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The theory of the social influence of Michel de Montaigne

The theory of the social influence of Michel de Montaigne

July 19, 2024

If someone asks us to explain what it is to have power, it is very possible that we define it as having a great influence on others. This can be very useful, since it is still a way to extend our resources when it comes to enforce our will. The fact you have influence on others, for example, thanks to our popularity, can become more useful and more effective than money in conditioning the behavior of others.

Now ... what is the price of being a reference figure for others? Already in the sixteenth century, the philosopher Michel de Montaigne reflected on the way in which fame and influence enslave us .


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Who was Michel de Montaigne?

Michel Eyquem de Montaigne was one of the most important philosophers and essayists of Renaissance Europe . Born in the year 1533 into a rich family living in a castle near Bordeaux, he could not enjoy the luxuries of his lineage during his early childhood, as his parents sent him to live with a family of poor peasants until He passed from three years of age, in principle so that he knew what humble life is.

Later enjoyed a liberal education based on the habit of questioning everything, a trend that gained much strength in Europe after centuries of religious dogmatism. Of course, until he was six years old he was only allowed to speak in Latin, and French was his second language.


The efforts that Montaigne's family made to make him a member of the intellectual elite paid off. In 1571 he joined the parliament, where he worked for more than a decade until he felt to enjoy the family heritage.

In the year 1680, apart from starting to travel in Europe, He published his first set of essays , to those who would follow another two volumes later. He lived without major economic concerns and shortly before his death returned to occupy a political position, this time as mayor of Bordeaux.

The theory of the influence of Michel Montaigne

There are many ways to influence others without having a large reserve of money; For example, being in a position where the decisions we make can benefit or harm others objectively. Many politicians would fall into this category.


But, beyond this ... Does it have a price to have a lot of power of influence thanks to fame? Montaigne believed that yes and that this price is high. Let's see how he argued.

1. Tranquility is the preferred state

Montaigne believed that everything we do, in principle, we do to live without worry. The natural state of the human being is, therefore, not to be forced to face unnecessary moments of stress, and to accept the bad with simplicity and without dramas.

2. Tranquility has to do with the public image

For the simple fact of living in society, what we are going to experience depends in part on how we interact with others . Our neighbors and fellow citizens can come to condition our lives a lot.

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3. We try to give a good image

To be able to absorb the risk that our relationships with others go badly, we try to have a good public image , something that can make others have a good predisposition to deal with us. But, at the same time, we can try not only to avoid risks, but to use a very powerful public image to influence others and enjoy privileged treatment.

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4. The public image is an extra problem

Montaigne believed that although the purpose of having a fame or a positive social image is to enjoy more pleasant living conditions that give us access to resources that we might not have access to without these elements, their presence supposes to have many extra concerns.

In order to perform the maintenance of that tool that we use to influence the others , we dedicate time and effort to pretend, to make public appearances and even to create bonds of supposed friendship in order to remain relevant.

5. Tranquility and fame are incompatible

Maybe the possibility of being famous seems very attractive in certain circumstances, but in any case it is something that guarantees us to have to attend to extra concerns. Somehow we speculate with our well-being, complicating our lives to maintain an artifact (the public image) that requires constant maintenance and that can be completely ruined in a matter of seconds, for example, if it is discovered that in a concert in which we are singing there is playback.

The philosophy of Michel de Montaigne, then, leads us to take life with simplicity.


04 - Montaigne on Self-Esteem - Philosophy: A Guide to Happiness (July 2024).


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