2013 – climb every Montaigne

A very happy new year to everyone who takes the time to read these sporadic ramblings.

Colds and flu got most of my immediate family this winter, which slowed things down a bit. Luckily mum didn’t succumb while we stayed with her over Christmas.

michel de montaigne

I have just started to read a book about the 16th century writer/philosopher Michel de Montaigne. His family lived near where my brother and sister-in-law have a place in the Dordogne. Life for Montaigne (after some years in public service) seems to have been pretty sweet. He retired to ponder and reflect through his writing on a wide range of topics. The writing wandering from thought to thought in no particular order, yet maintaining the reader’s interest with insights and observations culled from his own wide experience and knowledge.

Having glimpsed his Essays, I am encouraged to read on. The Donald Frame translation published in 1958 is a hefty tome, but readable.  There are many classical references and the odd quotation from his friend and mentor Étienne de La Boétie

The story of terrified men in a storm-tossed ship is interesting. One of the passengers confronts those frightened by the storm and asks them to look at the pig on board who carries on regardless. Should they not follow the pig’s example? Montaigne hovers from what is deemed natural and what we know about nature. We can never know everything about nature and its laws, so should we even attempt to define the natural world using our own measurements? I can see his point, but in his day the enlightenment had barely begun and an appreciation of the scientific method was some way off.

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