The question posed at the beginning of this opening chapter of the Essais is what one should do when at the mercy of an adversary who seeks vengeance. Should one proudly stand one's ground or fall on one's knees and beg for clemency? The second book of the Essais seems to begin with the same problem as the first — the inconstancy of human conduct. Meanwhile, the term distinguo derives from the language of medieval dialectics, where it refers to the act of drawing a distinction, and eventually came to designate the distinction itself. Montaigne returns to the theme of difference throughout the Essais, notably at the beginning of ‘De l'experience’, where he remarks that since experience is no less diverse than reason, it is equally incapable of producing reliable generalizations.
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