We generally think that philosophers should be proud of their big brains, and be fans of thinking, self-reflection and rational analysis.
But there’s one philosopher, born in France in 1533, with a refreshingly different take. Michel de Montaigne was an intellectual who spent his writing life knocking the arrogance of intellectuals. In his great masterpiece, the Essays, he comes across as relentlessly wise and intelligent – but also as constantly modest and keen to debunk the pretensions of learning. Not least, he is extremely funny…: ‘to learn that we have said or done a stupid thing is nothing, we must learn a more ample and important lesson: that we are but blockheads… On the highest throne in the world, we are seated, still, upon our arses.’ And, lest we forget: ‘Kings and philosophers shit, and so do ladies.’