Essays By Montaigne Summary

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“Friendship,” he says, “is enjoyed...proportionally as it is desired; and only grows up, is nourished and improved by enjoyment, as being itself spiritual, and the soul growing still more refined by practice.” Friendship is transcendent: of family relationships, social duties, and customs.

Loyalty to one’s friend should cause one to defy all norms, says Montaigne.

Montaigne subscribes to a radically different definition of “essay,” one especially suited for writing.

The French word essayer means “to try, to attempt, to test.” An essay, in Montaigne’s conception, is a trial, a test-drive of an idea, a throwing of noodles against the wall.

We tend to define the essay as a deductive genre: I have my point to make, and I will take these prescribed, recognizable steps to convince you of my point.

This is how students are taught to write, and it is a formula as old as Aristotle, a formula rooted in oratory.

On physicians: to be a "right" physician, one must have experienced every illness, accident or mishap one seeks to treat.

On going to stool: to have a right bowel movement, one must have peace, quiet, punctuality and privacy to avoid unruliness of the belly.

In Montaigne's final essay he expounds upon the results of his long search for self knowledge via life experience.

He uses disease, health, medicine and doctors as prime arenas for demonstration of what he has learned from living.


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