It is one thing to bring your soul to accept such ideas: it is quite another to combine theory and practice. (MICHEL DE MONTAIGNE)

It is one thing to bring your soul to accept such ideas: it is quite another to combine theory and practice. (MICHEL DE MONTAIGNE)

On Virtue

It happens even to us who are mere abortions of men that we can occasionally enrapture our Soul far beyond her ordinary state when she is awakened by the words or examples of another man: but it is a kind of passion which impels her, disturbs her and ravishes her somewhat outside ourselves; for once that whirlwind is over, we can see that she spontaneously relaxes and comes down, not perhaps down to the lowest stage of all but at least to less than she was, so that we can be moved to anger more or less like any ordinary man by the loss of a hawk or by a broken glass.
Ordinate conduct, moderation, constancy apart, I believe that anything at all can be done, even by a man who, taken overall, is lacking and deficient. That is why the wise men say that to judge a man we properly we must principally look at his routine activities and surprise him in his everyday dress.
Pyrrho, the man who built up ignorance into so pleasing a science, made an assay at conforming his life to his doctrine. And because he maintained that the feebleness of human judgement was so extreme as to be unable to incline towards any decision or persuasion and wanted to keep it forever hanging in the balance, regarding and welcoming all things as adiaphora, stories are told how he always maintained the same manner and expression.
When he had started to say anything he never failed to go on to the end, even if the man he was speaking to had walked off; he never swerved from his path for any obstacle whatsoever, protected only by his friends from precipices or from being bumped into by carts, and similar accidents; for to fear or to avoid anything would have shocked his own principles, which remove all choice and election even from the senses. On occasions he allowed himself to be cut open or cauterized with such steadfastness that he never batted an eyelid.
Now it is one thing to bring your soul to accept such ideas: it is quite another to combine theory and practice. Yet it is not impossible. But what is virtually incredible is that you should combine them with such perseverance and constancy as to make it your regular routine in actions so far from common custom.
That is why, when he was once surprised in his home quarrelling bitterly with his sister and reproached for having thereby forgotten his adiaphorism, he retorted: ‘What! Must even this silly woman serve to prove my rules?’ On another occasion he was seen defending himself against a dog; ‘It is,’ he said, ‘very difficult to cast off the Man entirely, and we must make it our duty to strive to fight against things first by deeds or, as second best, by reason and argument.’

 

 

 

 

The Essays of Montaigne
Michel de Montaigne



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