Selections from the Essays of Montaigne
Ontological Freedom in Montaigne’s Selections from the Essays
For many readers, Montaigne’s Selections from the Essays at first seems scattered both in rhetorical structure and topic. However, as one reads through the individual works, there is one concept that the diverse text consistently refers to: man's need to strive for freedom. Yet Montaigne did not seek to write an instructional philosophical work, like many other Renaissance writers; rather, he sought to utilize a unique writing style and reflective anecdotes to indirectly convey his message. Montaigne seeks to reveal to his readers, though his own eyes, how personal experience and reflection can lead to a higher degree of ontological freedom.
One of the first and most crucial steps towards achieving a greater state of freedom is to realize that humans are significantly limited in scope and are not free when they are tangled in worldly affairs. In the scheme of life, a mere human being is practically nothing. In Montaigne’s words, man is “the most vulnerable and frail of all creatures” (59), one that is “neither above nor below the rest” (60). This conclusion is based on the empirical instances of man’s limitations and instability, and an experienced man should recognize his own meager existence. Montaigne describes this...
Join Now to View Premium Content
GradeSaver provides access to 820 study guide PDFs and quizzes, 6114 literature essays, 1715 sample college application essays, 245 lesson plans, and ad-free surfing in this premium content, “Members Only” section of the site! Membership includes a 10% discount on all editing orders.
Already a member? Log in