Pensées

Pensées

Blaise Pascal, the precociously brilliant contemporary of Descartes, was a gifted mathematician and physicist, but it is his unfinished apologia for the Christian religion upon which his reputation now rests. The Penseés is a collection of philosohical fragments, notes and essays in which Pascal explores the contradictions of human nature in pscyhological, social, metaphys...

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Title:Pensées
Author:Blaise Pascal
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Edition Language:English

Pensées Reviews

  • David Sarkies

    29 August 2016 - Paris, France

    When I was learning French I was rather thrown by the way their numbers work after about 60, as is demonstrated by this picture, which shows how English, German, and French construct the number 98:

    My first thought was 'this is absolutely ridiculous, how on Earth could the French have produced any mathematicians?” Well, it turns out that they produced at least two – Rene Descartes (notable for Cartesian Geometry) and Blaise Pasc

    29 August 2016 - Paris, France

    When I was learning French I was rather thrown by the way their numbers work after about 60, as is demonstrated by this picture, which shows how English, German, and French construct the number 98:

    My first thought was 'this is absolutely ridiculous, how on Earth could the French have produced any mathematicians?” Well, it turns out that they produced at least two – Rene Descartes (notable for Cartesian Geometry) and Blaise Pascal (who built his own calculator, most likely to assist him in deciphering the French numerical system). At least the Germans only switch their numbers around, it just seems like the French reached the number 60 and simply became too lazy to work out any beyond that (and if you look at the numbers 17, 18, and 19, you will see a similar pattern there). Anyway, I'm not writing this to bag the French (only the way they count), but to have another look at Pascal's Pensees.

    This is the second time I have read this book, and I thought it was an appropriate book to read while travelling through France, and I have just managed to finish it off on my first day in Paris (while sitting out the front of a cafe drinking what was effectively an overpriced beer and an over priced bottle of Pine-apple juice, which is another oddity – the English refer to them and Pineapples while those on the continent refer to them as Annanas – but that is another story). As I have done previously, I have left my previous review below, though that was written back when I was studying Church History at a Bible college and having realised that I had already written a review on it I was about to move on to another book when I felt that I should read him again, just to see if I end up viewing him differently.

    Well, I'm going to have to agree with what

    in that the first part of the book, namely the section where Pascal managed to order his Pensees, is actually pretty good, but when you get to the section where the editor has then tried to put them into some sort of order, and failing that just thrown the rest of them into a miscellaneous chapter, it does sort of start to go down hill. For instance you will find some that are simply huge chucks of the Bible, and not really ethical thoughts, but rather ideas on prophecies and their fulfilments. Like a lot of fundamentalist preachers these days he does seem to spend an inordinate amount of time focusing on the book of Daniel.

    The other thing is that Pascal spends a lot of time arguing that Christianity cannot be proved through reason, however the proceeds to use reason to try to prove Christianity. I remember my father telling me once that it is impossible to prove Christianity by using science namely because non-scientists generally don't understand the detailed scientific explanations, and non-Christian scientists have their own explanations as to why things happen. For instance, I asked my Dad why is it that the events at the Big Bang seems to go against the Law of Therodynamics, that is the scientific law that says that everything moves from a state of order to a state of disorder. Well, just like gravity (what goes up, must come down), there are exceptions (unless you have a really big rocket underneath you). The other thing with the Big Bang is that nobody was around to measure it so we don't actually know what went on. Also the universe is also constantly expanding, which once again seems to go against the law of entropy, though I think I'll leave it at that is it is starting to make my brain hurt.

    Anyway, reading through the Pensees it seems as if Pascal was one of those guys who started off as a scientist (or rather a mathematician), discovered God, and then started to try to use science to prove God. It reminded me a lot of those Creation Scientists, the ones who go around claiming that if you don't believe in a six-day creation you are denying Christ, and if you deny Christ then you are going to hell. Well, I guess that is it for me then, but that is beside the point. The thing is that while I believe that they have some valid ideas, I do try to leave my mind open for other possibilities. However, as I was reading Pascal this time I simply found how his arguments simply didn't seem to work all that well, and while it might have worked with the people of his time period, these days it simply seems that his writings would probably only appeal to the fundamentalist sects (and even then they would probably end up rejecting him as a heretic namely because he is a Catholic).

    Despite all that, I do feel that he does have a lot to say and I will touch on a couple of things here, the first being distractions. There is a lot of criticism of distractions in the modern world – such as sport, movies, Keeping up with the Kardasians, et al – and that these distractions serve to keep the actions of the power elite from being known by the common people. Well, Pascal suggests that this is not necessarily the case, and I sort of agree with him. The thing is that the common people generally don't care what the power elite are doing, and as long as they have their goodies they will be happy. It is not a question of human rights, nor is it a question of freedom of speech – people will do what they are prone to do – no it is a question of boredom. It is not as if the common person, if the truth is revealed to them, are suddenly going to take to the streets with pitchforks – the Peasants in France knew what the Aristocracy and the Church was all about, they only revolted when their own situation became so dire that they had nothing left to lose (and were also prodded on by a pretty powerful bourgeoisie). Rather, it is to prevent boredom. The thing is that if a person is bored they get up to mischief, and if a lot of people get up to mischief together then anarchy reigns.

    The other thing about distraction is how it is used in relation to the monarch. Pascal suggests that the monarch is fed distractions by his advisors to prevent the monarch from establishing his (or her) own agenda. Mind you, that depends on how strong the monarch actually is – a strong monarch is going to do their own thing no matter what. However, in most cases, as is suggested by Pascal, it is the advisors and the inner circle that actually dictates how the country is administered. The king is fed distractions so that he will in effect relinquish his (or her) power to them. It could be said that it is the same with politicians today, especially career politicians who probably have no skill set outside of doing what politicians actually do (which is a question to which I an struggling to find an answer). The reality is that most politicians (and cabinet ministers) have no idea how to actually do their job and thus rely on advisors to help them make the decision. In the end the politician, seeing that it is all too hard, arranges for another overseas junket and gets the advisors to make the final decisions and simply signs on the dotted line.

    One of the things that seems to get up Pascal's nose are vain people – namely those who think of themselves over others. Mind you, he is probably right because it is our vanity that seems to be the cause of a lot of problems that we face in the world, and it is not just the question of the rich not paying their taxes because many of us in the Western World (me included) generally think of our own happiness above the welfare and security of others. In fact it is coming to the point where many of our countries are doing everything that we can to close our borders to refugees and immigrants and blaming in influx of foreigners for all of our woahs. In a way one of the main reasons that the leave vote won out in Britain was because people believed that by voting leave they would get rid of all of the immigrants and return Britain to that of the Anglo-Saxons. In many cases we in the west are hoarders – sure, we might be generous to an extent, even the absurdly rich are pretty generous with their money – they give to charities and to cultural institutions – in fact on a proportionate basis they are probably more generous than many of us who can actually afford to be charitable (though I am not taking into account the reasons for their giving since many of us give for ulterior motives such as a tax deduction). However, when Pascal looked around he we would see an awful lot of vanity in the world, and even when people appeared to be kind and generous he tended to see something beyond that. As Jesus pointed out at the temple one day it was the poor widow who gave the single coin who was the more generous because while the rich gave out of their wealth she gave out of her poverty.

    Which leads me to the concept of the inversion – people who consider themselves good and righteous end up being anything but. Mind you, this isn't something that Pascal comes up with himself but rather something that is a constant theme throughout the Bible and can best be seen in the Sermon on the Mount, in particular the beatitudes – the poor become rich, the weak become strong, the sorrowful become joyful. In a way it is not a question of outward appearances but inward appearances. Isn't it interesting that when somebody gives out of their wealth an organisation will reward them for that, which means that such people continue to give knowing that their generosity will be rewarded and they will be viewed as a generous person. As Jesus suggests these people have received their reward in full, especially if that is the reason for them giving generously. However those who give a small amount tend to never to be recognised. Well, they might get a thankyou (or a

    ) but a lot of organisations will tend to ignore them when they give and only say thankyou when tapping them for more money. This is another thing that I have noticed – when you start giving to these organisations they will continue to ask for money, and normally will ask for more and more – if I give them $500.00 within a month I will receive a letter asking for $750, $1000, or even $2000. In fact the only letters that I seem to get from them is 'can you make another donation and can you make it more this time'.

    I should finish off with the idea of the wager, that is that life is a wager and the stakes are eternity, so you either have the choice to live a moral life or an immoral one. The results are that if you live a moral life but it turns out that God doesn't exist then you lose nothing because the moral life is always the better life, but if you live an immoral life and it turns out that God does exist then you lose out big time. Mind you, I have simplified it somewhat, especially since it should actually be 'Christian life' instead of 'moral life' but I'm sure you understand what I mean. The thing is that people outwardly parade their goodness to receive praise from those around them tend not to actually be moral people – sure, they may life immaculate lives in front of everybody but their private life may hold a huge number of dirty secrets. As far as I am concerned it is always going to be a heart things, you don't do things because you want people to say 'gee, what a good person' you do things because it is always better to live a moral life than an immoral life, especially since the immoral life always comes back and bites you.

    11 May 2012 - Adelaide, Australia

    Blaise Pascal is an enigma. He is a Catholic who in his book writes like an evangelical (or, more to the point, protestant as they were in those days). He is also a scientist/mathematician/engineer who writes what I must admit is an incredibly intense theological treatise. Well, not so much a treatise, but more a collection of sayings (some short, some quite long) exploring the nature of God, Jesus, the Bible, and our relationship with the Trinity. The book is not finished. He became too sick to continue the work and what we have now is a collection of the 'sayings' (if that is what you want to call them) in the order that he wanted them to be in, and a whole heap of others with no rhyme or reason (or at least they are not quite complete nor are they in any particular order). As such the later editors have done their best to attempt to put them where they think they best fit, but it is highly unlikely anybody would be able to know what Pascal's original intentions were.

    This book does allow one to get into Pascal's mind and understand his theology and his response to it, though Pascal was one of those very rare individuals that appears to live in a world of his own, though through this book we do catch a glimpse of this world.

  • Jesse

    Pascal has caused atheists to doubt their atheism more often than Nietzsche has theists their theism - why? Because those that let their hearts guide their thoughts are never in doubt, but those who unwisely look to results to guide them, as macho ubermensches perforce exclusively must, are always finding their conviction to be as slippery as the passing moment (no one result ever convinces the result-minded). Recognizing this, Pascal places a weighty emphasis on the heart and the nature of its

    Pascal has caused atheists to doubt their atheism more often than Nietzsche has theists their theism - why? Because those that let their hearts guide their thoughts are never in doubt, but those who unwisely look to results to guide them, as macho ubermensches perforce exclusively must, are always finding their conviction to be as slippery as the passing moment (no one result ever convinces the result-minded). Recognizing this, Pascal places a weighty emphasis on the heart and the nature of its law, which is ultimately inscrutable but much less so than the world around us; he hauntingly chastises our placing undue emphasis on rationality, saying "Contradiction is no more an indication of falsehood than lack of it an indication of truth." Yeah! Pascal - the master dialectician. Indeed, so masterful is Pascal, one truly cannot believe an atheist sincere if s/he has not read him; at least I cannot, for the thought contained here remains, for science has done nothing to weaken its impact, the epitome of profundity.

  • Dan

    Pascal's

    were never intended to be read, much like Marcus Aurelius'

    . As such, they honestly reveal the private thoughts of great philosophers on the human condition, and lo, they speak of how miserable people are. Both were lonely men made so by their great intellect and great character. While Marcus continues to strive with Ragnarokian futility to fulfill all his duties in a life of perfect virtue, Pascal is a bit more pessimistic, yet in the end more hopeful when he looks t

    Pascal's

    were never intended to be read, much like Marcus Aurelius'

    . As such, they honestly reveal the private thoughts of great philosophers on the human condition, and lo, they speak of how miserable people are. Both were lonely men made so by their great intellect and great character. While Marcus continues to strive with Ragnarokian futility to fulfill all his duties in a life of perfect virtue, Pascal is a bit more pessimistic, yet in the end more hopeful when he looks to Christ for ultimate purpose.

    Even those who don't believe in God will extract much wisdom from Pascal. His one-liners are some of the most devastating observations of human psychology. Even a cursory exercise in quote-mining will yield many seeds for extended thought. This book should be read carefully and digested fragment by fragment, line by line.

    Some of my favorite one-liners:

    - 'We search for happiness and find only wretchedness and death.'

    - 'I blame equally those who decide to praise man, those who blame him, and those who want to be diverted. I can only approve those who search in anguish.'

    - 'If you do not think about it enough, or if you think about it too much, you become obstinate and blinkered.'

    - 'Man's condition: Inconstancy, boredom, anxiety.'

    - 'What is based on reason alone is very ill-founded, like the appreciation of wisdom.'

    - 'Anyone who does not see the vanity of the world is very vain himself.'

    - 'But take away their distractions and you will see them wither from boredom.'

    - 'When we read too quickly or too slowly we understand nothing.'

    - 'More often than not curiosity is merely vanity. We only want to know something in order to talk about it.'

    - 'It is easier to put up with death without thinking about it, than with the idea of death when there is no danger of it.'

    - 'Our instinct leads us to believe we must seek our happiness outside ourselves.'

    - 'Humans, it is hopeless to look for the remedy for your wretchedness in yourselves. All your intelligence can only bring you to realize that it is not in yourselves that you will find either truth or good.'

    - 'We are fools to rely on the company of our equals as wretched and helpless as we are. We will die alone.'

    - 'Contradiction is not an indication of falsehood and the absence of contradiction is not a sign of truth.'

    - 'There are many who believe, but through superstition. There are many who do not believe, but through licentiousness.'

    - 'To uphold piety to the point of superstition is to destroy it.'

    - 'Knowing God without knowing our wretchedness leads to pride.'

    - 'Knowing wretchedness without knowing God leads to despair.'

  • Szplug
  • Roy Lotz

    Pascal seems to have been born for greatness. At a young age he displayed an intense talent for mathematics, apparently deducing a few propositions of Euclid by himself; and he matured into one of the great mathematical minds of Europe, making fundamental contributions to the science of probability. While he was at it, he invented an adding machine: the beginning of our adventures in computing.

    Later on in his short life, after narrowly escaping a carriage accident, the young man had an intense

    Pascal seems to have been born for greatness. At a young age he displayed an intense talent for mathematics, apparently deducing a few propositions of Euclid by himself; and he matured into one of the great mathematical minds of Europe, making fundamental contributions to the science of probability. While he was at it, he invented an adding machine: the beginning of our adventures in computing.

    Later on in his short life, after narrowly escaping a carriage accident, the young man had an intense conversion experience; and he devoted the rest of his energies to religion. A committed Jansenist (a sect of Catholics deeply influenced by Calvinism), he set out to defend his community from the hostile Jesuits. This resulted in his

    , a series of polemical epistles now considered a model and a monument of French prose. This was not all. His most ambitious project was a massive apology for the Christian faith. But disease struck him down before he could bring his book to term; and now all we are left with are fragments—scattered bits of thought.

    Strangely, it is this unfinished book—not his polished prose, not his contributions to mathematics—which has become Pascal’s most lasting work. It is a piece of extraordinary passion and riveting eloquence. Yet it is also disorganized, tortured, incomplete, uneven, abrupt—at times laconic to the point of inscrutability, at times rambling, diffuse, and obscure. How are we to judge such a book?

    Pascal alternates between two fundamental moods in the text: the tortured doubter, and the zealous convert. Inevitably I found the former sections to be far more compelling. Pascal was an avid reader of Montaigne, and seems to have taken that French sage’s skepticism to heart. Yet Pascal could never simulate Montaigne’s easy acceptance of his own ignorance; the mathematician wanted certainty, and was driven to despair by Montaigne’s gnawing doubt. Thus, though Pascal often echoes Montaigne’s thoughts, the tone is completely different: anguish rather than acceptance.

    Montaigne’s influence runs very deep in Pascal. Harold Bloom famously called the Pensées “a bad case indigestion in regard to Montaigne,” and notes the many passages of Pascal which directly echo Montaigne’s words. Will Durant goes even further, writing that Pascal was driven nearly to madness by Montaigne’s skepticism. There is, indeed, a shadow of mania and mental imbalance that falls over this work. Pascal gives the impression of one who is profoundly unhappy; and this despair both propels him to his heights and drags him to his depths.

    At his best, Pascal strikes one as a kind of depressed charismatic genius, writing in the mood of a Hamlet. Cynicism at times overwhelms him, as he notes how our vanity leads us to choose our professions and our habits just to receive praise from other people. He can also be a pessimist—noting, like Schopenhauer, that all earthly pleasures are unsatisfactory and vain. Pascal had a morbid streak, too.

    We also have the misanthrope, in which mood he most nearly approached the Danish prince:

    But I think even more moving that these moods is Pascal’s metaphysical despair. He wants certainty with every inch of his soul, and yet the universe only inspires doubt and anguish: “The eternal silence of these infinite spaces fills me with dread.” As a scientist during the age of Galileo, Pascal is painfully aware of humanity’s smallness in relation to the vast void of the universe. He struggles to establish our dignity: “Man is only a reed, the weakest in nature, but he is a thinking reed.” Yet his existential desperation continually reasserts itself, no matter how often he defends himself against it:

    He finds neither negative nor positive confirmation, however, and so must resort to a frenzied effort. Perhaps this is where the famous idea of the wager arose. Pascal’s Wager is simple: if you choose to be religious you have very much to gain and comparatively little to lose, so it is an intelligent bet. Of course there are many problems with this line of thinking. For one, would not an omniscient God know that you are choosing religion for calculated self-interest? Pascal’s solution is that, if you force yourself to undergo the rituals of religion—fasting, confession, mass, and the rest—the belief will gradually become genuine.

    Perhaps. Yet there are many other problems with the wager. Most noticeable, nowadays, is Pascal’s treatment of the religious problem as a binary choice—belief or unbelief—whereas now we have hundreds of options to choose from as regards religions. Further, Pascal’s insistence that we have everything to gain and nothing to lose is difficult to accept. For we do have something to lose: our life. Living a strictly religious life is no easy thing, after all. Also, his insistence that the finite existence of our life is nothing compared to the potential infinity of heavenly life leaves out one crucial thing: If there is no afterlife, than our finite existence is infinitely more valuable than the nothingness that awaits. So the wager does not clarify anything.

    In any case, it is unclear what use Pascal wished to make of his wager. The rest of this book does not make any mention of this kind of strategic belief. Indeed, at times Pascal seems to directly contradict this idea of an intellectually driven faith, particularly in his emphasis on the role of emotion: “It is the heart which perceives God and not the reason. That is what faith is: God perceived by the heart, not by the reason.” Or, more pithily: “The heart has its reasons of which the reason knows nothing.”

    This, for me, summarizes the more enjoyable sections of the book. But there is a great deal to criticize. Many of the arguments that Pascal makes for belief are frankly bad. He notes, for example, that Christianity has been around since the beginning of the world—something that only a convinced young-earther could believe nowadays. There are many passages about the Jews, most of which are difficult to read. One of his most consistent themes is that God hardened the hearts of the Jews against Christ, in order that they be unwilling “witnesses” to future generations. But what kind of divine justice is it to sacrifice a whole people, intentionally blinding them to the truth?

    Indeed, virtually every statement Pascal makes about other religions reveals both an ignorance and a hostility greatly unbecoming of the man. And his explanation of the existence of other religions, as a kind of specious temptation, is both absurd and disrespectful: “If God had permitted only one religion, it would have been too easily recognizable. But, if we look closely, it is easy to distinguish the true religion amidst all this confusion.”

    I suppose this is one of the great paradoxes of any kind of religious faith: Why did God allow so many to go astray? But conceiving of other religions as snares deliberately placed by God seems extremely cruel on God’s part (as well as wholly dismissive of other faiths). In any case, it is just one example of Pascal’s pitiless piety. He himself warns of the danger of the moral sense armed with certainty: “We never do evil so fully and cheerfully as when we do it out of conscience.” And yet his own religious convictions can seem cruel, at least psychologically: dwelling obsessively on the need to hate oneself, and insisting that “I am culpable if I make anyone love me.”

    Pascal also has a habit of dwelling on prophesy, repeatedly noting that the Old Testament prefigured the coming and the life of Jesus—which is clear if we interpret the text in the “right” way. Of course, this is open to the obvious objection that any text can predict anything if it is interpreted in the “right” way. Pascal’s response to this is that God is intentionally mysterious, and it would have been too obvious to have literally predicted Jesus and his works. The ability to see the prophesy differentiates those to whom God sheds light, and those whom God blinds. Once again, therefore, we have this strangely cruel conception of God, as a Being which arbitrarily prevents His creatures from seeing the truth.

    As I think is clear from the frantic tone, and the many different and contradictory ways that Pascal tries to justify belief, he himself was not fully convinced by any of them. His final desperate intellectual move is to abandon the principle of logical consistency altogether. As he says: “A hundred contradictions might be true.” Or elsewhere he tells us: “All their principles are true, skeptics, stoics, atheists, etc. … but their conclusions are false, because the contrary principles are also true.” Yet if he had taken this idea seriously, he would have seen that it completely erodes the possibility of justifying any belief. All we have left is to go where the “heart” guides us; but what if my heart guides me towards Chinese ancestor worship?

    Another reviewer on this site noted Pascal’s power to convince religious skeptics. But, as you can see, I found the opposite to be true. Pascal’s morbid unhappiness, his frantic doubt, his shoddy reasoning, do not inspire any wish to join him. To the contrary, one regrets that such a fine mind was driven to such a self-destructive fixation. Still, this book deserves its canonical status. Though at times nearly unreadable, in its finest passages the

    is as sublime as anything in literature. And, though Pascal falls short of Montaigne in many respects, he is able to capture the one element of experience forbidden to the benign essayist: an all-consuming despair.

  • Trevor

    Perhaps half of this was basically wasted on me. As an atheist, books providing proofs for the existence of God are perhaps 40 years or so too late. The problem here isn’t so much that he is trying to prove the existence of an entity that he himself admits particularly likes to hide – presumably you can see the problem here – but also that some of his proofs seemed utterly bizarre to me. One of my favourites was him saying that the Old Testament was the ol

    Perhaps half of this was basically wasted on me. As an atheist, books providing proofs for the existence of God are perhaps 40 years or so too late. The problem here isn’t so much that he is trying to prove the existence of an entity that he himself admits particularly likes to hide – presumably you can see the problem here – but also that some of his proofs seemed utterly bizarre to me. One of my favourites was him saying that the Old Testament was the oldest book in the world. You see, it was written not terribly long after the world had been created. And, at that time there wasn’t a hell of a lot to talk about – science hadn’t really gotten going and that sort of thing – so people mostly sat around talking about their family tree. So, that is why you can pretty well rely on the fact that the first part of the Bible is – well – gospel. I know, you think I’m making this sound dafter than it actually is as one of those standard ploys atheist engage in. You are right to be cynical. So, here it is, quoted in full:

    “625

    The longevity of the patriarchs, instead of causing the loss of past history, conduced, on the contrary, to its preservation. For the reason why we are sometimes insufficiently instructed in the history of our ancestors, is that we have never lived long with them, and that they are often dead before we have attained the age of reason. Now, when men lived so long, children lived long with their parents. They conversed long with them. But what else could be the subject of their talk save the history of their ancestors, since to that all history was reduced, and men did not study science or art, which now form a large part of daily conversation? We see also that in these days tribes took particular care to preserve their genealogies.”

    Other parts of this require a much closer knowledge of the Bible than I have to be able to follow. All the same, it didn’t exactly inspire me to go rushing off to look up Deut. xxx.

    So, my advice, unless you are interested in these more or less iffy proofs of the existence of God, is to stop about halfway though this. You’ll know when – it will become quite clear.

    The only thing I would point to in the last half of this book is something I had always thought was said by an atheist.

    “894

    Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.”

    The reason why I read this was because Bourdieu calls himself a Pascallian and so I thought I had better see why. And there are lots of reasons why this might be the case and I think they are all in the first half of the book.

    The first is the bit that almost completely reminds me of a couple of books on happiness I read a few years ago: both The Happiness Hypothesis and Stumbling on Happiness. The main lesson to be drawn from both of these books is that we humans are pathetically bad at knowing what it is that will make us happy. Pascal makes the point that we do things happily where the prize itself really isn’t what we are after. The example he gives is spending a day chasing a hare that you wouldn’t buy in the market or accept as a gift. The modern version of this is ‘it’s about the journey, rather than the destination’ – and I think this is really true. I think the worst thing that can happen to you is to have an achievable goal in life and to reach that goal. He makes the point repeatedly that if you were given whatever you were likely to win at the beginning of the day and then told to enjoy your leisure for the rest of the day that nothing would be more likely to make you miserable. That activity with some form of reward provides us with the greatest source of happiness.

    The other thing he says is his most quoted line: The heart has its reasons, which reason does not know. This is one of the ideas that Bourdieu certainly borrows from Pascal, this whole notion of habit and embodied reasons that we justify afterwards with our mental reason. I kept thinking of Haidt’s elephant and elephant driver (reason and habit) and his saying that habit wins in the end (the elephant) because eventually reason needs to sleep. Pascal would have had no trouble accepting this idea.

    The first half of this book is just brimming over with lovely thoughts – the meaning of the title of the book, after all – and that is possibly also true of the second half of the book, but as I’ve said, a lot of that went over my head. A large part of this is designed to convince non-believers of the benefits of belief. But anyone who says things like - we laugh and cry about the same things – honestly, they can’t be all bad.

  • Hadrian

    Alternating between brilliant melancholy and theology and other nonsense.

  • Edward

    --Pensées

    --Discussion with Monsieur de Sacy

    --The Art of Persuasion

    Writings on Grace:

    --Letter on the Possibility of the Commandments

    --Treatise concerning Predestination

  • Jan-Maat

    This was a fantastic reading experience - in what I suspect maybe the most obscure and unhelpful comparison I may make on Goodreads - the literary version of Janacek's

    in which as the cycle of pieces continues the music grows sparser and the silences speak ever louder until a few bare notes are richly poignant.

    Now, how was the Pascal similar? In the edition I came across you effectively read the pensees in reserve order, starting from the most developed form of the idea an

    This was a fantastic reading experience - in what I suspect maybe the most obscure and unhelpful comparison I may make on Goodreads - the literary version of Janacek's

    in which as the cycle of pieces continues the music grows sparser and the silences speak ever louder until a few bare notes are richly poignant.

    Now, how was the Pascal similar? In the edition I came across you effectively read the pensees in reserve order, starting from the most developed form of the idea and then working backwards towards Pascal's original thought. And when you get there, suddenly a single, brief, elusive sentence is heavily pregnant, about to give birth to its own universe of thought

    .

    I was led to Pascal's

    when studying

    as a student. There was a brief reference that it had been one of the books that Dostoevsky had read as a young man and occasionally being prone to flights of fancy I had a notion it might have been an influence.

    Reading the

    I was quickly and resolutely unsure if I had been right or wrong in my guess. True, one can find wagers and God in both but the dynamic between the two is not shared by the two authors. But then again, that's not to say that the later author didn't read one of those single, brief, sometimes gnomic sentences and himself become pregnant with its possibilities.

    On the other hand I was more confused about Jansenism after reading the introduction and the notes than I had been beforehand. Before the introduction it had all seemed so simple and straightforward and I fear that I will never recover the innocent clarity of my original misconceptions. Alack.

  • peiman-mir5 rezakhani

    دوستانِ گرانقدر، در این چرت و پرت نامه که نامِ آن را کتاب نهاده اند و آن را با عنوانِ "تفکرات" میشناسیم، <پاسکال> به عالم و آدم تاخته است و تنها مسیح و مسیحیت و کاتولیک را خوب و نیک میداند

    پاسکال تصور کرده که تمامیِ انسانها همچون خودش بیشعور و بیخرد هستند

    تعصب به مسیحیت، چشمِ خردِ پاسکال را کور کرده و استعدادی را که او در ریاضیات داشته است را نابود کرده است... برخی از دینداران، او را با عنوانِ فیلسوف میشناسند. امّا این به نوعی بی احترامی به فلاسفهٔ اندیشمند و خردگرا، در طولِ تاریخ میباشد...

    ‎دوستانِ گرانقدر، در این چرت و پرت نامه که نامِ آن را کتاب نهاده اند و آن را با عنوانِ "تفکرات" میشناسیم، <پاسکال> به عالم و آدم تاخته است و تنها مسیح و مسیحیت و کاتولیک را خوب و نیک میداند

    ‎پاسکال تصور کرده که تمامیِ انسانها همچون خودش بیشعور و بیخرد هستند

    ‎تعصب به مسیحیت، چشمِ خردِ پاسکال را کور کرده و استعدادی را که او در ریاضیات داشته است را نابود کرده است... برخی از دینداران، او را با عنوانِ فیلسوف میشناسند. امّا این به نوعی بی احترامی به فلاسفهٔ اندیشمند و خردگرا، در طولِ تاریخ میباشد... پاسکال فقط و فقط مدافعِ مسیحیت بوده و هیچ ارتباطی میانِ فلسفه و اندیشه با نوشته هایِ بیخردانهٔ او، دیده نمیشود

    ‎پاسکال تا آن اندازه به دینِ خود متعصب بود که مینویسد: بدونِ خداوند، ما دقیقاً همچون چهارپایانِ بیخرد هستیم... عزیزانم، پاسکال نمیدانسته که چهارپایان نیز شعورشان نسبت به این جهان و طبیعت و هستی، از موهوم پرستانی همچون پاسکال و امثالِ او بیشتر بوده است

    ‎این موجود بیخرد مینویسد: بدونِ خدا، ما انسانها نه تنها شاد نیستیم، بلکه درستکار و نیکوکار نیز نمیباشیم و تا آخرِ عمر محکوم به بدکاری و نادانی و سیاه روزی میباشیم

    ‎خوب.. دوستانِ من، به نظرِ شما میتوان چنین موجودِ بیخردی را فیلسوف و اندیشمند نامید!؟؟؟ به ما ثابت شده است که دین و مذهب انسانها را غمگین و مرده پرست و ناامید ساخته است، کجا و کی سراغ دارید که دین شادمانی آورده باشد!؟ ایران زمین که فستیوالها و جشنهایش بیشتر از سوراخ های غربال بود، اکنون اسلام چه به روزش آورده است؟ مردمی افسرده و قبر پرست و ناله کن و بیچاره و پرخاشجو... دین و مذهب قانون را از میان میبرد و قانون که از میان برود دیگر اخلاقِ نیک و خوب نیز معنا نداشته و همه برای له کردنِ طرفِ مقابل آماده هستند

    ‎اگر امثالِ <ویکتور هوگو> نبودند، در حال حاضر در فرانسه، افکارِ فاسد و کرم خوردهٔ موجوداتی همچون پاسکال، راه پیشرفتِ فرانسه و جوانانِ فرانسوی را بسته بود و مغز این جوانانِ بیچاره را فاسد کرده بود

    ‎پاسکال، تا آنجایی موهوم پرست و بیخرد شده بود که حتی از جانبِ آن خدایِ موهوم و نامرئی خود نیز سخن میگوید و مینویسد: انسانها میخواهند خویش را در کانونِ توجه قرار دهند و از من طلبِ کمک و یاری نداشته باشند.. آنها خودشان را از فرمان رواییِ من دور کرده و شادکامی را در مبارزه بر علیهِ من یافته اند.. من انسانها را به حالِ خودشان رها نمیکنم.. من بینِ انسانها دشمنی انداخته ام و آنها مدام با یکدیگر در جنگ هستند و اطرافشان را از حیواناتِ دیگر خالی کرده ام... بدونِ من، امروزه زندگیِ انسانها همچون زندگیِ حیواناتِ وحشی شده است

    ‎عزیزان و دوستانِ باشعور، ببینید دین و مذهب با مغزِ انسان چه میکند! این متوهمانِ بیمار و خطرناک، از جانبِ خدایشان سخن میگویند و نتیجهٔ آن میشود تروریستهایِ حرام زاده ای همچون داعش و حزب الله و اخوان المسلمین و دیگر گروه هایِ کثیفِ ضدِ انسانی .. بعد نامِ این روانی های متوهم را فیلسوف میگذارند!!! پاسکال یادش رفته که با نامِ مسیح، کلیسا چه بر سرِ دانشمندان و فلاسفه آورد.. ما نخواهیم خدایِ شما را داشته باشیم، باید به کجا فرار کنیم!!.. ما نخواهیم که شما دینداران خود را وارد مسیرِ دانش روزِ بشری کنید، باید چه کسی را ببینیم؟؟ ما بهشتِ شما متوهمانِ بیمار را نخواهیم، باید به چه کسی فریاد بزنیم؟؟

    ‎دوستانِ بزرگوار، پاسکال، خزعبلاتش را به ریاضیات و احتمالات نیز کشانده است و بدون اندکی فهم و درک، مینویسد: ما انسانها به کدام سو گرایش داریم؟ خرد در موردِ وجودِ خدا و در این میان نمیتواند هیچ انتخابی داشته باشد.. آشفتگی ما را از یکدیگر جدا کرده است... در آن سویِ این فاصلهٔ بیکران، یک بازی و قمار بر پا شده است و سکه ای به منظورِ شیر یا خط آوردن، به پایین پرتاب شده است.. چه مقدار بر رویِ آن شرط میبندید؟؟ خرد نمیتواند شما را وادار به برگزیدنِ شیر یا خط، نماید... خرد نمیتواند شما را وادار به پشتیبانی از یکی از این دو حالتِ ممکن کند.. ولی اگر شما به رویِ بودنِ خداوند، شرط ببندید، این تنها شرط بستنِ خردمندانه میباشد... اگر قیامت وجود داشته باشد، آنکسی برد کرده است که شرطش را بر رویِ وجود خدا بسته است

    ‎عزیزانم، شما متوجه شدید که این بیخرد چه گفت و چگونه با نام بردن از احتمالات مغلطه کرد!! شرط بستن به رویِ احتمالِ شیر یا خط بودن، چه ارتباطی با خرد دارد؟؟ سکه که یک جسم است، چه ارتباطی به موجودی نامرئی به نامِ خدا دارد که تا کنون به کمکِ هیچ روش علمی و خردمندانه، وجودش ثابت نشده است!! اتفاقاً هرچه انسانها خردمندتر میشوند و از موهومات فاصله میگیرند، در میابند که قوانینِ طبیعت هیچ ارتباطی به خدا و یا هر موجودِ نامرئی دیگر ندارد... جالب است که در طولِ تاریخ این بیشعورهایِ موهوم پرست، خود را خردمند دانسته و هرکه را که به آنها و دین و خدایشان باور ندارد، بیخرد و نادان و کافر قلمداد کرده اند و مانعِ پیشرفتِ دانش شده اند و دانشمندان را به نامِ کافر و ملحد، اعدام کرده و آتش زده اند.. بعد این حیوان صفت هایِ وحشی از شادمانی انسانها و چهارپا بودن و وحشی گری و رفتار انسانی سخن میگویند.. حرامی ها، شما دستتان در تاریخ برایِ هر انسانِ باشعور و خردی رو شده است و نیاز به هیچ احتمال و شیر یا خط آوردن نیست... واقعیت و حقیقت نیاز به احتمال و شرط بندی ندارد... تاریخ نشان داده است که دین و مذهب انسانها را وحشی و درنده خو کرده است

    ‎پاسکال میگوید: اگر آخرتی وجود داشته باشد، ما دینداران سود کرده ایم و شما ناباوران زیان برده اید

    ‎عزیزانم، بگذارید تا این شادمانی جاودانه در آن جهانِ موهوم و بهشتِ خیالی و غیر واقعی، برایِ این بیخردهایِ موهوم پرست باشد.. ما زندگی خودمان را در این جهان و طبیعت زیبا با تمامِ سختی هایش انجام میدهیم.. بهشت در جای جایِ این کرهٔ خاکی دیده میشود... ما با کمک به دانش، روز به روز به شناختِ بیشترِ این جهان دست میابیم و نیازی به هیچ موهومات و خزعبلات غیر عقلانی نداشته و نداریم... هیچ انسانِ خردمند و با شرفی، حاضر نیست در بهشتِ موهوم و آن فاحشه خانه در کنار تازیانِ وحشی و قاتل و زنباره و کشیشانِ بچه باز و غارتگران و دروغگویانِ پست باشد.. ما بهشتمان را در همین دنیایِ واقعی میسازیم تا آیندگانمان از آن بهره مند شوند... احتمالاتِ پوچ و بی اساسِ قمارباز و دائم الخمری همچون پاسکال هم بماند برای پیروانش و موهوم پرستانِ بیخرد

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    ‎امیدوارم این ریویو برایِ فرزندانِ خردگرایِ سرزمینم، مفید بوده باشه

    ‎<پیروز باشید و ایرانی>

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