Montaigne on learning

“If anyone is looking for knowledge let him go where such fish are to be caught: there is nothing I lay claim to less. These are my own thoughts, by which I am striving to make known not matter but me. Perhaps I shall master that matter one day; or perhaps I did do so once when Fortune managed to bring me to places where light is thrown on it. But I no longer remember anything about that. I may be a man of fairly wide reading, but I retain nothing…

So I guarantee you nothing for certain, expect my making known… I get others to say what I cannot put so well myself, sometimes because of the weakness of my language and sometimes because of the weakness of my intellect… Indeed, recognizing our own ignorance is one of the surest and most beautiful witnesses to our judgement that I can find…

My design is to spend whatever life I have left gently and unlaboriously. I am not prepared to bash my brains for anything, not even for learning’s sake however precious it may be. From books all I seek is to give myself pleasure by an honourable pastime: or if I do study, I seek only that branch of learning which deals with knowing myself and which teaches me how to live and die well.

If one book wearies me I take up another, applying myself to it only during those hours when I begin to be gripped by boredom at doing nothing. I do not have much to do with books by modern authors, since the Ancients seem to me to be more taut and ample.”

— Michel de Montaigne