Axiology, self-deception, and moral wrongdoing in Blaise Pascal's pensées

Journal of Religious Ethics 37 (2):355-384 (2009)
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Blaise Pascal is highly regarded as a religious moralist, but he has rarely been given his due as an ethical theorist. The goal of this article is to assemble Pascal's scattered thoughts on moral judgment and moral wrongdoing into an explicit, coherent account that can serve as the basis for further scholarly reflection on his ethics. On my reading, Pascal affirms an axiological, social-intuitionist account of moral judgment and moral wrongdoing. He argues that a moral judgment is an immediate, intuitive perception of moral value that we willfully disregard in favor of the attractive, though self-deceptive, deliverances of our socially constructed imaginations. We can deceive ourselves so easily because our capacity to evaluate goods is broken, a dark legacy of the fall. In the article's concluding section, I briefly compare Pascal to contemporary ethicists and suggest directions for future research



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W. Jay Wood
Wheaton College, Illinois

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