Descartes and Pascal on the Passions and the possibility of Morality

Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 77 (2):221-249 (2015)
  Copy   BIBTEX


Pascal’s anti-Cartesianism continues to be a widely discussed theme in the relevant secondary literature. In referring to his Jansenistic background, most authors tend to focus on certain prominent themes in Pascal’s writings such as the tension between grandeur and misere, the apologetic strategy of the Pensees as well as Pascal’s criticism of human reason. This article, however, engages more directly with Pascal’s invasive criticism of the optimistic Cartesian view concerning the human passions and free will. While Descartes claims that every human being is capable of reaching a state of contentment and happiness by directing his/her will in a reasonable way, Pascal consistently emphasizes that humanity is condemned to a state of restlessness and inconstancy. Because of its radical depravity due to Original Sin, Pascal believes that the human will is marked by an infinite self-love giving birth to the vicious passions of idleness and curiosity. Descartes holds, on the contrary, that the human will remains perennially capable of affirming its freedom over and against the passions. This Cartesian absolute freedom of the human will strikingly finds its expression in a passion itself, namely generosity. For Pascal, though, all human affectivity is already determined by the passion of self-love, which renders any neutral approach towards the passions impossible.



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 79,898

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

Descartes and Pascal.Roger Ariew - 2007 - Perspectives on Science 15 (4):397-409.
Studies in Pascal and Descartes.Stephen C. Bold - 2003 - Heldref Publications].
Descartes, Passion, and the Ability to Do Otherwise.Christopher Gilbert - 2013 - Journal of Philosophical Research 38:275-298.
Never Let the Passions Be Your Guide: Descartes and the Role of the Passions.Shoshana Brassfield - 2012 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 20 (3):459-477.
Descartes, Passion, and the Ability to Do Otherwise.Christopher Gilbert - 2013 - Journal of Philosophical Research 38:275-298.
Descartes Et Pascal: Lecteurs de Montaigne.Léon Brunschvicg & Robert Tenger - 1945 - Createspace Independent Publishing Platform.
Descartes, Pascal, Bergson.Émile Rideau - 1937 - Boivin Et Cie, Éditeurs.


Added to PP

12 (#825,243)

6 months
1 (#479,521)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Hanna Vandenbussche
KU Leuven (PhD)

Citations of this work

No citations found.

Add more citations

References found in this work

No references found.

Add more references