On the Lame (Book III, Essay 11, 1580-95)


by Michel de Montaigne (1533 - 1592)

An essay that combines Montaigne’s review of what it was like to have sex with a lame woman with the profound theme of mankind’s tendency to self-deception.

It begins, unexpectedly, with discussion of the official calendar, moving onto other things we perceive, like time, with subjective distortion: superstitions, miracles and mirages. He describes himself as a misshapen miracle, eluding his own understanding. The subjects of witchcraft and lameness are raised as examples of how our reasons ‘run ahead’ of hard facts, proving the mind’s suppleness and eccentricity. Montaigne calls for more honesty about uncertainty, and more ambiguity in our verdicts.

Related recommendation: Bacon’s ‘Of Superstition’ (1625)

Origin: France

Themes: Superstition

Genres: Spiritual or Philosophical Meditation

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