Known best for his famous wager, Pascal gave us a treasure trove of quotable "pensées"
On June 19, 1662, in Clermont-Ferrand, (France) Blaise Pascal, the exceptional mathematician, physicist, philosopher, writer, theologian and mystic, author of the Pensées, inventor of the first mechanical calculator (the “Pascaline”), discoverer of the law of communicating vessels, and creator of the theorem named after him, was born. That’s quite a resume.
Suffering from a fragile health, he died when he was just 39 years old, having previously sold all of his belongings and donated the profits to charity. Death prevented him from finishing what might have been his most ambitious philosophical-theological work: an Apologetic, of which we have only about a thousand papers, grouped into 60 bundles, which we know as the Pensées (“Thoughts”). Here, as a tribute, we want to share ten of Pascal’s perhaps not so well known phrases, sentences and notes.
1. People almost invariably arrive at their beliefs not on the basis of proof but on the basis of what they find attractive.
2. When I consider the short duration of my life, swallowed up in the eternity before and after, the small space which I fill, or even can see, engulfed in the infinite immensity of spaces whereof I know nothing, and which know nothing of me, I am terrified, and wonder that I am here rather than there, for there is no reason why here rather than there, or now rather than then. Who has set me here? By whose order and design have this place and time been destined for me?
3. God only pours out his light into the mind after having subdued the rebellion of the will by an altogether heavenly gentleness which charms and wins it.
4. I do not speak here of divine truths… because they are infinitely superior to nature: God alone can place them in the soul… I know that he has desired that they should enter from the heart into the mind, and not from the mind into the heart, to humiliate that proud power of reasoning that pretends to the right to be the judge of the things that the will chooses; and to cure this infirm will which is wholly corrupted by its filthy attachments.
5. They [men] have corrupted this [God’s supernatural] order by making of profane things what they should make of holy things, because in fact, we believe scarcely any thing except which pleases us.
6. If it is pleasing to observe in nature her desire to paint God in all his works, in which we see some traces of him because they are his images, how much more just is it to consider in the productions of minds the efforts which they make to imitate the essential truth, even in shunning it, and to remark wherein they attain it and wherein they wander from it.
7. God is surrounded with people full of love who demand of him the benefits of love which are in his power: thus he is properly the king of love.
8. Do not mistake yourself by believing that your being has something in it more exalted than that of others.
9. All the excesses, all the violence, and all the vanity of great men, come from the fact that they know not what they are: it being difficult for those who regard themselves at heart as equal with all men… For this it is necessary for one to forget himself, and to believe that he has some real excellence above them, in which consists this illusion that I am endeavoring to discover to you.
10. It is a natural illness of man to think that he possesses the truth directly.
If we had to come up with such a long post, it’s just because, as Pascal himself would say, “we had no time to make it any shorter.”