Detach From the Opinions of Others: Montaigne

Michel De Montaigne (1533-1592) was a French philosopher, essayist and statesman who amongst other things, promoted the value of solitude. Not specifically physical solitude, but the ability to resist the temptation to mindlessly fall in with the opinion and actions of the masses.

He compares our desire for the approval of others to being overly attached to material wealth and possessions – both of which, diminish us mentally.

However, we should not go the complete opposite way, and become controversial; living like a cynic, and rejecting all worldy possessions, social customs and opinions from others. Only that we should cultivate a slight detachment from them.

By doing so, we may enjoy these passions – and even benefit from them – but we will not become emotionally enslaved to them, or devastated if we lose them.

“Fame and Tranquility Can Never Be Bedfellows”

Montaigne

Montaigne stated that our desire for mass approval is linked to the pursuit of glory, or fame. And that constant striving for fame is the greatest barrier to peace of mind.

Montaigne is not concerned whether we achieve glory. Instead, we should shake off the desire for glory in the eyes of other people – that we should not always think of other people’s approval and admiration as being valuable.

He stressed that caring too much about the opinion of those around us will eventually corrupt us.

Furthermore, by valuing glory above all teaches you to never attempt any endeavour unless an approving audience is on hand, ready and eager to bear witness to the remarkable nature of your powers and achievements.

Avoid the Desire for Fame

What’s ironic is that Montaigne actually ended up achieving fame. Here was someone who preached solitude and detachment from others opinions, and then ended up being one of the most influential and well known philosophers in Western philosophy.

But what was key here was that he was not seeking the fame. He gained tranquility from solitude and fame came to him by his ideas and the way he lived his life. If he lost all fame and public favour he would have not been bothered because he was detached from the opinions of others.

Are there things you’re doing just for the achievement of fame and the approval of others?

Are there things you want to do but are worried what others will say?

According to Montaigne, the best way to achieve peace of mind, tranquility and happiness is to shake off the desire for glory and approval from others.

Live a life in accordance with your own dreams, goals and moral compass within the confines of society.

Aim for peace of mind, not fame and glory.


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