Welcome to our collection of quotes by Michel de Montaigne. We hope you enjoy pondering them and please share widely.
Michel Eyquem de Montaigne ( mon-TAYN; French: [miʃɛl ekɛm də mɔ̃tɛɲ]; 28 February 1533 – 13 September 1592), also known as Lord of Montaigne, was one of the most significant philosophers of the French Renaissance, known for popularizing the essay as a literary genre. His work is noted for its merging of casual anecdotes and autobiography with intellectual insight. His massive volume Essais contains some of the most influential essays ever written.
Montaigne had a direct influence on Western writers including Francis Bacon, René Descartes, Blaise Pascal, Montesquieu, Edmund Burke, Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, David Hume, Edward Gibbon, Virginia Woolf, Albert Hirschman, William Hazlitt, Ralph Waldo Emerson, John Henry Newman, Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, Alexander Pushkin, Charles Darwin, Friedrich Nietzsche, Stefan Zweig, Eric Hoffer, 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).
Lying is a terrible vice, it testifies that one despises God, but fears men.
Venus is not so beautiful all naked, alive, and panting, as she is here in Virgil.
It is a rare life that remains orderly even in private.
A good marriage needs a blind wife and a deaf husband.
Decency, not to dare to do that in public which it is decent enough to do in private.
I speak to the paper, as I speak to the first person I meet.
There never were in the world two opinions alike, no more than two hairs or two grains; the most universal quality is diversity.
The souls of emperors and cobblers are cast in the same mould.
No passion disturbs the soundness of our judgement as anger does.
The sage says that all that is under heaven incurs the same law and the same fate.
The finest thing in the world is knowing how to belong to oneself.
Wickedness sucks in the greater part of its own venom and poisons itself therewith.
Whether you find satisfaction in life depends not on your tale of years, but on your will.
The most terrible and violent of our own afflictions is to despise our own beings.
An honest man is not accountable for the vice and folly of his trade, and therefore ought not to refuse the exercise of it.
We must reserve a little back-shop, all our own, entirely free, wherein to establish our true liberty and principal retreat and solitude.
A man must not always tell all, for that were folly; but what a man says should be what he thinks.
All general judgments are loose and imperfect.
He who is not very strong in memory should not meddle with lying.
To forbid us anything is to make us have a mind for it.
To forbid us anything is to make us have a mind to 't.
Habit is a second nature.
Between ourselves, there are two things that I have always observed to be in singular accord: supercelestial thoughts and subterranean conduct.
Even opinion is of force enough to make itself to be espoused at the expense of life.
We cannot be held to promises beyond our power or our means. That is why -- since nothing is really in our power but our will -- it is on the will that all the rules and duties of Man are based and established.
All is a-swarm with commentaries: of authors there is a dearth.
A man may by custom fortify himself against pain, shame, and suchlike accidents; but as to death, we can experience it but once, and are all apprentices when we come to it.
Whatever can be done another day can be done today.
He who establishes his argument by noise and command, shows that his reason is weak.
I am not so shocked by savages who roast and eat the bodies of their dead as by those who torture and persecute the living.
A lady could not boast of her chastity who was never tempted.
It is a small soul, buried beneath the weight of affairs, that does not know how to get clean away from them, that cannot put them aside and pick them up again.
Stupidity and wisdom meet in the same centre of sentiment and resolution, in the suffering of human accidents.
I neither complain of the past, nor do I fear the future.
The customs and practices of life in society sweep us along.
Our truth of nowadays is not what is, but what others can be convinced of; just as we call money not only that which is legal, but also any counterfeit that will pass.
I may indeed very well happen to contradict myself; but truth, as Demades said, I do not contradict.
We must learn to endure what we cannot avoid. Our life is composed, like the harmony of the world, of contrary things, also of different tones, sweet and harsh, sharp and flat, soft and loud. If a musician liked only one kind, what would he have to say?
What am I to choose? Choose what you please, as long as you choose. There you have a foolish answer, which seems to be the outcome, however, of all Dogmatism, which will not allow us to be ignorant of that which we are ignorant.
It is not a mind, it is not a body that we educate, but it is a man, and we must not make two parts of him.
Tis no wonder, says one of the ancients, that chance has so great a dominion over us, since it is by chance we live.
The art of dining well is no slight art, the pleasure not a slight pleasure; neither the greatest captains nor the greatest philosophers have disdained the use or science of eating well.
Shame on all eloquence which leaves us with a taste for itself and not for its substance.
Make use of life while you have it. Whether you have lived enough depends upon yourself, not on the number of your years.
Nature has made us a present of a broad capacity for entertaining ourselves apart, and often calls us to do so, to teach us that we owe ourselves in part to society, but in the best part to ourselves.
Is it not a noble farce, wherein kings, republics, and emperors have for so many ages played their parts, and to which the whole vast universe serves for a theatre?
The finest lives in my opinion are the common model, without miracle and without extravagance.
He that had never seen a river imagined the first he met to be the sea; and the greatest things that have fallen within our knowledge we conclude the extremes that nature makes of the kind.
Tortures are a dangerous invention, and seem to be a test of endurance rather than of truth.
You have your face bare; I am all face.
Who is only good that others may know it, and that he may be the better esteemed when 'tis known, who will do well but upon condition that his virtue may be known to men, is one from whom much service is not to be expected.
As far as fidelity is concerned, there is no animal in the world as treacherous as man.
Oh senseless man, who cannot possibly make a worm or a flea and yet will create Gods by the dozen!
But the touch or company of any man whatsoever stirreth up their heat, which in their solitude was hushed and quiet, and lay as cinders raked up in ashes.
Glory and repose are things that cannot possibly inhabit in one and the same place.
A man should think less of what he eats and more with whom he eats because no food is so satisfying as good company.
Courtesy is a science of the highest importance. It is...opening a door that we may derive instruction from the example of others, and at the same time enabling us to benefit them by our example, if there be anything in our character worthy of imitation.
It is an absolute perfection... to get the very most out of one's individuality.
Time steals away without any inconvenience.
Persons of mean understandings, not so inquisitive, nor so well instructed, are made good Christians, and by reverence and obedience, implicity believe, and abide by their belief.
Is there a polity better ordered, the offices better distributed, and more inviolably observed and maintained, than that of bees?
Excellent memories are often coupled with feeble judgments.
Dreams are faithful interpreters of our inclinations; but there is art required to sort and understand them.
If you have known how to compose your life, you have done a great deal more than the person who knows how to compose a book. You have done more than the one who has taken cities and empires.
Among the liberal arts, let us begin with the art that liberates us.
It is easier to sacrifice great than little things.
It would be better to have no laws at all, than to have too many.
It is for little souls, that truckle under the weight of affairs, not to know how clearly to disengage themselves, and not to know how to lay them aside and take them up again.
Wisdom has its excesses, and has no less need of moderation than folly.
Our great and glorious masterpiece is to live appropriately.
The great and glorious masterpiece of humanity is to know how to live with a purpose.
I enjoy books as misers enjoy treasures, because I know I can enjoy them whenever I please.
Obstinacy and contention are common qualities, most appearing in, and best becoming, a mean and illiterate soul.
Tis the taste of effeminacy that disrelishes ordinary and accustomed things.
The worth of the mind consisteth not in going high, but in marching orderly.
Man is the sole animal whose nudities offend his own companions, and the only one who, in his natural actions, withdraws and hides himself from his own kind.
People of our time are so formed for agitation and ostentation that goodness, moderation, equability, constancy, and such quiet and obscure qualities are no longer felt.
For table-talk, I prefer the pleasant and witty before the learned and the grave; in bed, beauty before goodness.
The most regular and most perfect soul in the world has but too much to do to keep itself upright from being overthrown by its own weakness.
It is equally pointless to weep because we won't be alive a hundred years from now as that we were not here a hundred years ago.
That is why Bias jested with those who were going through the perils of a great storm with him and calling on the gods for help: Shut up, he said, so that they do not realize that you are here with me.
Whoever will imagine a perpetual confession of ignorance, a judgment without leaning or inclination, on any occasion whatever, hasa conception of Pyrrhonism.
The bitterness of the potion, and the abhorrence of the patient are necessary circumstances to the operation. It must be something to trouble and disturb the stomach that must purge and cure it.
The plague of man is boasting of his knowledge.
An honest man is not accountable for the vice and folly of his trade, and therefore ought not to refuse the exercise of it. It is the custom of his country, and there is profit in it. We must live by the world, and such as we find it, so make use of it.
It is in the enjoyment and not in mere possession that makes for happiness.
How many quarrels, and how important, has the doubt as to the meaning of this syllable Hoc produced for the world!
The premeditation of death is the premeditation of liberty; he who has learnt to die has forgot to serve.
We must reserve a back shop all our own entirely free, in which to establish our real liberty and our principal retreat and solitude.
Repentance is but a denying of our will, and an opposition of our fantasies.
Plenty and indigence depend upon the opinion every one has of them; and riches, like glory of health, have no more beauty or pleasure than their possessor is pleaded to lend them.
In my youth I studied for ostentation; later, a little to gain wisdom; now, for recreation; never for gain.