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Prof. J. Hellman BLAISE PASCAL: LECTURE TWO final version 18 October 2012/15 August 2013 TP2.13: TEXT PASCAL II. Bolded and with Images 50/36 pp., 38/19 images

II. The Attack on Descartes A. The alienation of science studies B. The Problem of Objectivity C. Reasoning with the heart D. The Mathematical versus the Intuitive E. Keeping the Journal

2 TP2:TEXT PASCAL II Pascal Pensees I. The attack on Descartes Pascal's effort was not the work of a scientist (he soon tells us how the study of science "divides" the personality) but of what the French call a moraliste (a person who thinks about the human condition): [244] I had spent a long time studying abstract sciences, and I was put off them by seeing how little one could communicate about them. When I began the study of man I saw that these abstract sciences are not proper to man, and that I was straying further from my true condition by going into them than were others by being ignorant of them. Pascal was disillusioned with the study of science for several reasons. 1) He was able to communicate very little of the result of his cutting edge thoughts on scientific subjects and so became always more intellectually isolated. (Today this problem is even greater.) 2) He realized that he was in fact straying from his true condition becoming worse off than if he were uninformed about scientific subjects. Pascal discovered that scientific studies had a detrimental effect. Rather than providing the certitude and solidity which Descartes had envisaged, they extirpated awareness of the harsh realities of the human condition. Amidst all of the optimism about intellectual progress, few worried about man: [244-245] I forgave others for not knowing much about them, but I thought I should at least find many companions in my study of man, since it is his true and proper study. I was wrong. Even fewer people study man than mathematics. It is only because they do not know how to study man that people look into all the rest. Was Pascal urging a more scientific, or "Cartesian", focus in studying the human condition? In fact he had concluded that Descartes' approach to the study of man had been wrong from the outset. In fact Pascal is not suggesting the articulation of a new "science of man" (or a "sociology" would Auguste Comte in the mid19th century). Rather he calls for a "study of man" involving observations and reflections other than those of so-called scientific objectivity. Each individual, as a moralizer, would examine himself. In the modern university many scholars observe and analyze human society but fewer seem

3 to engage in deep reading and reflection and share their conclusions. After Descartes there remained questions for which there was no evident response. [36, #23] Vanity of science. Knowledge of physical science will not console me for ignorance of morality [ie. guidelines on how to live] in time of affliction, but knowledge of morality will always console me for ignorance of physical science. When faced with misfortune most of our knowledge seems irrelevant. The 19th century Dane Kierkegaard famously challenged Hegel whose dense Phenomenology was much admired: Why build an the intellectual castle only to live in a hovel alongside ? Does make more sense to travel, or to study Hegels phenomenology, to find yourself? Can we really think with Cartesian precision? [35, #21] If we are too young our judgement is impaired, just as it is if we are too old. Thinking too little about things or thinking too much both make us obstinate and fanatical. If we look at our work immediately after completing it, we are still too involved; if too long afterward, we cannot pick up the thread again. It is like looking at pictures which are too near or too far away. There is just one indivisible point which is the right place. Others are too near, too far, too high, or too low. In painting the rules of perspective decide it, but how will it be decided when it comes to truth and morality? Or again [38, #41] as Pascal warned, centuries ago: When we read too fast or too slowly we understand nothing Are not electronic devices altering our thought processes and memories (just as Marshall MacLuhan predicted a half-century ago)?

4 Or again: [38-41, #44]

Imagination. It is the dominant faculty in man, master of error and falsehood, all the more deceptive for not being invariably so: for it would be an infallible criterion of truth if it were not infallibly that of lies. Since, however, it is usually false, it gives not indication of its quality, setting the same mark on true and false alike. Practical examples: A preacher can appear with a horse voice, or with an odd sort of face, or badly shaved - or not too clean - and it won't matter what great truths he has to preach about.

John Wesley preaching

Pascal said this about the conflict between reason and imagination.

6 Sky Plank Road of Hua Mountain (The arduous and dangerous climb to a temple in China which rewards the pilgrim with spectacular views.) Pascal observed: Put the world's greatest philosopher on a plank that is wider than necessary over a precipice and though his reason will convince him he is safe, his imagination will prevail. Pascal also thought that imagination also played a crucial role and how and why judges, and other elites (university professors) dressed the way they did in his day:

Jean-Antoine de Mesmes (1598-1673), prsident au Parlement de Paris. (Louvre) (1653) Why do judges dress in red robes and ermine? Physicians wear long gowns, learned

7 doctors wear square cap and robes four times to large for them? If they Represented true justice, true healing, true sciences the majesty of their science would command respect in itself. But, as they only possess imaginary science, they have to resort to these vain devices in order to strike the imagination, which is their real concern, and this, in fact, is how they win respect. We do not think or reason as "clearly and distinctly" as Descartes had thought we might. Many extraneous factors interpose themselves between ourselves and the truth. Pensees [58, #110A] How do in fact confront that problem which so worried Descartes about knowing whether or not we are dreaming? We know the truth not only through our reason but also through our heart. It is through the latter that we know first principles, and reason, which has nothing to do with it, tries in vain to refute them. The sceptics have no other object than that, and they work at it to no purpose. We know that we are not dreaming, but, however unable we may be to prove it rationally, our inability proves nothing but the weakness of our reason, and not the uncertainty of all of our knowledge, as they maintain. Thus Descartes great problem about knowing whether or not we are dreaming is a false problem. As so many other things of this sort we know this "with our heart", or in a different way than we know that 2 + 3 = 5 . To try to reason one's way out of this dilemna is a foolish enterprise as this is simply another areas in which reason has its limitations. [58, #110B] For knowledge of first principles, like space, time, motion, number, is as solid as any derived through reason, and it is on such knowledge, coming from the heart and instinct, that reason has to depend and base all its argument. The heart feels that there are three spatial dimensions and that there is an infinite series of numbers, and reason goes on to demonstrate that there are not two square numbers of which one is double the other. ... It is just as pointless and absurd for reason to demand proof of first principles from the heart before agreeing to accept them as it would be absurd for the heart to demand an

8 intuition of all the propositions demonstrated by reason before agreeing to accept them. Our inability must ... humble reason, which would like to be the judge of everything, but not to confute our certainty. As if reason were the only way we could learn! Pascal does not attack Descartes' analysis of reason directly but rather insists that knowledge consists of melded reason and heart, intuition, and to over-emphasize reason is to take a one-sided view of the knowing process. Was Pascal a prophet of the rise of modern irrationalism as Voltaire, already in the 18th century, and others since, have charged, an adversary of reason? For his part, he thought himself offering a balance between "two excesses": [85, #183] Two excesses: to exclude reason, to admit nothing but reason. Having distinguished between heart and reason distinguishes between the mathematical and the intuitive minds: [210 - #512] Difference between the mathematical and the intuitive mind. In the one principles are obvious, but remote from ordinary usage, so that from want of practice we have difficulty turning our heads that way; but once we do turn our heads the principles can be fully seen; [only an] unsound mind [could]...draw false conclusions from principles [which] can hardly be missed. But, with the intuitive mind, the principles are in ordinary usage and there for all to see. There is not need to turn our heads our strain ourselves: it is only a question of good sight ... the principles are so intricate and numerous that it almost impossible not to miss some. Now the omission of one principle can lead to error, and so one needs very clear sight to see all the principles as well as an accurate mind to avoid drawing false conclusions from known principles. ... Thus the reason why certain intuitive minds are not mathematical is that they are quite unable to apply themselves to the principles of mathematics, but the reason why mathematicians are not intuitive is that they cannot see what is in front of them. [211]

9 How can mathematicians and scientists not see what is "in front of them"?

The Gulf of the St. Lawrence from Rimouski? Humanistic Studies: "The sublime transcendence, mystery" Faculty of Science: The sun's rays refracted through the moisture in the clouds." [211] accustomed to the clearcut ... principles of mathematics ... they [scientific reasoners] become lost in matters requiring intuition, whose principles cannot be handled in this way. These principles can hardly be seen, they are perceived instinctively rather than seen, and it is with endless difficulty that they can be communicated to those who do not perceive them for themselves. ... Thus it is rare for mathematicians to be intuitive or the intuitive to be mathematicians, because mathematicians try to treat these intuitive matters mathematically, and make themselves ridiculous, by trying to begin with definitions followed by principles, which is not the way to proceed in this kind of reasoning.

10 The impracticality of great mathematicians is legendary and even a few of them warned of excessive deference to the rational mind.

For Pascal the basic error of Descartes, (as, to some extent, of scientists in general) was to apply his methodology in areas unsuited to it - especially in understanding man and his abode in the universe. (e.g. spend billions to go to the moon when entire peoples did not have enough to eat; IQ measurements). But Pascal concedes intuitive minds also have their faults: [212] Intuitive minds ... accustomed to judge at a glance, are taken aback when presented with propositions of which they understand nothing (and of which the necessary preliminaries are definitions and principles so barren they are not used to looking at them in such detail), and consequently feel repelled and

11 disgusted. ... ... intuitive minds which are merely intuitive lack the patience to go right into the first principles of speculative and imaginative matters which they have never seen in practice and are quite outside ordinary experience. (212) People with an intuitive certitude have little sympathy with analysis. Luther resented philosophers or theologians even speaking of God, poets pity technocrats. But instinct, and intuition, do have some clear points in their favor: [212, #513] For judgement is what goes with instinct, just as knowledge goes with mind. Intuition falls to the lot of judgement, mathematics to that of mind. (212) Judgment is built upon instinct and intuition. Knowledge is the area of mathematics, of mind. As opposed to the thinking of Descartes, Erasmus, Plato, knowledge does not necessarily contribute to judgment; formal education to wisdom. We have a common sense belief in our society that the judgment of a farmer or a longshoreman can be as good as a political science professors. Only one vote is allotted to the Dean and one for the custodian who sweeps the floor outside his office. In the most important areas of our lives where we must exercise judgment (e.g. quality of life? partner? Parenting?) our erudition can be irrelevant. Pascal began keeping a journal : [216, #532] Scepticism. I will write down my thoughts here as they come and in a perhaps not aimless confusion. This is the true order and it will always show my aim by its very disorder. I should be honouring my subject too much if I treated it in order, since I am trying to show that it is incapable of it. Recall the method of Montaigne in his tower two centuries earlier which is still admired, and even imitated today a substitute for Descartes' mathematical order and rigid logic, his structured, spare, meditations. In fact, we think in aphoristic way - mingling our ideas on our studies, our friends, the outdoors, emotional experiences, memories not about one thing at a time. A personal journal could reflect more intellectual effort than a traditional term paper

12 Striving for scientific rigour in our thinking we can lose focus on our most pressing problems, as scientific knowledge could prove useless in dramatic situations. It can not be as objective as it pretends to be (e.g. in Psychology, Philosophy, or Political Science) because all of our knowledge comes from a complex trade-off between intuition (heart) and reason. To truly understand the human condition, ourselves, we must seek a wisdom balancing between intuition and reason ... and follow a pattern of reflections and reasonings more in harmony with our perceptions and experiences.

(end of Part II)


TP3: TEXT PASCAL III PENSEES: MAN IN THE UNIVERSE: GOD I. The Absent God II. Man in a Corner III. Moral Relativism IV. The Failure of Philosophy (Descartes) V. The Wager VI. Religious Faith as Paradox VII. The "Memorial"

14 p. 318, #926 "We make an idol of truth itself, for truth apart from charity is not God, but his image, and an idol we must not love or worship." I. The Absent God. The Penses was intended to be apologetical work to defend belief in his own milieu, much as it had been Descartes' intention to refute the scepticism of Montaigne so evident in his day. ber, in Descartes had discovered the key to understanding and mastering the universe was discovered in a new method in which an Absolute, a Supreme Being, emerged as fundamental. The centrality of the Supreme Being was important for certain 17th century brotherhoods and secret sects. Here the Holy Trinity and world-creating God the Father (as represented, for example, in the Michaelangelo frescos in Rome ) were discretely displaced by mystico-philosophical insights.

Invisible college of the Rosicrucians (1618).

15 The Rosicrucians practiced a magical philosophy based on in-group notions and texts, such as the Emerald Tablet, which speaks of the One as the Supreme Being.

Masonic symbol including the all-seeing eye, a square, and compass. Freemasonry was an organization that arose from obscure origins in the late 16th to early 17th century. There were various forms in various countries, and membership was often primarily among the well educated bourgeoisie. Most freemasons, however, tended to share the same ideals, which included, in most cases, a constitutional declaration of belief in a Supreme Being. The influence off freemasonry, with its idea of the Supreme Being as The Great Architect of the Universe, would continue to grow until it surfaced among several prominent leaders of the French and the American Revolutions. French Jacobin leader Maximilien Robespierre would create a cult of the Supreme Being which he took very seriously. George Washington made

16 worship of the Supreme Being an important part of American Exceptionalism.


The Washington Monument (an obelisk originally representing the Sun God Ra) American revolutionaries who were freemasons inscribed Masonic symbols all about their new Temple City Washington D.C. and particularly the Eye of the Supreme Being. With the dawning of the Novus Ordo Seclorum (New Order of the Ages) men and women all around the world would carry this symbol on their persons.


Descartes continued to be a traditional Christian in private life, and saw no conflict with the Established Religion of France, but Descartes' system was retained by generations of his admirers while his view of the importance of God in his method was dropped. In Pascal, the universe is full of illusions and self-deception; analysis reveals man's misery. He can only deceive himself, or sink into an abyss (without God). But later thinkers will retain his methodology, too; and his view of man; but also man's position in the abyss. So both thinkers, though apologists for a belief in God, and Christianity in particular, had many later admirers who ignored the religious dimension (though Pascal's religiosity was more durable than that of Descartes.) What is man's "perception" of God? Why is God absent and man in this desperate situation?


Observe the universe and men, and you observe something surprising to many people: the sky and Gods creation, the birds and animals, don't prove the existence of God as was suggested, for example, in the book of Job in the Bible: "But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee: and the birds of the air, and they shall tell thee Speak to the earth, and it shall answer thee: and the fishes of the sea shall tell." -- Job 12:7-8 [33, #3] `Why do you not say yourself that the sky and the birds prove God? - `No' `Does your religion not say so?' - `No. For though it is true in a sense for some souls whom God has enlightened in this way, yet it is untrue for the majority.' For Pascal: God's existence isn't self-evident. Earlier, Erasmus, More (and the medieval tradition), like John Calvin, thought that knowledge of God was natural: Who made the world? Who directed our day to day affairs? For Luther and Calvin religious belief (ie. belief in God's existence) was not meritorious. The devil (a very real presence to Luther) was no atheist. Religious "Faith", however, was very important. Atheism was not conceivable, not a threat, because the universe "talked" It was full, charged, with signs and symbols which regularly communicated with men and women.


Garden of Eden.

For Pascal the universe, as observed through the newest telescopes of his Parisian friends is different. It no longer "talks", and is even frightening. This raises an interesting question in the History of mentalities: Why are the majority no longer able to see God clearly? Several possible explanations could be offered: 1) Since Descartes, men observe the sky and birds in a more mathematical, scientific, empirical way (ie. without God being in the picture) as an invisible reality.. 2) Since Descartes the God "of the philosophers and scholars" has gradually effaced, or pushed aside, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, of Jacob. 3) Man now is aware, for the first time, of the true immensity of the sky and universe (the night sky is not just a comfortable roof with angels peering down on us from the windows in the black velvet curtain as they move the celestial orbs about). The heavens are not so obviously peopled by legions of good angels who battle to keep the demons, the bad angels, at bay, as they were for the imaginative artist below.


Good angels battle Demons Not only did angels battle with dark angels in the cosmos, they also - calmly and purposefully aid good men (like the Church Father Tertullian of Carthage) in their struggle with human beings against demonic ideas, such as those of blasphemers and heretics. II. Man in a Corner For Pascal, man is Lost, in a corner, between immensities in contrast to the more humanscale world of the age of Erasmus): [48, #68] When I consider the brief span of my life absorbed into the eternity which becomes before and after - "as the remembrance of a guest that tarrieth but a day" - the small space I occupy and which I see swallowed up in the infinite immensity of spaces of which I know nothing and which know nothing of me, I take fright and am amazed to see myself here rather than there ... Who put me here? By whose command and act were this time and place allotted to men?


Soviet stamp commemorating men in space (1967)

Thus there are no longer all the mediators (saints, sacred places, relics and indulgences, the Virgin Mary, angels and demons) between God and man. The age of exploration, personal travel, then science, reveal the magnitude of the time and space which encompass us. Are we sure that all this vast creation was made for mere men? Man no longer seems the center of everything (as in that garden-world described in the Bible) but rather he begins to feel "lonely", lost, isolated ... frightened. How does a man feel in the face of these new vast dimensions? Many bloggers reflect a searching quality in the photos they use to highlight their travels through the world. The motto of Californias militant conservationist John Muir society is In Wildness is the Salvation of the World: [88, #198A] H5. When I see the blind and wretched state of man, when I survey the whole universe in its dumbness and man left to himself with no light, as though lost in

23 this corner of the universe, without knowing who put him there, what he has come to do, what will become of him when he dies, incapable of knowing anything, I am moved to terror, like a man transported in this sleep to some terrifying desert island, who wakes up quite lost and with no means of escape. Then I marvel that so wretched a state does not drive people to despair. This could be a line from Beckett's Waiting for Godot or another contemporary playwright (Ionesco, Pirandello, Albee, or Harold Pinter). The world is a far less friendly place, and far less the obvious reflection of some divine order, than had been thought. The lucid man, in his agonizing isolation, finds further confirmation for his anguish as he observes the comportment of his peers: [#198B] I see other people around me, made like myself. I ask them if they are any better informed than I, and they say they are not. Then these lost and wretched creatures look around and find some attractive objects to which they become addicted and attached. For my part I have never been able to form such attachments, and considering how very likely it is that there exists something besides what I can see, I have tried to find out whether God has left any traces of himself. For Pascal, man must turn inward and free himself from illusions as to his cosmic importance (or of assuming he is the center of everything, as in Descartes), and accept man's fragile and vulnerable place amid the immensities for what it was: [95, #200] H3. Man is only a reed, the weakest in nature, but he is a thinking reed. There is no need for the whole universe to take up arms to crush him: a vapour, a drop of water is enough to kill him. But even if the universe were to crush him, man would still be nobler than his slayer, because he knows that he is dying and the advantage the universe has over him. ... Thus all our dignity consists in thought. It is on thought that we must depend for our recovery, not on space and time, which we could never fill. Let us then strive to think well; that is the basic principle of morality.

24 Like Beckett - or Sartre - man's only hope is in lucidity, in severing all ties from the illusions and obsessions of his peers and looking isolation and despair in the face (but without that special religiously framed "despair" of Luther). To allow oneself to be caught up with the ephemeral concerns of most men (obsessed with the impossible task of filling up space and time) would be a loss of man's only, tenuous, claim to dignity: thought, his ability as a "thinking reed" to seek the Truth. III. Moral Relativism But for all of this feeling of being at sea, can't man at least have some basic moral principles? Can one say that at least right and wrong are clear for man - and he knows how to be righteous and good, how to be law-abiding - as the stern moralist Calvin always assumed? No. Here, again, Pascal displays evidence of living in a world of expanding knowledge but shrinking distances which were relativizing peoples' sense of their ways, of their values, being carved in stone as good for all times and places: [46, #60] It is a funny sort of justice whose limits are marked by a river; true on this side of the Pyrenees, false on the other. They confess that justice does not lie in these customs, but resides in natural laws common to every country ... but the joke is that man's whims have shown such great variety that there is not one. Larceny, incest, infanticide, parricide, everything has at some time been accounted a virtuous action. Could there be anything more absurd than that a man has the right to kill me because he lives on the other side of the water, and his prince has picked a quarrel with mine, although I have none with him? There no doubt exist natural laws, but once this fine reason on ours was corrupted, it corrupted everything.


Here, again, we see the effect of the Age of Discovery. The old Biblical certainties (of Calvin) or Natural Law (Aristotle, Aquinas) are no longer beyond questioning to men who have traveled and seen other values and ways of life. For Pascal, Descartes, even Montaigne, had been justified in raising questions about the universal validity of their own national customs. IV. The Failure of Philosophy (Descartes) But what about about disciplined metaphysical analysis? Didn't Descartes - or other great philosophical minds - prove God? [86, #190] Preface. The metaphysical proofs for the existence of God are so remote from human reasoning and so involved that they make little impact, and, even if they did help some people, it would only be for the moment during which they

26 watched the demonstration, because an hour later they would be afraid they had made a mistake. Thus Pascal does not argue that Descartes (or the traditional philosophers) failed to prove absolute certitudes. That is irrelevant. His focus (as before) is on how man's reasoning relates to his experience, the way a man lives his life, and his ongoing "sense of the Absolute". In fact if a man were convinced by a philosophical proof of a Perfect Being he would be certain for a while and then it would escape his memory, he would forget all about it. It wouldn't affect his life. Thus the great philosophical debates are not matters of spiritual life or death. They are not directly relevant to how we live our lives. Knowledge of a Perfect Being (who is not evident from the sky and birds) even if it were provided by philosophy would not change us very much. [Pascal's implication is that we must find God, experience Him, not just know that He exists as Descartes thought. All of this suggests a loss of that "medieval" experience of knowledge of God.] How, in fact, do we employ reason in our most important knowing activities? submission [83, #170] Submission. One must know when it is right to doubt, to affirm, to submit. Anyone who does otherwise does not understand the force of reason. ... Sceptic, mathematician, Christian; doubt, affirmation, submission. Or again: [83, #173] If we submit everything to reason our religion will be left with nothing mysterious or supernatural. If we offend the principles of reason our religion will be absurd and ridiculous. Thus the religious believer, as opposed to the mathematician, is characterized by a certain submission of reason. [For Erasmus, Descartes, this wasn't necessary. Remember that Erasmus praised "simplicity" in The Praise of Folly but his did not entail a rejection of reasoned analysis.] For Luther and Calvin "reasoning" was not the enemy but a pagan spirit and attitude taken over from the great Greeks philosophers. They did not see a conflict between the logical reasoning mind and religion as does Pascal, here. This indicates that something profound has changed in the mentality of the 17th century. Pascal's response seemed directly set against Descartes' "reason" which he saw as peculiarly incompatible with living religious experience ... however convincingly it proved God. V. The Wager

27 Pascal put forward an argument for belief which was basically pragmatic: that - on reflection - it was common sense, it was more in one's interest, more personally beneficial, to believe in God than not. This was not the essence of his position in the Pensees but it is remembered as a clever intellectual gambit ... perhaps one which was indicative of the underlying "doubt" of the age. It is remembered as Pascals Wager [p. 149-153, p. 150, #418] `Either God is or He is not.' But to which view shall we be inclined? Reason cannot decide this question. Infinite chaos separates us. At the far end of this infinite distance a coin is being spun which will come down heads or tails. How will you wager? Reason cannot make you choose either, reason cannot prove either wrong.

You have very little ... almost nothing ... to lose by believing. But if you chose not to believe you gambled away Eternal Joy, paradise.

28 You have very little ... almost nothing ... to lose by believing. But if you chose not to believe you gambled away Eternal Joy, paradise. This later became a very controversial passage in Pascal. If Pascal was a priori a Christian, how could he have been so "lucid" {in 20th century terms} in his analysis of man? This section was later crucial to the debate. Many later Christians were scandalized that he could write of salvation in such an off-handed way, in gambler's jargon. Christians were also shocked by the seriousness given to the position of non-belief in God: "Either God is, or He is not" Who could have conceived, earlier (Erasmus? Luther? Calvin?) of God's nonexistence? The fact Pascal could deal seriously with this position as an intellectual option is important in the History of mentalities (or the History of the "Growth of Scepticism"). Later thinkers (especially in the 19th century, when Pascal was considered an atheist) emphasized this. Sartre and Camus will also admire the objectification of religion, the lucidity necessary to formulate the wager. What about religious indifference or non-belief? How can it fit into God's plan. Our understanding of the world?


Deus absconditus [155, #427] ... If ... religion boasted that it had a clear sight of God and plain and manifest evidenced of his existence, it would be an effective objection to say that there is nothing to be seen in the world which proves him so obviously. But ... on the contrary it says that men are in darkness and remote from God, that he has hidden himself from their understanding, that this is the very name which he gives himself in Scripture: Deus absconditus [the hidden God]... . God has appointed visible signs in the Church so that he shall be recognized by those who genuinely seek him, and ... has ... hidden them in such a way that he will only be perceived by those who seek him with all their heart .... For the obscurity in which they find themselves, and which they use as an objection against the Church, simply establishes one of the things the Church maintains

30 without affecting the other, and far from proving her teaching false, confirms it. A few artists or photographers have tried to depict an invisible reality. But this was an original perspective for someone thinking about the Human condition: theologians have since written on this theme in Pascal. Remember what Erasmus had to say along these lines: the reading of a purified, welltranslated, Gospel, the growth of learning and the recuperation of the great intellectual efforts from the past would all resort in a spread of Christianity (which would include optimism regarding the human prospect). Descartes sought a universally accessible, irrefutable, proof for God. Pascal suggests that a lucid observation of mankind leads one to conclude that only a minority of humans would ever find Christianity as rational. Why? God's plan was to make Christianity intelligible only to those who seek with good faith. That Faith and Reason is part of an overarching Providential design. Pascal claims there is hidden coherence behind the apparent incoherence. Another proof - also non-rational - for God's existence which can arise from social observation (besides the fact that so many find God unintelligible) is the history of the Jews: [177, #456] These are the facts: while philosophers are split into different sects, there are in one cornder of the world people who are the most ancient in the world, who declare that the whole world is in error, that God has revealed truth to them, that it will always exist on earth. In fact all the other sects come to an end; this one still exists and for 4,000 years they have been declaring that they have it from their forefathers ... So against all reason the Jews have testified to men of the the existence of one God for 4000 years. Philosophers and philosophies go in and out of fashion but the Jews remain as a mysterious refutation of philosophy (and also a people who are "fired by their beliefs" in the old way VI. Religious Faith as Paradox What kind of valid and authentic religious experience is possible? Here Pascal articulates a position that summarizes all the rest. [252, #733] The Church has always been attacked by contrary errors, but perhaps never before at the same time, as now. If she is suffering more because of the multiplicity of errors, she always has the advantage that they cancel themselves

31 out. ... Faith embraces many apparently contradictory truths ... The origin of this is in the two natures of Christ. So Pascal offers a different perception of Faith than that which we have seen in Luther (to whom the leap of Faith was cosmological good sense, if you did not make it Satan would claim you). For Pascal, Faith is the firm adhesion to contradictory truths. Thus the essence of religious adherence in the Christian tradition is to learn to live with, even to cultivate a taste for. paradoxes. Thus his position is very different from that of Luther (who saw the vanguishing of demons as of prime importance), or Erasmus (who envisaged men living happily with the Gospels), or in thinking clearly, like Descartes (who saw little need for "Faith"). This is one of those pensees in which some saw Pascal's religious genius, and others the sacrifice of his intellect to the irrational. As we saw earlier this is compatible with the view of reason which we discover on reflecting about "how it works" (if not via the method which Descartes has offered to us). For Pascal, Cartesian reason was one-sided and led to distortions. The apparently rational lives of men around us are (paradoxically) absurd, attempts to escape despair. Analysis of our own selves reveals the disjuncture between our public image, our pretenses at reasoning, and the fact of the way our mind works. It also reveal the contrast with our good show of happiness and the fact. Apparent contradictions of religious unbelief are, paradoxically, support for belief. So man is a best paradox, and his best and most precious knowledge was a paradox. Thus the most important thing he could learn in life was to accept, even embrace, paradoxes: such as that the Supreme Being allowed His only son to become a human and undertake grisly suffering. Was Pascal, then, simply a reincarnation of Luther: arguing the primacy of Faith over Reason in different vocabulary a century later? No ... he was quite different. He did not begin with the drama of Biblical revelation but rather with a sharp and lucid analysis of the human condition which eventually led him to isolate man as miserable and despairing. Only embracing "asurdity" could save him. Luther began with the immediate experience of joy in Faith in Jesus: Pascal started off with a chilling portrait of the misery of man surrounded by infinites of time and space in an an empty and silent universe. Pascal's arguments - the wager is one example - were sophisticated and complex. Can we imagine his starting a broad, populist, national religious movement as did Luther? No. His appeal has always been to intellectuals. VII. The "Memorial"

32 Pascal's decisive religious experience of Monday, 23 November 1654, from about 10:30 to 12:30 PM was distinctive and memorable as recorded on that piece of parchment:


[309, #913] Fire "God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob", not of philosophers and scholars. Certainty, certainty, heartfelt, joy, peace. ... Sweet and total renunciation. Total submission to Jesus Christ and my director. Everlasting joy in return for one day's effort on earth. "I will not forget thy word". Amen It is interesting to remark here that the God he meets and describes that evening is not the metaphysical "One" of the freemasons, nor the God of Descartes but the powerful and judgmental Father of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Here Michelangelo memorably recorded his own imaginings:


The God of Creation (Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel) In Michelangelos Sistine Chapel depiction of Him God is separating earth from water. Pascal's religious experience is based on his fundamental objection to Descartes. We must not make an idol in the mind. [318, #926] We make an idol of truth itself, for truth apart from charity is not God, but his image and an idol that we must not love or worship. Still less must we love or worship its opposite, which is falsehood. A result is a break between the Hebraic biblical tradition and the Greeks, in that ancient tension of the early Father Tertullian versus Philo and Clement. Pascal defends the tradition of Tertullian (Christ must be loved as a paradox. Credo quia absurdum est. I believe because it is absurd.) (Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus, anglicised as Tertullian (c. 160 c. 225 AD), was a prolific early Christian author from Carthage in the Roman province of Africa. He is

35 the first Christian author to produce an extensive corpus of Latin Christian literature. He also was a notable early Christian apologist and a polemicist against heresy. Tertullian has been called "the father of Latin Christianity"and "the founder of Western theology.

In this frontpiece to the 1722 edition of Tertullians tract against heretics angels are standing outside the pillars of Roman Carthage - smiting the multiheaded monster of heresy and diabolical heretics. Was Pascal a believer trying to persuade us of the truth he had found? Or a tormented wrestler against doubt? Was the the first of the modern irrationalists, an anti-intellectual? Or was he rather a man ahead of his time who saw further and so "exercises all the mental faculties"? When Pascal died at 39 in 1662, people still believed that how people were with God when they died would be revealed by their faces on their death beds.


What does he reveal about man in the Europe of the 17th century? That the Universe is vast and dead? That man is now alone? We must be sensitive to how Pascal's "sense of God" was both a product of a timeless religious genius and yet of a sensitive and perceptive man relating to the new sense of time in the 17th century and interstellar space. And the new distances men and women are now travelling to contact non-Western peoples whose experiences are not so clearly related in that "family history" which was the Bible. Pascal was also reacting against Descartes and what he came to realize Descartes and his fellow rationalists represented. He also reacted against the new idea or experience of religion which surfaced then and would lead to the Deism of Voltaire, that of other 18th century enlightenment figures (and of several French and America Revolutionaries) . So Pascal was "reacting" against what disturbed and frightened him. But he also - as a man who had been on the cutting edge of creative thinking in several disciplines - "created" a new mentality, a new experience, of life in a different sort of universe than that relatively "enclosed" world that Erasmus and Luther had experienced before him. (end****)