Michel de montaigne the complete essay penguin classics

What sets essaying apart from asserting is failing. Diversion, digression, ambiguity, uncertainty — these are essential, not inimical, to the form. But an essayist who aims for uncertainty is unsatisfying. In good essays, we witness writers grappling genuinely with unanswerable questions, trying to answer and failing, coming by their uncertainty in an honest manner. It is appropriate that the story of the first self-conscious essayist and his times should also be the story of an honest failure: “In the early 1580s, politics looked very much like the form of the essay. Everything was in movement and contested.”

Given Montaigne’s expression of this conception of the self as a fragmented and ever-changing entity, it should come as no surprise that we find contradictions throughout the Essays .  Indeed, one of the apparent contradictions in Montaigne’s thought concerns his view of the self.  While on the one hand he expresses the conception of the self outlined in the passage above, in the very same essay - as if to illustrate the principle articulated above - he asserts that his self is unified by his judgment, which has remained essentially the same his entire life.  Such apparent contradictions, in addition to Montaigne’s style and the structure that he gives his book, complicate the task of reading and have understandably led to diverse interpretations of its contents.

Michel de montaigne the complete essay penguin classics

michel de montaigne the complete essay penguin classics

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