To my taste the most fruitful and most natural exercise of our minds is conversation. I find the practice of it the most delightful activity in our lives. That is why, if I were now obliged to make the choice, I think I would rather lose my sight than my powers of speech or hearing. In their academies the Athenians, and even more the Romans, they maintained this exercise in great honor. In our own times the Italians retain some vestiges of it...
if I am sparring with a strong and solid opponent they will attack me on the flanks, stick his lance in me right and left; his ideas send me soaring. Rivalry, competitiveness and glory will drive me and raise me above my own level. In conversation the most painful quality is perfect harmony. I love arguing and discussing but with only a few men and for my own sake: for to serve as a spectacle to the great and indulge in a parade of your wits and your verbiage is, I consider, an unbecoming trade for an honorable gentleman. Stupidity is a bad quality: but to be unable to put up with it, to be vexed and ground down by it (as happens to me) is another, hardly worse in its unmannerliness than stupidity. and that is what at present I wish to condemn in myself."
- Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592)