PREFACE When in the year 1940 I ventured a small volume under the title The Secret of Pascal, I honestly did not expect to write further on the topic. But circumstances ordered otherwise. The needs of Cambridge students and the difficulty, ...
This assignment is to be worked alongside other homework and is due at the class period following the midterm exam. Though you should do reading and start thinking about the issues right away, details will make most sense after we have made some progress with other assignments.
Many think that Pascal’s Wager is a hopeless failure. A primary reason for this is because a number of challenging objections have been raised to the wager, including the “many gods” objection and the “mixed strategy” objection. We argue that both objections are formal, but not substantive, problems for the wager, and that they both fail for the same reason. We then respond to additional objections to the wager. We show how a version of Pascalian reasoning succeeds, giving us (...) a reason to pay special attention to the infinite consequences of our actions. (shrink)
Pascal’s Wager does not exist in a Platonic world of possible gods, abstract probabilities and arbitrary payoffs. Real decision-makers, such as Pascal’s “man of the world” of 1660, face a range of religious options they take to be serious, with fixed probabilities grounded in their evidence, and with utilities that are fixed quantities in actual minds. The many ingenious objections to the Wager dreamed up by philosophers do not apply in such a real decision matrix. In the situation (...)Pascal addresses, the Wager is a good bet. In the situation of a modern Western intellectual, the reasoning of the Wager is still powerful, though the range of options and the actions indicated are not the same as in Pascal’s day. (shrink)
Most students of Tocqueville know of his remark, “There are three men with whom I live a little every day; they are Pascal, Montesquieu, and Rousseau.” In this paper I trace out the contours of Pascal’s influence upon Tocqueville’s understanding of the human condition and our appropriate response to it. Similar temperaments lead both Tocqueville and Pascal to emphasize human limitations and contingency, as Peter Lawler rightly emphasizes. Tocqueville and Pascal both emphasize mortality, ignorance of the (...) most important subjects, the effects of historical contingency on what we take to be human nature, and both represent the complex internal dynamic of human nature in terms of the interplay of “angel” and “brute.” The most important difference between them concerns their relative estimates of human power and the significance of human action. Whereas the motif of human weakness is fundamental for Pascal, Tocqueville repeatedly affirms that, under the right conditions, human beings are “powerful and free.” Beginning from Pascalian premises, and endeavoring to be more faithful to some of those premises than Pascal himself was, Tocqueville aims to illuminate the possibility of an amelioration of the human condition through a “new political science” that redeems the political realm without divinizing it. -/- . (shrink)
The Many Gods Objection (MGO) is widely viewed as a decisive criticism of Pascal’s Wager. By introducing a plurality of hypotheses with infinite expected utility into the decision matrix, the wagerer is left without adequate grounds to decide between them. However, some have attempted to rebut this objection by employing various criteria drawn from the theological tradition. Unfortunately, such defenses do little good for an argument that is supposed to be an apologetic aimed at atheists and agnostics. The purpose (...) of this paper is to offer a defensive strategy of a different sort, one more suited to the Wager’s apologetic aim and status as a decision under ignorance. Instead of turning to criteria independent of the Wager, it will be shown that there are characteristics already built into its decision theoretic structure that can be used to block many categories of theological hypotheses including MGO’s more outrageous “cooked-up” hypotheses and “philosophers’ fictions”. -/- Please note that there are editorial errors in the published version. They have been corrected in the attached. (shrink)
The standard version of Pascal’s Wager suffers from serious problems. In this paper I present a modified version of a Wager-style argument that avoids several of the most serious objections to the standard version, viz., the objections of Duff and Hájek relating to infinite utilities, moral objections concerning the use of pragmatic considerations, and the many-gods objection. I argue that a serious commitment to living a Christian life is rational if one is rational in assigning a credence to Christianity (...) of at least one-half. The upshot is that considerations of practical rationality dramatically lower the bar for natural theology. (shrink)
How were reliable predictions made before Pascal and Fermat's discovery of the mathematics of probability in 1654? What methods in law, science, commerce, philosophy, and logic helped us to get at the truth in cases where certainty was not attainable? The book examines how judges, witch inquisitors, and juries evaluated evidence; how scientists weighed reasons for and against scientific theories; and how merchants counted shipwrecks to determine insurance rates. Also included are the problem of induction before Hume, design arguments (...) for the existence of God, and theories on how to evaluate scientific and historical hypotheses. It is explained how Pascal and Fermat's work on chance arose out of legal thought on aleatory contracts. The book interprets pre-Pascalian unquantified probability in a generally objective Bayesian or logical probabilist sense. (shrink)
The essay is a comparative look at Descartes' and Pascal's epistemology. For so vast a topic, I shall confine myself to comparing three crucial epistemological topics, through which I hope to evince Descartes' and Pascal's differences and points of contact. Firstly, I will concentrate on the philosophers' engagement with skepticism, which, for each, had different functions and motivations. Secondly, the thinkers' relation to Reason shall be examined, since it is the fulcrum of their thought—and the main aspect that (...) separates them. Lastly, I will examine each philosopher's theist epistemology; this section, of course, will focus on how and by what means Descartes and Pascal set out to prove God's existence. The latter aspect shall take us back to each philosopher's relationship to Doubt: the title, " The Giants of Doubt ", in fact, implies a fundamental link between Descartes and Pascal through Doubt. In addition, and most importantly, the contrast between the two thinkers' epistemology inaugurates a decisive scission in modern thought of enormous repercussion: Descartes' sturdy rationalism initiated the great branch of modern scientific inquiry , while Pascal's appeal to the power of intuition and feelings would eventually be the precursor of the reaction to the enlightenment that invested Europe by the second half of the eighteenth century. This departure of thought, which in my view may be traced back to them, has not been the common conceit of the history of philosophy: the reaction to the enlightenment has customarily been regarded as stemming from its internal contradictions or at best from its more radical doctrines. The essay shall show that these strands of thought were both parallel and born out of the antithetical epistemologies of Descartes and Pascal. (shrink)
This paper argues that Pascal's formulation of his famous wager argument licenses an inference about God's nature that ultimately vitiates the claim that wagering for God is in one's rational self-interest. In particular, it is argued that if we accept Pascal's premises, then we can infer that the god for whom Pascal encourages us to wager is irrational. But if God is irrational, then the prudentially rational course of action is to refrain from wagering for him.
Em Pascal, por meio da crítica à razão discursiva que estava à sua época em vias de consagração, está em curso a defesa de uma concepção alargada da racionalidade, que procura estendê-la a partir de uma perspectiva anti-intuicionista e antifundacionista radical para dimensões da realidade que o arranjo epistemológico gestado pela filosofia cartesiana quer deixar de fora. A hipótese que gostaríamos de discutir é a de que essa subversão se dá pela desestabilização desse arranjo por meio da descrição que (...)Pascal realiza, em Pensamentos, da faculdade imaginação, cujo interesse para o estudo da verdade deve ser considerado para que se possa entender a inflexão que a epistemologia pascaliana tenta empreender ante as outras de seu tempo. (shrink)
O presente artigo visa explorar as relações entre Pascal e Pessoa tendo por base o impacto da obra do autor francês tanto na estruturação quanto nas temáticas presentes ao longo do projeto do Livro do Desassossego. Com efeito, na Biblioteca Particular de Pessoa encontramos livros de e sobre Pascal que se encontram sublinhados e anotados pelo autor português e nos possibilitam certificar o interesse de Pessoa pelo pensamento pascaliano. Para além disso, o espólio de Pessoa oferece-nos um conjunto (...) de fragmentos que nos permitem elucidar até que ponto a leitura da obra de Pascal viria a ser importante para a elaboração dos fragmentos do Livro do Desassossego. Assim, tendo por base a análise da presença do nome e do pensamento de Pascal em fragmentos do espólio de Pessoa, o presente artigo explicita qual o papel da leitura pessoana de Pascal na elaboração do projeto do Livro do Desassossego. (shrink)
Se lanza una provocación a no dejar de pensar lo humano desde un pensador cristiano, cosa paradójica después de la crítica nietzscheana al cristianismo, pero con un reconocimiento de genialidad y coherencia por parte del filósofo alemán a nuestro autor francés. Se presenta una lectura ético-antropológica de Pensamientos, principal obra del matemático y filósofo Blaise Pascal, publicada por sus familiares y amigos luego de su muerte. El lector se encontrará con una interpretación de su concepción antropológica y erótica que (...) ha dejado como resultado el señalamiento de un llamado ético: el desafío de cuidar la vivencia del amor. El hilo conductor del texto expone como tesis fundamental que todo ser humano tiene una motivación en su actuar: la de amar y ser amado; dependerá del cuidado de esta condición erótica –realizado a través del pensamiento– que se alcance la vida feliz o que esta se torne desdichada. (shrink)
Recent scholarship has shown that the success of Pascal’s wager rests on precarious grounds. To avoid notorious problems, it must appeal to considerations such as what probability we assign to the existence of various gods and what religion we think provides the greatest happiness in this life. Rational judgments concerning these matters are subject to change over time. Some claim that the wager therefore cannot support a steadfast commitment to God. I argue that this conclusion does not follow. By (...) drawing upon the line of reasoning employed in getting married, I explain how unstable considerations can provide a sufficient rational foundation for a stable commitment. (shrink)
O ceticismo desempenha um papel decisivo na filosofia pascaliana. De fato, amplamente influenciado por autores como Michel de Montaigne e Pierre Charron, Blaise Pascal acaba por contrariar a tendência geral do século do grande Racionalismo, levantando profundas objeções relativamente à pretensão – tipicamente cartesiana – de se conhecer a Verdade de maneira certa e segura. Como se pode depreender mesmo de uma rápida leitura de seus escritos, a obra pascaliana é toda perpassada por uma notável desconfiança de nossa suposta (...) capacidade de adquirir certezas inabaláveis sobre o que quer que seja: desconfiança esta que, diga-se de passagem, está em profunda sintonia com a chocante posição do autor concernente às consequências do pecado original. Assim sendo, o que pretendemos neste artigo é: i) apresentar os argumentos céticos subscritos por Pascal em sua principal obra filosófica – os Pensamentos; e ii) analisando a obra Do espírito geométrico e da arte de persuadir, indicar que nem mesmo os conhecimentos oferecidos pela luz natural são capazes de nos livrar das dúvidas suscitadas pela argumentação cética. (shrink)
Doctors and dentists have traditionally used antibiotic prophylaxis in certain patient groups in order to prevent infective endocarditis (IE). New guidelines, however, suggest that the risk to patients from using antibiotics is higher than the risk from IE. This paper analyses the relative risks of prescribing and not prescribing antibiotic prophylaxis against the background of Pascal’s Wager, the infamous assertion that it is better to believe in God regardless of evidence, because of the prospective benefits should He exist. Many (...) doctors seem to believe the parallel proposition that it is better to prescribe antibiotics, regardless of evidence, because of the prospective benefit conferred upon the patient. This has been called the “no lose philosophy” in medicine: better safe than sorry, even if the evidence inconveniently suggests that following this mantra is potentially more likely to result in sorry than safe. It transpires that, just as Pascal’s Wager fails to convince because of a lack of evidence to support it and the costs incurred by trying to believe, so the “belts and braces” approach of prescribing antibiotic prophylaxis is unjustifiable given the actual evidence of potential risk and benefit to the patient. Ultimately, there is no no-lose if your clinical decisions, like Pascal’s Wager, are based on faith rather than evidence. (shrink)
In a recent paper A. Tabarrok [Believe in Pascal’s Wager? Have I Got a Deal for You!, Theory and Decision 48, 123--128, 2000] argued that a believer who accepts Pascal’s Wager should in addition accept payment of any given fee in return for a given increase in the probability of reaching God. However the conclusion is obtained from manipulations of infinities which are not valid in an expected utility model. In this note, an alternative model is formulated in (...) which Tabarrok’s conclusion can be obtained. (shrink)
An adaptation of Pascal’s Wager argument has been considered useful in deciding about the provision of life-sustaining treatment for patients in persistent vegetative state. In this article, I assess whether people making such decisions should resort to the application of Pascal’s idea. I argue that there is no sufficient reason to give it an important role in making the decisions.
In this paper the question of the object in Freud’s metapsychology is sketched out from an economical point of view, that is in terms of pleasure and displeasure. This allows for a reading of Pascal’s wager that makes clear what interest Lacan had in discussing this one pensée at length in his Seminar on the Object of Psychoanalysis. The central issue in Lacan’s reading concerns the object a as a stake the subject has lost.
Pascal's wager is an argument in support of religious belief taking its name from the seventeenth century polymath Blaise Pascal. Unlike more traditional arguments for the existence of God, Pascal's wager is a pragmatic argument, concluding not that God exists but that one should wager for God; that is, one should live as if God exists. After an introduction to the elements of decision theory needed to understand the wager, I discuss the interpretation of Pascal's reasoning (...) in the Infini rien fragment of the Pensees, in which he presents several versions of a wager-style argument. Recent discussions of the role of the wager within Pascal's overall project of Christian apologetics are also examined. I then review contemporary formulations of, attacks on, and objections to Pascal's wager. Recent authors have pressed moral objections, epistemological objections, objections relating to infinite utilities, the many Gods objection, and objections to the expectation rule, among others. After an examination of this literature, I conclude with a brief discussion of noncanonical versions of the wager, including Jeff Jordan's Jamesian wager. (shrink)
Pragmatic arguments seek to justify the performance of an action by appealing to the benefits that may follow from that action. Pascal’s wager, for instance, argues that one should inculcate belief in God because there is everything to gain and little to lose by doing do. In this chapter I critically examine Pascal’s wager and William James’s famous “Will-to-Believe” argument by first explaining the logic of each argument and then by surveying the objections commonly arrayed against them. Finally, (...) I suggest that among the various versions of the wager found in Pascal’s Pensées is a neglected version that anticipates the Jamesian argument and that avoids the many-gods objection. (shrink)
Cet article a déjà été publié dans le Carnet Zilsel, en date du 16 septembre 2017. L'auteur remercie Catherine Dupuy, Pascal Engel, Éric Guichard, Gaïa Lassaube, Pierre Lévy, Pierre Mœglin, David Monniaux, Mathieu Triclot et Stéphane Vial, ainsi qu'Arnaud Saint-Martin et Jérôme Lamy, éditeurs du Carnet Zilsel, de leur relecture du projet d'article et de leurs remarques. Il va de soi que l'article lui-même n'engage que son auteur. Rhuthmos remercie Alexandre Moatti et les Carnets Zilsel d'avoir permis - (...) Philosophie – Nouvel article. (shrink)
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. (shrink)
In this paper I will examine what Blaise Pascal means by “infinite distance”, both in his works on projective geometry and in the apologetics of the Pensées’s. I suggest that there is a difference of meaning in these two uses of “infinite distance”, and that the Pensées’s use of it also bears relations to the mathematical concept of heterogeneity. I also consider the relation between the finite and the infinite and the acceptance of paradoxical relations by Pascal.
Pascal and the „Proof by Power“. Nietzsche’s Examination of a wounded intellectual conscience. This paper sheds new light on Nietzsche’s praise of Pascal’s probity by analysing what the German philosopher calls the „proof by power“. This proof, adopted by Christianity at large, consists in making pleasure and well-being the very criteria of truth and, as such, it represents for Nietzsche a sheer dishonest form of reasoning. When Pascal finally decides to use this proof in the Pensées, he (...) is already conscious of its lack of scientific value and of its dishonesty. Nietzsche thus reveals in Pascal’s thinking the torments of a wounded intellectual conscience, torn between its fidelity to the Christian tradition and its probity inspired by this very piety. In this respect, the famous wager’s argument appears as a testimony of this tension: it is a brilliant but desperate attempt of giving this „proof by power“, which the scientific rigor it is fundamentally lacking. (shrink)
En este artículo examino el concepto de infinito en Pascal y Kant en el contexto del análisis contemporáneo de la secularización moderna, realizado por H. Blumenberg y H. Arendt. Los aspectos principales de mi análisis son: primero, el paso del sentido del término ‘infinito’ del ámbito trascendente al inmanente. Segundo, la comprensión de la modernidad secular como una mundanización desmundanizada. Tercero, la aplicación secular del concepto de infinito a la historia, en el ideal moderno del progreso. En mi opinión, (...) estos rasgos de la secularización moderna pueden observarse de manera especial en el concepto de infinito que aparece en Pascal y Kant. (shrink)
For Pascal, how are human beings related, or how do they relate themselves, to the summum bonum in this life? In what sense do they share in it, and how do they come to share in it? These are questions that emerge in many ways in Pascal’s writing, significantly in his concept of repos. To answer these questions, especially by elucidating what repos is for human beings in this life, I would like to begin with Graeme Hunter’s “Motion (...) and Rest in the Pensées”. Hunter’s account of Pascal is important because his purpose is to specifically address how certain aspects of modernity affect how Pascal understood repos. Hunter is certainly correct when he argues that for Pascal, repos is an orderly, directed seeking of truth—what Hunter designates as “search.” However, Hunter’s account of Pascal’s repos falls short of completion, because he neglects a crucial part of Pascal’s articulation of repos: his emphasis on the role of God’s grace in searching. By neglecting Pascal’s emphasis on grace, Hunter inadvertently depicts Pascal as reducing repos to motion, rather than envisioning them together in dialectical unity. I argue that for Pascal, it is correct to say that someone who is anxiously searching has indeed “already found,” but this cannot be solely due to human efforts: rather, it because the whole enterprise is entirely infused by grace. (shrink)
Este artigo tem como objetivo um olhar histórico-teológico para a reflexão do mistério pascal principalmente no que diz respeito à questão celebrativa. No caminhar de dois milênios é notória a divisão deste tema em dois momentos: No primeiro milênio a força teológico-celebrativa do mistério pascal. No segundo milênio o caminho mudou sua rota com atitudes que levaram a se distanciar da proposta inicial na sua teologia e na sua celebração. O Concílio Vaticano II, momento eclesial de extrema importância (...) tenta retomar o caminho desviado e propõe uma volta às fontes a fim de que o mistério celebrado seja realmente o mistério de Jesus, ou seja, o Mistério Pascal na sua originalidade e inteireza. Vale lembrar que esta reflexão e também a liturgia não esgotam o tema. A teologia em seus desdobramentos e sua amplitude tem um vasto campo para sempre mais ajudar a refletir e celebrar este mistério. (shrink)
En su encierro durante la II Guerra Mundial, Althusser, según declaró, solamente tuvo al alcance un libro: los Pensées de Pascal, un clásico que, tras la reflexión religiosa, también planteó problemas epistemológicos, históricos y sociológicos de tal manera que en él se pueden encontrar rasgos “profundamente materialistas”.  La influencia de Pascal es expresa, cuando Althusser recoge la parábola de la conversión religiosa para explicar (insuficientemente) el fenómeno de la interpelación ideológica. Pero los textos de Pascal contienen (...) intuiciones que sobrepasan los límites de la teoría althusseriana y que se pueden rastrear a la luz de la teoría psicoanalítica de la ideología tal como ésta es elaborada por los autores de la escuela eslovena.  L. Althusser: Filosofía y marxismo. Entrevista por Fernanda Navarro , Madrid, Siglo XXI, 1988, pp. 46-47. (shrink)
O presente artigo, refletindo sobre relação entre Mistério Pascal de Cristo, Liturgia e vida cotidiana, objetiva apresentar a salvação operada por Cristo na liturgia como uma ação inesgotável e constante que extrapola a história e atinge a existência humana. Através da ação litúrgica, o mistério pascal, centro da liturgia, é atualizado e sua celebração é transformada em momento de salvação, recuperação e engajamento de quem dela participa. Considerando alguns números da Constituição Sacrosanctum Concilium sobre a Sagrada Liturgia, comentados (...) por vários teólogos, notaremos ser impossível, depois da encarnação do Filho, o divórcio entre a liturgia e a vida da humanidade assumida por Deus dentro da história na qual também a salva. (shrink)
En este trabajo intentaré mostrar que, de acuerdo con Agustín de Hipona –y a diferencia de una cierta lectura relativamente clásica de Pascal–, el deseo puede ser el comienzo de la relación del hombre con el Absoluto. Para ello divido el texto en cuatro partes: primero, describo la situación existencial primordial de la que nace el deseo, la inquietud. Después, describo el doble despliegue del deseo: amor o concupiscencia, según objeto e inclinación. En tercer lugar, intento describir los tipos (...) de concupiscencias y sus paralelismos en ambos autores. Concluyo mostrando la importancia de la costumbre en la constitución del deseo. (shrink)
Thaddeus Metz’s Meaning in Life is like a magnificent castle, covering vast ground, with towers high into the heavens, and astoundingly intricate architecture. It covers the literature on meaning with enviable completeness and weaves together the many and various strands within that literature, ‘towering’ over the debates and issues and provides a wide and inclusive perspective on them. Meaning in Life is a striking achievement and, just as the intricacy of those fortresses testified to the growing maturity of architecture, so (...) Metz’s book is a testament to the growing maturity of the literature on the meaning of life. -/- But such castles had a dual purpose, which did not always cohere. They were fortresses intended to withstand armed assault, yet they were also supposed to manifest and project the aristocratic loftiness, status, and elegance of their masters. These purposes conflicted, especially in the design of a castle’s central tower, the keep or donjon, where elegant ornamentation was most necessary, but which could hamper or compromise its defensive functions. Meaning in Life likewise seeks to fulfil a dual purpose: on the one hand, to weave all the literature together into a coherent conception of meaning, including supernaturalist conceptions of meaning; and, on the other, to neutralize supernaturalist claims that only the existence of God or of an immortal soul could provide the necessary conditions for meaning. -/- Does Metz’s synthesis stand, or has it compromised its defence? I argue in this Symposium piece that Metz’s methodology, as developed and deployed in Parts I and III of his book, is a poor weapon against supernaturalist skeptics, and develop an argument in the work of Blaise Pascal to explain why he, and those endorsing similar positions, would not be convinced by this type of argumentation. (shrink)
The following paper argues that Blaise Pascal, in spite of his famous opposition between the God of the Philosophers and the God of “Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” has significant affinities with the tradition of Renaissance Platonism and is in fact a Platonist in his overall outlook. This is shown in three ways. Firstly, it is argued that Pascal’s skeptical fideism has roots in the notion of faith developed in post-Plotinian neo-Platonism. Secondly, it is argued that Pascal makes (...) considerable use of the Platonic notion of an indefinite dyadic principle. Thirdly, it is argued that Pascal’s religious psychology gives a centrality to the body that brings it close to the theurgical standpoint of figures like Iamblichus. Pascal is then contrasted to figures like Cusanus and Pico in that a dyadic principle of opposition is more prominent in his work than a triadic logic of mediation. (shrink)
La diffusione, la presenza, la lettura di Francis Bacon negli ambienti libertini francesi della prima metà del secolo XVII è molto più ampia di quanto non sia stato finora sottolineato: in particolare, negli ambienti libertini, oltre al Novum Organum e al De augmentis scientiarum, venivano letti e ricercati i Saggi e capitoli non secondari del De sapientia veterum e della Historia vita et mortis. La Mothe La Vayer, i fratelli Dupuy, Gassend, tra gli altri, ma anche Mersenne, Descartes, (...) class='Hi'>Pascal conoscono e usano gli scritti del Lord Cancelliere, come dimostra la loro circolazione sia pubblica che clandestina. La critica al principio di autorità, al consensum gentium, l’importanza della storia, la riapproprazione della filosofia antica di tradizione atomistica, spesso usata in funzione antiaristotelica, l’uso delle favole antiche come ratio docendi, l’uso costante e maturo di Machiavelli e soprattutto la critica incessante alla superstizione sono tutti temi che spiegano non solo la diffusione del filosofo inglese in Franciam ma anche le molteplici e precoci traduzioni in francese delle sue opere. (shrink)
Blaise Pascal began as a mathematical prodigy, developed into a physicist and inventor, and had become by the end of his life in 1662 a profound religious thinker. As a philosopher, he was most convinced by the long tradition of scepticism, and so refused – like Kierkegaard – to build a philosophical or theological system. Instead, he argued that the human heart required other forms of discourse to come to terms with the basic existential questions – our nature, purpose (...) and relationship with God. This introduction to the life and philosophical thought of Pascal is intended for the general reader. Strikingly illustrated, it traces the antithetical tensions in Pascal’s life from his infancy, when he was said to have been placed under the spell of a sorceress, to his final years of extreme asceticism. Pascal stressed both the misery and greatness of humanity, our finitude and our comprehension of the infinite. The book shows how his life, philosophical thought and literary style can best be understood in the light of the paradoxical view of human nature. It covers the methods of argument and the central issues of the Provincial Letters and of the Pensées ; the Introduction places Pascal’s thought in the religious and political climate of seventeenth-century France, and a ‘Chronology of the Life of Pascal’ is also included. (shrink)