Habits of the Heart

Abstract
In contrast to the fairly entrenched interpretation of Pascal as a fideist who repudiates reason, and perhaps even ethics, in order to render religious faith the only viable option, this essay argues that an ethics of thought or belief pervades Pascal’s apology for the Christian faith. The ethics of thought is a topic much neglected among Pascal’s commentators but of great interest to contemporary virtue epistemologists and philosophers of religion. The central themes in Pascal’s ethics of thought emerge partly from his confrontation with Descartes’s conception of human inquiry, in response to which Pascal forges his own conception of the ethics of thought, an ethics grounded in the inclinations and habits of the human heart. It turns out, moreover, that the standard objections against Pascal’s account of human reason repose upon a selective reading of texts and a failure to grasp Pascal’s dialectical method. Locating particular passages within the context of Pascal’s rich conception of the human condition, this essay evinces the many ways in which Pascal links knowledge to virtuous dispositions and thus develops an ethics of thought, at the pinnacle of which resides the vision of charity
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