As I filled up the truck, I found myself looking at the books with a certain hostility. There is a very real sense in which they ruined my life. At twenty-five I believed that by absorbing their contents —or, short of that, by hauling them around with me from place to place— they would somehow redeem me. At forty-five I found myself still unredeemed, worrying about money in a way I never imagined possible, angry at the false advertising by which mere learning is said to lead to happiness. These books destined me to an unbalanced life, like a poorly packed U-Haul that leans too far to one side; like a cheap Ikea particle-board bookshelf, bought only as a temporary and partial solution, sagging under the weight of its books.

— Justin E.H. Smith, “The End of Books


He said philosophers have been arguing about this for centuries, they haven’t come up with any consensus answers, and so we should just stop asking. That is, Montaigne makes the case that it is possible to live a good human life with a kind of indifference to the question of the highest good. And that that way of seeking happiness, is what we call the quest for imminent contentment. And the happiness Montaigne celebrates is a dabbling kind of happiness. That is, instead of asking is philosophy going to make me happy, or is religion going to make me happy, or is citizenship going to make me happy, Montaigne does a little of everything, but he does it all with a light touch. So for example, he reads, but he tells us that he doesn’t like the heavy stuff, Plato and Aristotle. He prefers lighter authors like Plutarch and Ovid (his version of light might be a little different than ours). He travels, but when he travels he doesn’t go with the ambitions of an explorer, or the aspirations, the piety, of a pilgrim, he’s just taking a look around. And Montaigne says this kind of nonchalant existence, in which we enjoy all the pleasures and pursuits available to us, but don’t make too much out of any of them, this is the true way to happiness.

— Benjamin Storey, podcast with Richard M. Reinsch, “Restless Amidst Prosperity and Freedom


We no longer believe that truth remains truth when the veil is withdrawn from it: we have lived long enough to believe this. At present we regard it as a matter of propriety not to be anxious either to see everything naked, or to be present at everything, or to understand and “know” everything. “Is it true that the good God is everywhere present? ” asked a little girl of her mother: “I think that is indecent”: a hint to philosophers! One should have more reverence for the shame-facedness with which nature has concealed herself behind enigmas and motley uncertainties. Perhaps truth is a woman who has reasons for not showing her reasons? Perhaps her name is Baubo, to speak in Greek?… Oh, those Greeks! They knew how to live: for that purpose it is necessary to keep bravely to the surface, the fold and the skin; to worship appearance, to believe in forms, tones, and words, in the whole Olympus of appearance! Those Greeks were superficial – from profundity!

—Nietzsche, The Gay Science