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Michel de MONTAIGNE: most important works

Michel de Montaigne: most important works

We dedicate this lesson from a TEACHER to most important work from Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592). One of the most significant philosophers of the Renaissance and one of the highest representatives of humanism, skepticism and liberalism.

Furthermore, Montaigne is the father and creator of the essay and the author of one of the most successful and original philosophical works in history, Trials (I, II and III). In it, the Frenchman offers us his own vision of life, of the world that surrounds him and gives us his opinion about momentous issues like joy, sadness, human nature, knowledge or love.

This is a work that is still very current and that dazzled great characters such as René Descartes, Blaise Pascal, Gustave Flaube, William Shakespeare or Friedrich Nietzsche. Do you want to know more about Montaigne and his work? Pay attention and keep reading this lesson.

You may also like: William of Ockham's Philosophy: Summary


  1. Who is Michel de Montaigne?
  2. What do I know? Montaigne's philosophy
  3. What was the work of Michel Montaigne? essays
  4. Essays by Michel de Montaigne, a work ahead of its time

Who is Michel de Montaigne?

Montaigne It's one of the humanistic philosophers more important. Born in 1533, in Bordeaux (France) and in the bosom of a noble family. Reason why, he got a strict and careful education, cutting liberal Y humanist: he learned the classical languages ​​and soon came into contact with the works of Socrates, Plutarch, Seneca, Virgil or Lucretius.

Later, he studied Law at the University of Toulouse, was appointed magistrate Y Mayor from his hometown. As mayor, he highlighted his mediating role in the wars of the wars of religion (VIII War of Religion) between Protestants and Catholics, which earned the respect of the kings Henry III (catholic) and Henry IV (Protestant).

Henry IV, knowing his worth, named him gentle man, Knight of the Order of Saint Michel and offered to be his advisor. Since he refused to show off, retiring to his Bordeaux castle to write essays (1580,1588 and 1595). Finally, he died in 1592 at the age of sixty while listening to mass.

Michel de Montaigne: Most Important Works - Who is Michel de Montaigne?

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What do I know? Montaigne's philosophy.

When we speak of Montaigne's philosophy, we cannot frame it in a specific philosophical trend or method. However, we know that he was a great fan fromSocrates and that, like the Greek, he thought that ignorance was the worst of evils and that knowledge was reached through one's own reflection and the experience that life itself gives us. Thus, for Montaigne the reflection of a peasant and that of a wise man are equally valid, since, they are sustained in the experience of the experiences.

Likewise, his thought is humanist and liberal, but above all it is skeptical. For him, the human being does not have the capacity to know everything and, therefore, we must accept that our conception about something may be wrong, we must reflect, doubt and question everything, recognize our mistakes and be aware that our way of thinking can be influenced by our historical, social and cultural. Hence his phraseWhat do i know A motto that he engraved on the tower of his castle and that sums up his thoughts very well: we must question everything because we do not have the absolute truth.

On the other hand, as a humanist, he highlights his defense of reason as a key element for understanding things and for the development of the intellect. However, Montaigne is not going to be a normal humanist, because for him, God has the absolute truthand the human being does not have a privileged place in the cosmos because it is a short part of it.

What was the work of Michel Montaigne? Essays.

Montaigne is the creator of the essay as we know it today and, furthermore, it defines what it is and what are its characteristics. Thus, an essay is a writing in which its creator gives an opinion on a specific topic based on her own experiences and a reasoned argument. That is, the essay must be something personal, reasoned, clear and simple.

In this way, under this premise, our protagonist wrote essays. A work that was published three times:

  1. First version or Essays I: published in 1580.
  2. Second version or Essays II: published in 1588, as an enlarged and corrected version of the first.
  3. Third version or Essays III: published posthumously in 1595 and as a definitive work. Edited and corrected by his disciple and elective daughter Marie de Gournay, one of the promoters of European feminism.

This work is characterized by not have a specific structure or order. Thus, the philosopher, throughout a hundred essays, tells us about all kinds of banal and momentous issuessuch as: human nature, your daily life, your sex life, loneliness, cruelty, cowardice, love, fear, fame, New World, pleasure, religion or scientific advances and inventions (from the debate between geocentrism and heliocentrism or from telescope).

In Essays, Montaigne raises a question, reflects-doubts on it and answers it by offering us his vision from experience and from classical sources. Making it clear that his opinion does not have to be correct.

Michel de Montaigne: most important works - What was the work of Michel Montaigne? essays

Essays by Michel de Montaigne, a work ahead of his time.

essays stands out for its blunt, pessimistic, ironic, humane style (Montaigne is shown as a flawed and imperfect individual) and modern. In fact, throughout this writing stand out ideas that are still very relevant today:

  • Condemn arrogance, violence and cruelty: fanaticism, colonialism and slavery are facts that lie in our own ignorance and in the idea that we have the absolute truth. Also, violence / arrogance blocks our ability to reason.
  • Religion does not possess absolute knowledge: all religions have their mistakes and their successes. Believing that religion has the absolute knowledge and truth leads to fanaticism and injustices such as witch hunts.
  • We must accept that there are other peoples with other customs and traditions as valid as ours and which are not inferior. Therefore, the correct thing would be to abandon our prejudices and understand the "other".
  • Romantic love is one of the greatest misfortunes for the human being because it prevents the development and freedom of the individual.
  • The human being must know himself rather than his own nature.
  • The pursuit of fame and honor is the greatest impediment to achieve balance and peace, since, its search implies social acceptance and acting to please others. Therefore, we must show disinterest in social opinion and question the concepts established by the masses.
  • Life is short and, therefore, we must learn to die and accept the situations that life brings us. Only then will we be free.
  • We must live joyfully: our nature is made up of good and bad appetites, they are part of us and we should not eradicate them. Rather, we must manage them, live joyfully, and avoid abusing bad appetites.
  • Knowledge and reason are not a monolithThey are mutable and provisional in time.
  • Wisdom must be one of the ends of the individual, but we must accept that we may be wrong.
Michel de Montaigne: Most Important Works - Michel de Montaigne's Essays, A Work Ahead of His Time

If you want to read more articles similar to Michel de Montaigne: most important works, we recommend that you enter our category of Philosophy.


Reale, G and Antirseri, D. History of philosophy II. From Humanism to Kant. Ed. Herder. 2010

Montaigne, M. essays. Penguin Classics. 2021

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