Intended for healthcare professionals

Views & Reviews Medical Classics

Montaigne’s Essays

BMJ 2010; 340 doi: (Published 12 May 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c2539
  1. Julian Sheather, deputy head of ethics, BMA
  1. jsheather{at}

    Some ideas seem to hover just beyond the horizon of possibility. Try to imagine modern medicine without our idea of “the self,” without the idea that we each possess a unique, authentic, evolving identity—an inner core, unlike all others, the essence of who we most deeply are. Depth psychology, narrative medicine, person centred care, a “good death”: the language of medicine has increasingly aligned itself to the powerful gravitational field of the self. It wasn’t always this way. Our idea of who we are is one of the great works of modernity, and it takes considerable mental cunning to see it as anything other than normal or natural.

    In 1580 the French late …

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