects with such

This is the opposite of the 90’s: a decade where striving to become irreplaceable jumped from nowhere to the top of the list of ‘things everybody should try to do if they don’t want to be seen as major losers’. The great men are now measured by what havoc they leave behind when they die (and it is not a coincidence that once in a while a woman is considered to be one of ‘the great men’). Everybody else is considered a ‘loser’; with some luck people will find the ‘silent passing’ as something that is ‘fitting’, maybe even ‘endearing’ but invariably the death girl’s opinions are received with: ‘Whatever, major loser!.”

Such is the legacy of a fin de siècle in which the sky was the limit. But how to step over this addictive point of view (it’ll be a.o. about our dearest little daughters’ and sons’ education)?

Continue reading

De l’amitié

“Il les laisse heritiers de cette sienne liberalité, qui consiste à leur mettre en main les moyens de luy bien-faire.” Michel de Montaigne, Essais Livre 1 (Flammarion 1969), Chapitre XXVIII

(amateuristic English translation: “He leaves them as heirs of his liberalism, a liberalism that consists in giving them the means to treat him well.”)

[Re-posted from (the original was dated November 1st, 2007): I knew it was going to be awkward to read & review this old stuff, but it would have been cowardly not to do so. Still, I was shocked at reading this. Shocked to see how badly written it was; but mostly shocked at what I tried to write, back then. Shocked at having felt so lonely. Nothing much has changed since then, except for how I feel about these things which is – mostly – better. I rewrote a lot but kept the insight (which is challenging but which I can still buy) as well as the feeling (which I lost, for the most part, but which may resonate with some). Hope you like it.]

I am not sure I get it. It is not a pure coincidence that I start with something I am not sure of. A good quote is never the one-liner equivalent of a slam-dunk type of argument. A good quote always leads to wonder: it fuels your creativity, & it stimulates your thought.

I didn’t reread the entire chapter. I guess it doesn’t make a romantic plea for altruistic friendship of the kind that would make people forget themselves in an attempt to help others. Friendship – as a specifically human trait – involves at least two people. It would be self-defeating if one of them would forget herself. Although there may be a lot of benefits in that for the other, friendship will not be among those benefits. That being said, friendship cannot just be a relationship between two (or more) people.  Indeed, friendship understood as pure reciprocal relationships is nothing else but the romanticized version of the economic quid pro quo.  At heart we know for sure that friendship is of a different kind than a purely economical relationship. And, in the end, our interest in friendship is an matter of the heart so let us direct our reason to the feeling rather than to a redefinition of the concept that makes it more clear at the expense of keeping it to the point.

So this much is the fruit of my first wonder: friendship requires, at least, two people and something else. What can the something else be?

Continue reading