The Essays of Montaigne/Book I/Chapter XXI

The Essays of Montaigne by Michel de Montaigne
Chapter XXI. That the profit of one man is the damage of another.

Chapter XXI. That the profit of one man is the damage of another. Edit

Demades the Athenian--[Seneca, De Beneficiis, vi. 38, whence nearly the
whole of this chapter is taken.]--condemned one of his city, whose trade
it was to sell the necessaries for funeral ceremonies, upon pretence that
he demanded unreasonable profit, and that that profit could not accrue to
him, but by the death of a great number of people. A judgment that
appears to be ill grounded, forasmuch as no profit whatever can possibly
be made but at the expense of another, and that by the same rule he
should condemn all gain of what kind soever. The merchant only thrives
by the debauchery of youth, the husband man by the dearness of grain, the
architect by the ruin of buildings, lawyers and officers of justice by
the suits and contentions of men: nay, even the honour and office of
divines are derived from our death and vices. A physician takes no
pleasure in the health even of his friends, says the ancient Greek comic
writer, nor a soldier in the peace of his country, and so of the rest.
And, which is yet worse, let every one but dive into his own bosom, and
he will find his private wishes spring and his secret hopes grow up at
another's expense. Upon which consideration it comes into my head, that
nature does not in this swerve from her general polity; for physicians
hold, that the birth, nourishment, and increase of every thing is the
dissolution and corruption of another:

          "Nam quodcumque suis mutatum finibus exit,
          Continuo hoc mors est illius, quod fuit ante."

     ["For, whatever from its own confines passes changed, this is at
     once the death of that which before it was."--Lucretius, ii. 752.]