Thursday, February 28, 2013
Writer and philosopher Michel de Montaigne was born on February 28, 1533, near Bordeaux, France, into a wealthy and noble family. Raised in Latin, he did not learn French before age 6. In his lifetime he was a statesman in various political positions. In 1571, he retired to a castle he had inherited, where he began writing his large philosophical work, Essais ("Attempts" or "Trials"), first published in 1580, which established the “essay" as a literary genre. It contains some of the most influential essays ever written. Declaring that “I am myself the matter of my book,” Montaigne embodied the spirit of skepticism and doubt in his famous phrase, “Que sçay-je?” (“What do I know?” in Middle French). Covering topics such as religion, education, friendship, love and freedom, Montaigne’s essays do not promote beliefs or truths. Rather, they constitute a search for and engagement with knowledge of the self, which leads to truth.