Selections from the Essays of Montaigne

Preparations and Actions: Thought on Life and Death in Montaigne's Essays College

Michel de Montaigne’s Essays are hailed as profound modern, and their style original. This type of personal essay writing is still found in many places, including today’s commonplace blogs. These pieces are political, they are social, they are philosophical, but they are all deeply eprsonal; they are all self-portraits. In his address to the reader, Montaigne says that this is a work which has been “dedicated…to the private benefit of my friends and kinsmen so that, having lost me (as they must do soon) they can find here again some traits of my character and of my humors…I myself am the subject of my book” (lxiii). Despite this assertion that he alone is the subject of these works, Montaigne also acts on expanding his personal experiences to defining the human condition. His essays often deal on questions of existence, and the pieces “To philosophize is to learn how to die” and “On physiognomy”, in particular, ask about the relationship of death to life, and the relationship of life and death to how a man lives or how he views these things. The later work “On physiognomy” actually refutes or contradicts some claims made in the earlier “To philosophize is to learn how to die”; this also, in a larger scheme, threatens...

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