Montaigne and The Block

I do love reading Michel de Montaigne.  And writing about him. In 2014 alone, I wrote ten separate posts about him and his famous book, Essays. But since then, my reading habits moved on to other writers and topics. I hadn’t actually been reading Montaigne in the past few years, but recently while sorting some …

Montaigne on Friendship, Liars and Politics

“I am seeking the companionship and society of such men as we call honourable and talented,” wrote Michel de Montaigne in his essay, On the Three Kinds of Social Intercourse (Book III, 3). “It is, when you reflect on it, the rarest of all our forms…” Montaigne was musing in his essay and others on …

Montaigne: The Depravity of Our Morals

“Our judgments follow the depravity of our morals and remain sick,” wrote Michel de Montaigne in his essay On Cato the Younger (Essay XXXVII, Book I, Screech translation, Penguin Classics, 2003). That’s quite a condemnation.* Montaigne opens that essay by quietly commenting, “I do not suffer from that common failing of judging another man by …

Translating Montaigne

With two printed versions of Montaigne’s essays (translations by Donald Frame and M. A. Screech) and a couple of online editions available to me, I thought I might offer some examples of how individual translations have captured Montaigne’s writing and let you judge which you think is clearer and crisper for reading today. I chose, …

Montaigne’s cat and Descartes’ reality

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LmxlcJFTaYU] “When I play with my cat,” wrote French philosopher and essayist, Michel de Montaigne, “Who knows whether she is not amusing herself with me more than I with her.*” That statement encompasses two very distinct paths of contemplation. First is one of animal sentience. The recognition that animals are conscious, that they are sentient …

Montaigne and Machiavelli

Michel de Montaigne mentioned Machiavelli only twice in his Essays, both in Book Two. This tells us he was aware of the latter, but not whether he was intimately familiar with his works. Nor does it tell us which of Machiavelli’s writings he is referring to (by this date, all of Machiavelli’s major works were …