Michel de Montaigne

Michel Eyquem de Montaigne (/mɒnˈtn/ mon-TAYN;[6] French: [miʃɛl ekɛm də mɔ̃tɛɲ]; 28 February 1533 – 13 September 1592[7]), also known as Lord of Montaigne, was one of the most significant philosophers of the French Renaissance. He is known for popularizing the essay as a literary genre. His work is noted for its merging of casual anecdotes[8] and autobiography with intellectual insight. His massive volume Essais contains some of the most influential essays ever written.

Michel de Montaigne
Michel de Montaigne

28 February 1533
Died13 September 1592(1592-09-13) (aged 59)
Château de Montaigne, Guyenne, Kingdom of France
EducationCollege of Guienne
RegionWestern philosophy
Main interests
Christianity, classical studies, ethics, human nature, pedagogy, philosophy of science, poetry, political history, sociability, virtue
Notable ideas
The coat of arms of Michel Eyquem, Lord of Montaigne

Montaigne had a direct influence on Western writers including Francis Bacon, René Descartes,[9] Blaise Pascal, Montesquieu, Edmund Burke, Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, David Hume, Edward Gibbon, Virginia Woolf, Albert Hirschman, William Hazlitt,[10] Ralph Waldo Emerson, John Henry Newman, Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, Alexander Pushkin, Charles Darwin, Friedrich Nietzsche, Stefan Zweig, Eric Hoffer,[11] Isaac Asimov, Fulton Sheen, and possibly, on the later works of William Shakespeare.

During his lifetime, Montaigne was admired more as a statesman than as an author. The tendency in his essays to digress into anecdotes and personal ruminations was seen as detrimental to proper style rather than as an innovation, and his declaration that "I am myself the matter of my book" was viewed by his contemporaries as self-indulgent. In time, however, Montaigne came to be recognized as embodying, perhaps better than any other author of his time, the spirit of freely entertaining doubt that began to emerge at that time. He is most famously known for his skeptical remark, "Que sçay-je?" ("What do I know?", in Middle French; now rendered as Que sais-je? in modern French).