Tuesday, April 26, 2016

How We Weep and Laugh at the Same Thing - Michel de Montaigne

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) was a philosopher and statesman who they say influenced a whole generation of writers and who was instrumental is making the essay a form of literature. He normally puts himself in the situation as he examines a variety of issues through his own judgment.
Penguin. 53 p, Rs. 49

So his essays 'How we weep and laugh at the same time', 'On conscience', 'Fortune is often found in Reason's train', 'On punishing cowardice', 'On the vanity of words' and 'To philosophise is to learn how to die' express his views on each of these subjects. Maybe, he says, and does not lay down any rules. Each essay is powerful in its examination and analysis. Each touching upon too many topics to mention. Each with lovely examples. For example in the essay on death he lists a number of deaths that happen most improbably - one of a person who dies after a tortoise shell falls on his head from the skies - slipping from a falcon's claws. Or of Socrates (whom he denounces in the essay on words) when he is told he has been condemned to death - 'And they are condemned by nature' or some such. He wonders if one should be punished for cowardice - malicious intent can be punished he feels, not a weakness.

Many interesting thoughts.

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