April 25, 2013

Ear Worm

Duration: 43 minutes
First broadcast: Thursday 25 April 2013
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Essays of Michel de Montaigne. Born near Bordeaux in 1533, Montaigne retired from a life of public service aged 38 and began to write. He called these short works 'essais', or 'attempts'; they deal with an eclectic range of subjects, from the dauntingly weighty to the apparently trivial. Although he never considered himself a philosopher, he is often now seen as one of the most outstanding Sceptical thinkers of early modern Europe. His approachable style, intelligence and subtle thought have made him one of the most widely admired writers of the Renaissance.

(A translation of the slice of Montaigne's "On Idleness" above that's easier on modern ears, below the fold...)

"When the soul is without a definite aim she gets lost; for, as they say, if you are everywhere you are nowhere.... Recently I retired to my estate, determined to devote myself as far as I could to spending what little life I have left quietly and privately; it seemed to me then that the greatest favour I could do for my mind was to leave it in total idleness, caring for itself, concerned only with itself....

"But I find ... that on the contrary [my mind] bolted off like a runaway horse, taking far more trouble over itself than it ever did over anyone else; it gives birth to so many chimeras and fantastic monstrosities, one after another, without order or fitness, that, so as to contemplate at my ease their oddness and their strangeness, I began to keep a record of them, hoping in time to make my mind ashamed of itself."

--Michel de Montaigne, "On Idleness," in On Friendship (Penguin 2004), 69-70.


Posted by Dennis at April 25, 2013 11:15 PM

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