Blaise Pascal

Blaise Pascal
To make light of philosophy is to be a true philosopher.

Blaise Pascal (19 June 162319 August 1662) was a French mathematician, logician, physicist and theologian.

SourcedEdit

Our reason is always disappointed by the inconstancy of appearances.
If we look at our work immediately after completing it, we are still too involved; if too long afterwards, we cannot pick up the thread again.
  • For as old age is that period of life most remote from infancy, who does not see that old age in this universal man ought not to be sought in the times nearest his birth, but in those most remote from it?
    • Preface to the Treatise on Vacuum (c.1651).
  • Je n'ai fait celle-ci plus longue que parce que je n'ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte.
  • People almost invariably arrive at their beliefs not on the basis of proof but on the basis of what they find attractive.
    • De l'Art de persuader ("On the Art of Persuasion"), written 1658; published posthumously.
  • FEU. Dieu d'Abraham, Dieu d'Isaac, Dieu de Jacob, non des philosophes et savants. Certitude. Certitude. Sentiment. Joie. Paix.
    • FIRE. God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, not of the philosophers and scholars. Certainty. Certainty. Feeling. Joy. Peace.
    • Note on a parchment stitched to the lining of Pascal's coat, found by a servant shortly after his death, as quoted in Burkitt Speculum religionis (1929), p. 150

Pensées (1669)Edit

The heart has its reasons, which reason does not know. We feel it in a thousand things.

Section I Thoughts on Mind and Style (1-59)Edit

  • ...it is rare that mathematicians are intuitive, and that men of intuition are mathematicians, because mathematicians wish to treat matters of intuition mathematically, and make themselves ridiculous, wishing to begin with definitions and then with axioms, which is not the way to proceed in this kind of reasoning. Not that the mind does not do so, but it does it tacitly, naturally, and without technical rules; for the expression of it is beyond all men, and only a few can feel it. 1
  • Dull minds are never either intuitive or mathematical. 1
  • There are then two kinds of intellect: the one able to penetrate acutely and deeply into the conclusions of given premises, and this is the precise intellect; the other able to comprehend a great number of premises without confusing them, and this is the mathematical intellect. The one has force and exactness, the other comprehension. Now the one quality can exist without the other; the intellect can be strong and narrow, and can also be comprehensive and weak. 2
  • Those who are accustomed to judge by feeling do not understand the process of reasoning, for they would understand at first sight, and are not used to seek for principles. And others, on the contrary, who are accustomed to reason from principles, do not at all understand matters of feeling, seeking principles, and being unable to see at a glance. 3
  • La vraie éloquence se moque de l'éloquence, la vraie morale se moque de la morale.
    • True morality makes fun of morality.
    • True eloquence makes light of eloquence, true morality makes light of morality; that is to say, the morality of the judgment, which has no rules, makes light of the morality of the intellect. 4 [Variant Translation]
  • ...it is to judgment that perception belongs, as science belongs to intellect. Intuition is the part of judgment, mathematics of intellect. 4
  • Se moquer de la philosophie, c'est vraiment philosopher 4
    • To make light of philosophy is to be a true philosopher.
  • The understanding and the feelings are moulded by intercourse; the understanding and feelings are corrupted by intercourse. Thus good or bad society improves or corrupts them. It is, then, all-important to know how to choose in order to improve and not to corrupt them; and we cannot make this choice, if they be not already improved and not corrupted. Thus a circle is formed, and those are fortunate who escape it. 6
  • The greater intellect one has, the more originality one finds in men. Ordinary persons find no difference between men. 7
  • When we wish to correct with advantage, and to show another that he errs, we must notice from what side he views the matter, for on that side it is usually true, and admit that truth to him, but reveal to him the side on which it is false. He is satisfied with that, for he sees that he was not mistaken, and that he only failed to see all sides. 9
  • ...no one is offended at not seeing everything; but one does not like to be mistaken, and that perhaps arises from the fact that man naturally cannot see everything, and that naturally he cannot err in the side he looks at, since the perceptions of our senses are always true. 9
  • People are generally better persuaded by the reasons which they have themselves discovered than by those which have come into the mind of others. 10
  • When a natural discourse paints a passion or an effect, one feels within oneself the truth of what one reads, which was there before, although one did not know it. Hence one is inclined to love him who makes us feel it, for he has not shown us his own riches, but ours. ...such community of intellect that we have with him necessarily inclines the heart to love. 14
  • Eloquence is an art of saying things in such a way—(1) that those to whom we speak may listen to them without pain and with pleasure; (2) that they feel themselves interested, so that self-love leads them more willingly to reflection upon it. 16
  • It [eloquence] consists, then, in a correspondence which we seek to establish between the head and the heart of those to whom we speak on the one hand, and, on the other, between the thoughts and the expressions which we employ. ...We must put ourselves in the place of those who are to hear us, and make trial on our own heart... We ought to restrict ourselves, so far as possible, to the simple and natural, and not to magnify that which is little, or belittle that which is great. It is not enough that a thing be beautiful; it must be suitable to the subject, and there must be in it nothing of excess or defect. 16
  • Rivers are roads which move, and which carry us whither we desire to go. 17
    • Note: apparently suggested by a chapter in Rabelais: How we descended in the isle of Odes, in which the roads walk.
  • The manner in which Epictetus, Montaigne, and Salomon de Tultie wrote, is the most usual, the most suggestive, the most remembered, and the oftener quoted; because it is entirely composed of thoughts born from the common talk of life. 18
    • Note: Salomon de Tultie was a pseudonym adopted by Pascal as the author of the Provincial Letters.
  • La dernière chose qu'on trouve en faisant un ouvrage est de savoir celle qu'il faut mettre la première.
    • The last thing one settles in writing a book is what one should put in first. 19
  • Nature has made all her truths independent of one another. Our art makes one dependent on the other. But this is not natural. Each keeps its own place. 21
  • Symmetry is what we see at a glance; based on the fact that there is no reason for any difference... 28
  • 'Quand on voit le style naturel, on est tout étonné et ravi, car on s'attendait de voir un auteur, et on trouve un homme. Au lieu que ceux qui ont le goût bon, et qui, en voyant un livre, croient trouver un homme, sont tout surpris de trouver un auteur: plus poetice quam humaine locutus est. Ceux-là honorent bien la nature, qui lui apprennent qu'elle peut parler de tout, et même de théologie.
    • When we see a natural style, we are astonished and delighted; for we expected to see an author, and we find a man. Whereas those who have good taste, and who seeing a book expect to find a man, are quite surprised to find an author. Plus poetice quam humane locutus es. "You have spoken more poetically than humanly." 29
  • Those honor nature well, who teach that she can speak on everything, even on theology. 29
  • We only consult the ear because the heart is wanting. 30
  • Beauty of omission, of judgment. 30
  • There is a certain standard of grace and beauty which consists in a certain relation between our nature... and the thing which pleases us. 32
  • Poetical beauty. ...We know well what is the object of mathematics, and that it consists of proofs, and what is the object of medicine, and that it consists of healing. But we do not know in what grace consists, which is the object of poetry. 33
  • ...whoever imagines a woman after this model, which consists in saying little things in big words, will see a pretty girl adorned with mirrors and chains... 33
  • No one passes in the world as skilled in verse unless he has put up the sign of a poet, a mathematician, &c. But educated people do not want a sign, and draw little distinction between the trade of a poet and that of an embroiderer. 34
  • People of education are not called poets or mathematicians, &c.; but they are all these, and judges of all these. 34
  • Since we cannot be universal and know all that is to be known of everything, we ought to know a little about everything. For it is far better to know something about everything than to know all about one thing. This universality is the best. If we can have both, still better; but if we must choose, we ought to choose the former. And the world feels this and does so; for the world is often a good judge. 37
  • ...when we wish to demonstrate a general theorem, we must give the rule as applied to a particular case; but if we wish to demonstrate a particular case, we must begin with the general rule. For we always find the thing obscure which we wish to prove, and that clear which we use for the proof; for, when a thing is put forward to be proved, we first fill ourselves with the imagination that it is therefore obscure, and on the contrary that what is to prove it, is clear, and so we understand it easily. 40
  • Man loves malice, but not against one-eyed men nor the unfortunate, but against the fortunate and proud. 41
  • Lust is the source of all our actions, and humanity, &c. 41
  • Certain authors, speaking of their works, say, "My book," "My commentary," "My history," etc. They resemble middle-class people who have a house of their own, and always have "My house" on their tongue. They would do better to say, "Our book," "Our commentary," "Our history," etc., because there is in them usually more of other people's than their own. 43
  • Do you wish people to believe good of you? Don't speak. 44
  • The same meaning changes with the words which express it. Meanings receive their dignity from words instead of giving it to them. 50
  • I always feel uncomfortable under such complements as these: "I have given you a great deal of trouble," "I am afraid I am boring you," "I fear this is too long." We either carry our audience with us, or irritate them. 57
  • You are ungraceful: "Excuse me, pray." Without that excuse I would not have known there was anything amiss. "With reverence be it spoken..." The only thing bad is their excuse. 58

Section II The Misery of Man without God (60-183)Edit

  • I might well have taken this discourse in an order like this: to show the vanity of all conditions of men, to show the vanity of ordinary lives, and then the vanity of philosophic lives, sceptics, stoics; but the order would not have been kept. I know a little what it is, and how few people understand it. No human science can keep it. Saint Thomas did not keep it. Mathematics keep it, but they are useless on account of their depth. 61
  • One must know oneself. If this does not serve to discover truth, it at least serves as a rule of life, and there is nothing better. 66
  • Knowledge of physical science will not console me for ignorance of morality in time of affliction, but knowledge of morality will always console me for ignorance of physical science. 67
  • When we read too fast or too slowly, we understand nothing. 69
  • Nature has set us so well in the center, that if we change one side of the balance, we change the other also. I act. This makes me believe that the springs in our brain are so adjusted that he who touches one touches also its contrary. 70
  • Too much and too little wine. Give him none, he cannot find truth; give him too much, the same. 71
  • Let man then contemplate the whole of nature in her full and grand majesty, and turn his vision from the low objects which surround him. Let him gaze on that brilliant light, set like an eternal lamp to illumine the universe; let the earth appear to him a point in comparison with the vast circle described by the sun; and let him wonder at the fact that this vast circle is itself but a very fine point in comparison with that described by the stars in their revolution round the firmament. But if our view be arrested there, let our imagination pass beyond; it will sooner exhaust the power of conception than nature that of supplying material for conception. The whole visible world is only an imperceptible atom in the ample bosom of nature. It is an infinite sphere, the center of which is everywhere, the circumference nowhere. In short it is the greatest sensible mark of the almighty power of God, that imagination loses itself in that thought. 72
    • Note: Havet traces the statement about nature's infinite sphere to Empedocles
    • C'est une sphère infinie, dont le centre est partout et la circonférence nulle part.
    • It is an infinite sphere whose center is everywhere and circumference is nowhere.
  • For after all what is man in nature? A nothing in relation to infinity, all in relation to nothing, a central point between nothing and all and infinitely far from understanding either. The ends of things and their beginnings are impregnably concealed from him in an impenetrable secret. He is equally incapable of seeing the nothingness out of which he was drawn and the infinite in which he is engulfed. 72
  • ...as nature has graven her image and that of her Author on all things, they almost all partake of her double infinity. Thus we see that all the sciences are infinite in the extent of their researches. For who doubts that geometry, for instance, has an infinite infinity of problems to solve? They are also infinite in the multitude and fineness of their premises; for it is clear that those which are put forward as ultimate are not self-supporting, but are based on others which, again having others for their support, do not permit of finality. ...Of these two Infinites of science, that of greatness is the most palpable, and hence a few persons have pretended to know all things. ...the infinitely little is the least obvious. Philosophers have much oftener claimed to have reached it, and it is here they have all stumbled. ...we need no less capacity for attaining the Nothing than the All. Infinite capacity is required for both, and it seems to me that whoever shall have understood the ultimate principles of being might also attain to the knowledge of the Infinite. The one depends on the other, and one leads to the other. These extremes meet and reunite by force of distance, and find each other in God, and in God alone. 72
  • Excessive qualities are prejudicial to us and not perceptible by the senses; we do not feel but suffer them. Extreme youth and extreme age hinder the mind, as also too much and too little education. In short, extremes are for us as though they were not, and we are not within their notice. They escape us, or we them. This is our true state; this is what makes us incapable of certain knowledge and of absolute ignorance. We sail within a vast sphere, ever drifting in uncertainty, driven from end to end. When we think to attach ourselves to any point and to fasten to it, it wavers and leaves us; and if we follow it, it eludes our grasp, slips past us, and vanishes for ever. Nothing stays for us. This is our natural condition, and yet most contrary to our inclination; we burn with desire to find solid ground and an ultimate sure foundation whereon to build a tower reaching to the Infinite. But our whole groundwork cracks, and the earth opens to abysses. 72
  • Since everything then is cause and effect, dependent and supporting, mediate and immediate, and all is held together by a natural though imperceptible chain, which binds together things most distant and most different, I hold it equally impossible to know the parts without knowing the whole, and to know the whole without knowing the parts in detail. The eternity of things in itself or in God must also astonish our brief duration. The fixed and constant immobility of nature, in comparison with the continual change which goes on within us, must have the same effect. 72
  • ...it is impossible that our rational part should be other than spiritual; and if any one maintain that we are simply corporeal, this would far more exclude us from the knowledge of things, there being nothing so inconceivable as to say that matter knows itself. It is impossible to imagine how it should know itself. 72
  • So if we are simply material, we can know nothing at all; and if we are composed of mind and matter, we cannot know perfectly things which are simple, whether spiritual or corporeal. Hence it comes that almost all philosophers have confused ideas of things, and speak of material things in spiritual terms, and of spiritual things in material terms. For they say boldly that bodies have a tendency to fall, that they seek after their centre, that they fly from destruction, that they fear the void, that they have inclinations, sympathies, antipathies, all of which attributes pertain only to mind. And in speaking of minds, they consider them as in a place, and attribute to them movement from one place to another; and these are qualities which belong only to bodies. 72
  • Man is to himself the most wonderful object in nature; for he cannot conceive what the body is, still less what the mind is, and least of all how a body should be united to a mind. This is the consummation of his difficulties, and yet it is his very being. 72
  • One says that the sovereign good consists in virtue, another in pleasure, another in the knowledge of nature, another in truth, another in total ignorance, another in indolence, others in disregarding appearances, another in wondering at nothing, and the true skeptics in their indifference, doubt, and perpetual suspense, and others, wiser, think to find a better definition. We are well satisfied. 73
  • I cannot forgive Descartes. In all his philosophy he would have been quite willing to dispense with God. But he had to make Him give a fillip to set the world in motion; beyond this, he has no further need of God. 77
  • Epictetus goes much further when he asks: Why do we not lose our temper if someone tells us that we have a headache, while we do lose it if someone says there is anything wrong with our arguments or our choice? 80
  • It is natural for the mind to believe, and for the will to love; so that, for want of true objects, they must attach themselves to false. 81
  • Imagination.—It is that deceitful part in man, that mistress of error and falsity, the more deceptive, that she is not always so; for she would be an infallible rule of truth, if she were an infallible rule of falsehood. But being most generally false, she gives no sign of her nature, impressing the same character on the true and the false. I do not speak of fools, I speak of the wisest men; and it is among them that the imagination has the great gift of persuasion. Reason protests in vain; it cannot set a true value on things. 82
  • Imagination.—This arrogant power, the enemy of reason, who likes to rule and dominate it, has established in man a second nature to show how all-powerful she is. She makes men happy and sad, healthy and sick, rich and poor; she compels reason to believe, doubt, and deny; she blunts the senses, or quickens them; she has her fools and sages; and nothing vexes us more than to see that she fills her devotees with a satisfaction far more full and entire than does reason. 82
  • Those who have a lively imagination are a great deal more pleased with themselves than the wise can reasonably be. They look down upon men with haughtiness; they argue with boldness and confidence, others with fear and diffidence; and this gaiety of countenance often gives them the advantage in the opinion of the hearers, such favor have the imaginary wise in the eyes of judges of like nature. Imagination cannot make fools wise; but she can make them happy, to the envy of reason which can only make its friends miserable; the one covers them with glory, the other with shame. What but this faculty of imagination dispenses reputation, awards respect and veneration to persons, works, laws, and the great? How insufficient are all the riches of the earth without her consent! 82
    • Who dispenses reputation? Who makes us respect and revere persons, works, laws, the great? Who but this faculty of imagination? All the riches of the earth are inadequate without its approval. [Variant Translation]
    • Those who are clever in imagination are far more pleased with themselves than prudent men could reasonably be. [Variant Translation]
  • How much greater confidence has an advocate, retained with a large fee, in the justice of his cause! How much better does his bold manner make his case appear to the judges, deceived as they are by appearances! How ludicrous is reason, blown with a breath in every direction! 82
    • An advocate who has been well paid in advance will find the cause he is pleading all the more just. [Variant Translation]
  • Imagination cannot make fools wise, but it makes them happy, as against reason, which only makes its friends wretched: one covers them with glory, the other with shame. 82
  • Put the world's greatest philosopher on a plank that is wider than need be; if there is a precipice below, although his reason may convince him that he is safe, his imagination will prevail. 82
  • The wisest reason takes as her own principles those which the imagination of man has everywhere rashly introduced. 82
  • He who would follow reason only would be deemed foolish by the generality of men. We must judge by the opinion of the majority of mankind. Because it has pleased them, we must work all day for pleasures seen to be imaginary; and after sleep has refreshed our tired reason, we must forthwith start up and rush after phantoms, and suffer the impressions of this mistress of the world. 82
  • Our magistrates have known well this mystery. Their red robes, the ermine in which they wrap themselves like furry cats, the courts in which they administer justice, the fleurs-de-lis, and all such august apparel were necessary; if the physicians had not their cassocks and their mules, if the doctors had not their square caps and their robes four times too wide, they would never have duped the world, which cannot resist so original an appearance. If magistrates had true justice, and if physicians had the true art of healing, they would have no occasion for square caps; the majesty of these sciences would of itself be venerable enough. But having only imaginary knowledge, they must employ those silly tools that strike the imagination with which they have to deal; and thereby in fact they inspire respect. 82
  • The justest man in the world is not allowed to be judge in his own cause. 82
    • It is not permitted to the most equitable of men to be a judge in his own cause. [Variant Translation]
  • Justice and truth are two such subtle points, that our tools are too blunt to touch them accurately. If they reach the point, they either crush it, or lean all round, more on the false than on the true. 82
  • L’homme n’est qu’un sujet plein d’erreur naturelle, et ineffaçable sans la grâce. Rien ne lui montre la vérité. Tout l’abuse. Ces deux principes de vérité, la raison et les sens, outre qu’ils manquent chacun de sincérité, s’abusent réciproquement l’un l’autre; les sens abusent la raison de fausses apparences, et cette même piperie qu’ils apportent à l’âme, ils la reçoivent d’elle à leur tour; elle s’en revanche. Les passions de l’âme les troublent et leur font des impressions fausses. Ils mentent et se trompent à l’envi.
    • Man is only a subject full of error, natural and ineffaceable, without grace. Nothing shows him the truth. Everything deceives him. These two sources of truth, reason and the senses, besides being both wanting in sincerity, deceive each other in turn. The senses mislead the reason with false appearances, and receive from reason in their turn the same trickery which they apply to her; reason has her revenge. The passions of the soul trouble the senses, and make false impressions upon them. They rival each other in falsehood and deception. 83
  • Notre raison est toujours déçue par l'inconstance des apparences. 83
    • Our reason is always disappointed by the inconsistency of appearances.
  • The imagination enlarges little objects so as to fill our souls with a fantastic estimate; and, with rash insolence, it belittles the great to its own measure, as when talking of God. 84
  • Things which have most hold on us, as the concealment of our few possessions, are often a mere nothing. It is a nothing which our imagination magnifies into a mountain. 85
  • ...how shall one who is so weak in his childhood become really strong when he grows older? We only change our fancies. All that is made perfect by progress perishes also by progress. All that has been weak can never become absolutely strong. We say in vain, "He has grown, he has changed"; he is also the same. 88
  • Custom is our nature. He who is accustomed to the faith believes in it, can no longer fear hell, and believes in nothing else. He who is accustomed to believe that the king is terrible ... etc. Who doubts then that our soul, being accustomed to see number, space, motion, believes that and nothing else? 89
  • Parents fear lest the natural love of their children may fade away. What kind of nature is that which is subject to decay? Custom is a second nature which destroys the former. But what is nature? For is custom not natural? I am much afraid that nature is itself only a first custom, as custom is a second nature. 93
    • Habit is a second nature and it destroys the first. [Variant Translation]
  • Memory, joy, are intuitions; and even mathematical propositions become intuitions, for education produces natural intuitions, and natural intuitions are erased by education. 95
  • When we are accustomed to use bad reasons for proving natural effects, we are not willing to receive good reasons when they are discovered. 96
  • The most important affair in life is the choice of a calling; chance decides it. Custom makes men masons, soldiers, slaters. ...We choose our callings according as we hear this or that praised or despised in our childhood, for we naturally love truth and hate folly. ...It is custom then which... constrains nature. But sometimes nature gains the ascendancy, and preserves man's instinct, in spite of all custom, good or bad. 97
  • It is a deplorable thing to see all men deliberating on means alone, and not on the end. 98
  • The will is one of the chief factors in belief, not that it creates belief, but because things are true or false according to the aspect in which we look at them. The will, which prefers one aspect to another, turns away the mind from considering the qualities of all that it does not like to see; and thus the mind, moving in accord with the will, stops to consider the aspect which it likes, and so judges by what it sees. 99
  • Self-love.—The nature of self-love and of this human Ego is to love self only and consider self only. But what will man do? He cannot prevent this object that he loves from being full of faults and wants. He wants to be great, and he sees himself small. He wants to be happy, and he sees himself miserable. He wants to be perfect, and he sees himself full of imperfections. He wants to be the object of love and esteem among men, and he sees that his faults merit only their hatred and contempt. This embarrassment in which he finds himself produces in him the most unrighteous and criminal passion that can be imagined; for he conceives a mortal enmity against that truth which reproves him, and which convinces him of his faults. He would annihilate it, but, unable to destroy it in its essence, he destroys it as far as possible in his own knowledge and in that of others; that is to say, he devotes all his attention to hiding his faults both from others and from himself, and he cannot endure either that others should point them out to him, or that they should see them. 100
  • Truly it is an evil to be full of faults; but it is a still greater evil... to be unwilling to recognise them, since that is to add the further fault of a voluntary illusion. We do not like others to deceive us; we do not think it fair that they should be held in higher esteem by us than they deserve; it is not then fair that we should deceive them, and should wish them to esteem us more highly than we deserve. 100
  • Thus, when they [others] discover only the imperfections and vices which we really have, it is plain they do us no wrong, since it is not they who cause them; they rather do us good, since they help us to free ourselves from an evil, namely, the ignorance of these imperfections. We ought not to be angry at their knowing our faults and despising us; it is but right that they should know us for what we are, and should despise us, if we are contemptible. 100
  • The Catholic religion does not bind us to confess our sins indiscriminately to everybody; it allows them to remain hidden from all other men save one, to whom she bids us reveal the innermost recesses of our heart, and show ourselves as we are. There is only this one man in the world whom she orders us to undeceive, and she binds him to an inviolable secrecy, which makes this knowledge to him as if it were not. Can we imagine anything more charitable and pleasant? And yet the corruption of man is such that he finds even this law harsh; and it is one of the main reasons which has caused a great part of Europe to rebel against the Church. How unjust and unreasonable is the heart of man, which feels it disagreeable to be obliged to do in regard to one man what in some measure it were right to do to all men! For is it right that we should deceive men? 100
  • There are different degrees in this aversion to truth; but all may perhaps be said to have it in some degree, because it is inseparable from self-love. It is this false delicacy which makes those who are under the necessity of reproving others choose so many windings and middle courses to avoid offense. They must lessen our faults, appear to excuse them, intersperse praises and evidence of love and esteem. Despite all this, the medicine does not cease to be bitter to self-love. It takes as little as it can, always with disgust, and often with a secret spite against those who administer it. Hence it happens that if any have some interest in being loved by us, they are averse to render us a service which they know to be disagreeable. They treat us as we wish to be treated. We hate the truth, and they hide it from us. We desire flattery, and they flatter us. We like to be deceived, and they deceive us. 100
  • Human life is thus only a perpetual illusion; men deceive and flatter each other. No one speaks of us in our presence as he does of us in our absence. Human society is founded on mutual deceit; few friendships would endure if each knew what his friend said of him in his absence, although he then spoke in sincerity and without passion. Man is then only disguise, falsehood, and hypocrisy, both in himself and in regard to others. He does not wish any one to tell him the truth; he avoids telling it to others, and all these dispositions, so removed from justice and reason, have a natural root in his heart. 100
    • Peu d'amitiés subsisteraient, si chacun savait ce que son ami dit de lui lorsqu'il n'y est pas.
    • Few friendships would remain, if each knew what his friend said of him when he wasn't there. [Variant Translation]
  • ...if all men knew what each said of the other, there would not be four friends in the world. 101
  • We do not believe ourselves to be exactly sharing in the vices of the vulgar, when we see that we are sharing in those of great men; and yet we do not observe that in these matters they are ordinary men. We hold on to them by the same end by which they hold on to the rabble; for, however exalted they are, they are still united at some point to the lowest of men. They are not suspended in the air, quite removed from our society. No, no; if they are greater than we, it is because their heads are higher; but their feet are as low as ours. They are all on the same level, and rest on the same earth; and by that extremity they are as low as we are, as the meanest folk, as infants, and as the beasts. 103
  • When our passion leads us to do something, we forget our duty; for example, we like a book and read it, when we ought to be doing something else. Now, to remind ourselves of our duty, we must set ourselves a task we dislike; we then plead that we have something else to do, and by this means remember our duty. 104
  • By knowing each man's ruling passion, we are sure of pleasing him; and yet each has his fancies, opposed to his true good, in the very idea which he has of the good. 106
  • I have my foggy and my fine days within me; my prosperity or misfortune has little to do with the matter. I sometimes struggle against luck, the glory of mastering it makes me master it gaily; whereas I am sometimes surfeited in the midst of good fortune. 107
  • ...there are some people who lie for the mere sake of lying. 108
  • Nature gives us... passions and desires suitable to our present state. We are only troubled by the fears which we, and not nature, give ourselves... 109
  • Things have different qualities, and the soul different inclinations; for nothing is simple which is presented to the soul, and the soul never presents itself simply to any object. Hence it comes that we weep and laugh at the same thing. 112
  • Variety is as abundant as all tones of the voice, all ways of walking, coughing, blowing the nose, sneezing. We distinguish vines by their fruit, and call them the Condrien, the Desargues, and such and such a stock. Is this all? Has a vine ever produced two bunches exactly the same, and has a bunch two grapes alike? etc. I can never judge of the same thing exactly in the same way. I cannot judge of my work, while doing it. I must do as the artists, stand at a distance, but not too far. How far, then? Guess. 114
  • All is one, all is different. How many natures exist in man? How many vocations? And by what chance does each man ordinarily choose what he has heard praised? 116
  • Time heals griefs and quarrels, for we change and are no longer the same persons. 122
  • Condition de l'homme: inconstance, ennui, inquiétude.
    • Condition of man: inconstancy, weariness, unrest. 127
    • Man’s condition: inconstancy, boredom, anxiety. [Variant Translation]
  • Notre nature est dans le mouvement ; le repos entier est la mort.
    • Our nature consists in motion; complete rest is death. 129 (Attributed to Montaigne, Essais, iii, 13).
  • Nothing is so insufferable to man as to be completely at rest, without passions, without business, without diversion, without study. He then feels his nothingness, his forlornness, his insufficiency, his dependence, his weakness, his emptiness. There will immediately arise from the depth of his heart weariness, gloom, sadness, fretfulness, vexation, despair. 131
  • Caesar was too old, it seems to me, to go off and amuse himself conquering the world. Such a pastime was all right for Augustus and Alexander; they were young men, not easily held in check, but Caesar ought to have been more mature. 132
  • How useless is painting, which attracts admiration by the resemblance of things, the originals of which we do not admire! 134
  • The struggle alone pleases us, not the victory. ...It is the same in play, and the same in the search for truth. In disputes we like to see the clash of opinions, but not at all to contemplate truth when found. ...So in the passions, there is pleasure in seeing the collision of two contraries; but when one acquires the mastery, it becomes only brutality. We never seek things for themselves, but for the search. 135
  • A mere trifle consoles us, for a mere trifle distresses us. 136
    • A trifle consoles us because a trifle upsets us. [Variant Translation]
  • ...all the unhappiness of men arises from one single fact, that they cannot stay quietly in their own chamber. ...when, after finding the cause of all our ills, I have sought to discover the reason of it, I have found that there is one very real reason, namely, the natural poverty of our feeble and mortal condition, so miserable that nothing can comfort us when we think of it closely. 139
  • ...a king attended with every pleasure he can feel, if he be without diversion, and be left to consider and reflect on what he is, this feeble happiness will not sustain him; he will necessarily fall into forebodings of dangers, of revolutions which may happen, and, finally, of death and inevitable disease; so that if he be without what is called diversion, he is unhappy, and more unhappy than the least of his subjects who plays and diverts himself. 139
  • Thus passes away all man's life. Men seek rest in a struggle against difficulties; and when they have conquered these, rest becomes insufferable. For we think either of the misfortunes we have or of those which threaten us. And even if we should see ourselves sufficiently sheltered on all sides, weariness of its own accord would not fail to arise from the depths of the heart wherein it has its natural roots, and to fill the mind with its poison. 139
  • But will you say what object has he in all this? The pleasure of bragging to-morrow among his friends that he has played better than another. So others sweat in their own rooms to show to the learned that they have solved a problem in algebra, which no one had hitherto been able to solve. Many more expose themselves to extreme perils, in my opinion as foolishly, in order to boast afterwords that they have captured a town. Lastly, others wear themselves out in studying all these things, not in order to become wiser, but only in order to prove that they know them; and these are the most senseless of the band, since they are so, knowingly, whereas one may suppose of the others, that if they knew it, they would no longer be foolish. 139
  • Without amusement there is no joy; with amusement there is no sadness. 139
  • What is it to be superintendent, chancellor, first president, but to be in a condition wherein from early morning a large number of people come from all quarters to see them, so as not to leave them an hour in the day in which they can think of themselves? And when they are in disgrace and sent back to their country houses, where they lack neither wealth nor servants to help them on occasion, they do not fail to be wretched and desolate, because no one prevents them from thinking of themselves. 139
  • ...after all he is only a man, that is to say capable of little and of much, of all and of nothing; he is neither angel nor brute, but man. 139
  • Men spend their time chasing a ball or a hare; it is the very sport of kings. 141
  • ...kings are surrounded with persons who are wonderfully attentive in taking care that the king be not alone and in a state to think of himself, knowing well that he will be miserable, king though he be, if he meditate on self. 142
  • How hollow and full of ribaldry is the heart of man! 143
    • How hollow is the heart of man, and how full of excrement! [Variant Translation]
  • When I commenced the study of man... I thought at least to find many companions in the study of man, and that it was the true study which is suited to him. I have been deceived; still fewer study it than geometry. It is only from the want of knowing how to study this that we seek the other studies. But is it not that even here is not the knowledge which man should have, and that for the purpose of happiness it is better for him not to know himself? 144
  • ...we cannot think of two things at the same time. 145
  • Man is obviously made to think. It is his whole dignity and his whole merit; and his whole duty is to think as he ought. Now, the order of thought is to begin with self, and with its Author and its end. Now, of what does the world think? Never of this, but of dancing, playing the lute, singing, making verses, running at the ring, etc., fighting, making oneself king, without thinking what it is to be a king and what to be a man. 146
  • We do not content ourselves with the life we have in ourselves and in our own being; we desire to live an imaginary life in the mind of others, and for this purpose we endeavor to shine. We labor unceasingly to adorn and preserve this imaginary existence, and neglect the real. ...we would willingly be cowards in order to acquire the reputation of being brave. ...For he would be infamous who would not die to preserve his honor. 147
  • We are so presumptuous that we would wish to be known by all the world, even by people who shall come after, when we shall be no more; and we are so vain that the esteem of five or six neighbors delights and contents us. 148
  • Vanity is so anchored in the heart of man that a soldier, a soldier's servant, a cook, a porter brags, and wishes to have his admirers. Even philosophers wish for them. Those who write against it want to have the glory of having written well; and those who read it desire the glory of having read it. I who write this have perhaps this desire, and perhaps those who will read it ... 150
  • Admiration spoils all from infancy. Ah! How well said! Ah! How well done! How well-behaved he is! etc. 151
  • Curiosité n'est que vanité. Le plus souvent, on ne veut savoir que pour en parler. 152
    • Curiosity is nothing more than vanity. More often than not we only seek knowledge to show it off.
  • Pride takes such natural possession of us in the midst of our woes, errors, etc. We even lose our life with joy, provided people talk of it. 153
  • The charm of fame is so great, that we like every object to which it is attached, even death. 158
  • Noble deeds are most estimable when hidden. 159
  • Il n'est pas honteux pour l'homme de succomber sous la douleur et il est honteux de succomber sous le plaisir. 160
    • It is not shameful for a man to succumb to pain and it is shameful to succumb to pleasure.
  • ...only mastery and sovereignty bring glory, and only slavery brings shame. 160
  • How wonderful it is that a thing so evident as the vanity of the world is so little known, that it is a strange and surprising thing to say that it is foolish to seek greatness! 161
    • That something so obvious as the vanity of the world should be so little recognized that people find it odd and surprising to be told that it is foolish to seek greatness; that is most remarkable. [Variant Translation]
  • He who will know fully the vanity of man has only to consider the causes and effects of love. 162
  • Le nez de Cléopâtre: s'il eut été plus court, toute la face de la terre aurait changé.
    • Cleopatra's nose: had it been shorter, the whole aspect of the world would have been altered. 162
    • Cleopatra’s nose: if it had been shorter the whole face of the earth would have been different. [Variant Translation]
  • If our condition were truly happy we should not need to divert ourselves from thinking about it. 165
  • As men are not able to fight against death, misery, ignorance, they have taken it into their heads, in order to be happy, not to think of them at all. 168
  • To be happy man would have to make himself immortal; but, not being able to do so, it has occurred to him to prevent himself from thinking of death. 169
  • ...is it not to be happy to have a faculty of being amused by diversion?—No; for that comes from elsewhere and from without, and thus is dependent, and therefore subject to be disturbed by a thousand accidents, which bring inevitable griefs. 170
  • We do not rest satisfied with the present. We anticipate the future as too slow in coming, as if in order to hasten its course; or we recall the past, to stop its too rapid flight. So imprudent are we that we wander in the times which are not ours, and do not think of the only one which belongs to us; and so idle are we that we dream of those times which are no more, and thoughtlessly overlook that which alone exists. For the present is generally painful to us. We conceal it from our sight, because it troubles us; and if it be delightful to us, we regret to see it pass away. We try to sustain it by the future, and think of arranging matters which are not in our power, for a time which we have no certainty of reaching. Let each one examine his thoughts, and he will find them all occupied with the past and the future. We scarcely ever think of the present; and if we think of it, it is only to take light from it to arrange the future. The present is never our end. The past and the present are our means; the future alone is our end. So we never live, but we hope to live; and, as we are always preparing to be happy, it is inevitable we should never be so. 172
  • They say that eclipses foretoken misfortune, because misfortunes are common, so that, as evil happens so often, they often foretell it; whereas if they said that they predict good fortune, they would often be wrong. They attribute good fortune only to rare conjunctions of the heavens; so they seldom fail in prediction. 173
  • We know ourselves so little, that many think they are about to die when they are well, and many think they are well when they are near death... 175
  • The great and the humble have the same misfortunes, the same griefs, the same passions; but the one is at the top of the wheel, and the other near the center, and so less disturbed by the same revolutions. 180
  • Anyone who found the secret of rejoicing when things go well without being annoyed when they go badly would have found the point. 181
  • We run carelessly to the precipice, after we have put something before us to prevent us seeing it. 183

Section III On the Necessity of the Wager (184-241)Edit

  • Make religion attractive, make good men wish it were true, and then show that it is. Worthy of reverence because it really understands human nature. Attractive because it promises true good. 187
  • ...it is a great evil thus to be in doubt, but it is at least an indispensable duty to seek when we are in such doubt; and thus the doubter who does not seek is altogether completely unhappy and completely wrong. And if besides this he is easy and content, professes to be so, and indeed boasts of it; if it is this state itself which is the subject of his joy and vanity, I have no words to describe so silly a creature. 194
  • Nothing is so important to man as his own state, nothing is so formidable to him as eternity; and thus it is not natural that there should be men indifferent to the loss of their existence, and to the perils of everlasting suffering. They are quite different with regard to all other things. They are afraid of mere trifles; they foresee them; they feel them. And this same man who spends so many days and nights in rage and despair for the loss of office, or for some imaginary insult to his honor, is the very one who knows without anxiety and without emotion that he will lose all by death. It is a monstrous thing to see in the same heart and at the same time this sensibility to trifles and this strange insensibility to the greatest objects. It is an incomprehensible enchantment, and a supernatural slumber, which indicates as its cause an all-powerful force. 194
  • ...the only way to succeed in this life is to make ourselves appear honorable, faithful, judicious, and capable of useful service to a friend; because naturally men love only what may be useful to them. Now, what do we gain by hearing it said of a man that he has now thrown off the yoke, that he does not believe there is a God who watches our actions, that he considers himself the sole master of his conduct, and that he thinks he is accountable for it only to himself? Does he think that he has thus brought us to have henceforth complete confidence in him, and to look to him for consolation, advice, and help in every need of life? Do they profess to have delighted us by telling us that they hold our soul to be only a little wind and smoke, especially by telling us this in a haughty and self-satisfied tone of voice? Is this a thing to say gaily? Is it not, on the contrary, a thing to say sadly, as the saddest thing in the world? 194
  • If, at the bottom of their heart, they are troubled at not having more light, let them not disguise the fact; this avowal will not be shameful. The only shame is to have none. Nothing reveals more an extreme weakness of mind than not to know the misery of a godless man. Nothing is more indicative of a bad disposition of heart than not to desire the truth of eternal promises. Nothing is more dastardly than to act with bravado before God. Let them then leave these impieties to those who are sufficiently ill-bred to be really capable of them. Let them at least be honest men, if they cannot be Christians. 194
  • ...there are two kinds of people one can call reasonable; those who serve God with all their heart because they know Him, and those who seek Him with all their heart because they do not know Him. 194
  • But as for those who live without knowing Him and without seeking Him... this religion obliges us always to regard them, so long as they are in this life, as capable of the grace which can enlighten them... 194
  • ...for those who bring to the task perfect sincerity and a real desire to meet with truth, those I hope will be satisfied and convinced of the proofs of a religion so divine, which I have here collected, and in which I have followed somewhat after this order... 194
  • ...it is not to be doubted that the duration of this life is but a moment; that the state of death is eternal, whatever may be its nature; and that thus all our actions and thoughts must take such different directions according to the state of that eternity, that it is impossible to take one step with sense and judgment, unless we regulate our course by the truth of that point which ought to be our ultimate end. ...thus, according to the principles of reason, the conduct of men is wholly unreasonable, if they do not take another course. 195
  • Men lack heart; they would not make a friend of it. 196
  • The sensibility of man to trifles, and his insensibility to great things, indicates a strange inversion. 198
  • Let us imagine a number of men in chains, and all condemned to death, where some are killed each day in the sight of the others, and those who remain see their own fate in that of their fellows, and wait their turn, looking at each other sorrowfully and without hope. It is an image of the condition of men. 199
  • That passion may not harm us, let us act as if we had only eight hours to live. 203
  • When I consider the short duration of my life, swallowed up in the eternity before and after, the little space which I fill, and even can see, engulfed in the infinite immensity of spaces of which I am ignorant, and which know me not, I am frightened, and am astonished at being here rather than there; for there is no reason why here rather than there, why now rather than then. Who has put me here? By whose order and direction have this place and time been allotted to me? 205
  • Le silence éternel de ces espaces infinis m'effraie.
    • The eternal silence of these infinite spaces frightens me. 206
    • The eternal silence of these infinite spaces terrifies me. [Variant Translation]
  • Combien de royaumes nous ignorent!
    • How many kingdoms know us not! 207
  • Why is my knowledge limited? Why my stature? Why my life to one hundred years rather than to a thousand? What reason has nature had for giving me such, and for choosing this number rather than another in the infinity of those from which there is no more reason to choose one than another, trying nothing else? 208
  • Art thou less a slave by being loved and favoured by thy master? Thou art indeed well off, slave. Thy master favours thee; he will soon beat thee. 209
  • Le dernier acte est sanglant, quelque belle que soit la comédie en tout le reste. On jette enfin de la terre sur la tête, et en voilà pour jamais.
  • The last act is tragic, however happy all the rest of the play is; at the last a little earth is thrown upon our head, and that is the end for ever. 210
  • We are fools to depend upon the society of our fellow-men. Wretched as we are, powerless as we are, they will not aid us; we shall die alone. We should therefore act as if we were alone, and in that case should we build fine houses, etc.? We should seek the truth without hesitation; and, if we refuse it, we show that we value the esteem of men more than the search for truth. 211
  • It is a horrible thing to feel all that we possess slipping away. 212
  • Entre nous, et l'enfer ou le ciel, il n'y a que la vie entre deux, qui est la chose du monde la plus fragile.
    • Between us and heaven or hell there is only life, which is the frailest thing in the world. 213
  • That presumption should be joined to meanness is extreme injustice. 214
  • Dungeon.—I approve of not examining the opinion of Copernicus; but this...! It concerns all our life to know whether the soul be mortal or immortal. 218
  • Atheists.—What reason have they for saying that we cannot rise from the dead? What is more difficult, to be born or to rise again; that what has never been should be, or that what has been should be again? Is it more difficult to come into existence than to return to it? Habit makes the one appear easy to us; want of habit makes the other impossible. A popular way of thinking! Why cannot a virgin bear a child? Does a hen not lay eggs without a cock? What distinguishes these outwardly from others? And who has told us that the hen may not form the germ as well as the cock? 222
  • If you care but little to know the truth, here is enough of it to leave you in repose. But if you desire with all your heart to know it, it is not enough; look at it in detail. This would be sufficient for a question in philosophy; but not here, where it concerns your all. And yet, after a trifling reflection of this kind, we go to amuse ourselves, etc. Let us inquire of this same religion whether it does not give a reason for this obscurity; perhaps it will teach it to us. 226
  • What ought I to do? I see only darkness everywhere. Shall I believe I am nothing? Shall I believe I am God? "All things change and succeed each other." You are mistaken... 227
  • This is what I see and what troubles me. I look on all sides, and I see only darkness everywhere. Nature presents to me nothing which is not matter of doubt and concern. If I saw nothing there which revealed a Divinity, I would come to a negative conclusion; if I saw everywhere the signs of a Creator, I would remain peacefully in faith. But, seeing too much to deny and too little to be sure, I am in a state to be pitied; wherefore I have a hundred time wished that if a God maintains nature, she should testify to Him unequivocally, and that, if the signs she gives are deceptive, she should suppress them altogether; that she should say everything or nothing, that I might see which cause I ought to follow. Whereas in my present state, ignorant of what I am or of what I ought to do, I know neither my condition nor my duty. My heart inclines wholly to know where is the true good, in order to follow it; nothing would be too dear to me for eternity. 229
  • It is incomprehensible that God should exist, and it is incomprehensible that He should not exist; that the soul should be joined to the body, and that we should have no soul; that the world should be created, and that it should not be created, etc.; that original sin should be, and that it should not be. 230
  • Do you believe it to be impossible that God is infinite, without parts?—Yes. I wish therefore to show you an infinite and indivisible thing. It is a point moving everywhere with an infinite velocity; for it is one in all places, and is all totality in every place. Let this effect of nature, which previously seemed to you impossible, make you know that there may be others of which you are still ignorant. Do not draw this conclusion from your experiment, that there remains nothing for you to know; but rather that there remains an infinity for you to know. 231
  • Infinite movement, the point which fills everything, the moment of rest; infinite without quantity, indivisible and infinite. 232
  • Our soul is cast into a body, where it finds number, time, dimension. Thereupon it reasons, and calls this nature, necessity, and can believe nothing else. 233
  • Unity joined to infinity adds nothing to it, no more than one foot to an infinite measure. The finite is annihilated in the presence of the infinite, and becomes a pure nothing. So our spirit before God, so our justice before divine justice. 233
  • We know that there is an infinite, and are ignorant of its nature. As we know it to be false that numbers are finite, it is therefore true that there is an infinity in number. But we do not know what it is. It is false that it is even, it is false that it is odd; for the addition of a unit can make no change in its nature. Yet it is a number, and every number is odd or even (this is certainly true of every finite number). So we may well know that there is a God without knowing what He is. Is there not one substantial truth, seeing there are so many things which are not the truth itself? 233
  • We know then the existence and nature of the finite, because we also are finite and have extension. We know the existence of the infinite, and are ignorant of its nature, because it has extension like us, but not limits like us. But we know neither the existence nor the nature of God, because He has neither extension nor limits. 233
  • Bless yourself with holy water, have Masses said, and so on; by a simple and natural process this will make you believe, and will dull you — will quiet your proudly critical intellect. 233
  • Oui, mais il faut parier. Cela n'est point volontaire, vous êtes embarqué. Lequel prendrez-vous donc? Voyons, puisqu'il faut choisir, voyons ce qui vous intéresse le moins. Vous avez deux choses à perdre, le vrai et le bien, et deux choses à engager, votre raison et votre volonté, votre connaissance et votre béatitude, et votre nature a deux choses à fuir, l'erreur et la misère. Votre raison n'est pas plus blessée, puisqu'il faut nécessairement choisir, en choisissant l'un que l'autre. Voilà un point vidé. Mais votre béatitude? Pesons le gain et la perte en prenant croix que Dieu est. Estimons ces deux cas: si vous gagnez, vous gagnez tout, et si vous perdez, vous ne perdez rien; gagez donc qu'il est sans hésiter.
    • Yes; but you must wager. It is not optional. You are embarked. Which will you choose then? Let us see. Since you must choose, let us see which interests you least. You have two things to lose, the true and the good; and two things to stake, your reason and your will, your knowledge and your happiness; and your nature has two things to shun, error and misery. Your reason is no more shocked in choosing one rather than the other, since you must of necessity choose. This is one point settled. But your happiness? Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation that He is. 233
    • The summation known as Pascal's Wager, this argument has been repeated by many Christian apologists and rebuked by other arguments, including the argument from inconsistent revelations.
    • Variant translations:
    • If God does not exist, one will lose nothing by believing in him, while if he does exist, one will lose everything by not believing.
      • As quoted in What is this thing called knowledge? (2006) by Duncan Pritchard, p. 48
    • You must wager; it is not optional... Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God exists... If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation, that He exists.
    • Let us weigh up the gain and loss involved in calling heads that God exists. Let us assess the two cases: if you win you win everything, if you lose you lose nothing. Do not hesitate then; wager that He does exist.
  • According to the doctrine of chance, you ought to put yourself to the trouble of searching for the truth; for if you die without worshiping the True Cause, you are lost.—"But," say you, "if He had wished me to worship Him, He would have left me signs of His will."—He has done so; but you neglect them. Seek them, therefore; it is well worth it. 236
  • "I would soon have renounced pleasure," say they, "had I faith." For my part I tell you, "You would soon have faith, if you renounced pleasure." Now, it is for you to begin. If I could, I would give you faith. I cannot do so, nor therefore test the truth of what you say. But you can well renounce pleasure, and test whether what I say is true. 240

Section IV On the Means of the Belief (242-290)Edit

  • Montaigne is wrong in declaring that custom ought to be followed simply because it is custom, and not because it is reasonable or just.
    • Reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • Faith indeed tells what the senses do not tell, but not the contrary of what they see.
    • Variant: Faith declares what the senses do not see, but not the contrary of what they see.
    • 265
  • Wisdom leads us back to childhood.
    • Variant: Wisdom sends us to childhood. Nisi efficiamini sicut parvuli.
    • 271
  • Nothing is so conformable to reason as to disavow reason.
  • Tout notre raisonnement se réduit à céder au sentiment.
    • All our reasoning boils down to yielding to sentiment.
    • 274
  • Le cœur a ses raisons, que la raison ne connaît point. On le sent en mille choses. C'est le cœur qui sent Dieu, et non la raison. Voilà ce que c'est que la foi parfaite, Dieu sensible au cœur.
    • The heart has its reasons, which Reason does not know. We feel it in a thousand things. It is the heart which feels God, and not Reason. This, then, is perfect faith: God felt in the heart.
    • 277; The first sentence is widely quoted in English as "The heart has its reasons which reason knows not of." Also as "'The heart has its reasons, which reason does not know."
    • Variant translations:
    • The heart has its reasons, of which reason knows nothing. We find this in a thousand instances. It is the heart which feels God, and not the reasoning powers. And this is faith made perfect : — God realized by feeling in the heart.
  • We know truth, not only by the reason, but also by the heart, and it is in this last way that we know first principles; and reason, which has no part in it, tries in vain to impugn them. The sceptics, who have only this for their object, labour to no purpose. We know that we do not dream, and however impossible it is for us to prove it by reason, this inability demonstrates only the weakness of our reason, but not, as they affirm, the uncertainty of all our knowledge. For the knowledge of first principles, as space, time, motion, number, is as sure as any of those which we get from reasoning. And reason must trust these intuitions of the heart, and must base them on every argument. (We have intuitive knowledge of the tri-dimensional nature of space, and of the infinity of number, and reason then shows that there are no two square numbers one of which is double of the other. Principles are intuited, propositions are inferred, all with certainty, though in different ways.) And it is as useless and absurd for reason to demand from the heart proofs of her first principles, before admitting them, as it would be for the heart to demand from reason an intuition of all demonstrated propositions before accepting them.
    This inability ought, then, to serve only to humble reason, which would judge all, but not to impugn our certainty, as if only reason were capable of instructing us. Would to God, on the contrary, that we had never need of it, and that we knew everything by instinct and intuition! But nature has refused us this boon. On the contrary, she has given us but very little knowledge of this kind; and all the rest can be acquired only by reasoning.
    Therefore, those to whom God has imparted religion by intuition are very fortunate, and justly convinced. But to those who do not have it, we can give it only by reasoning, waiting for God to give them spiritual insight, without which faith is only human, and useless for salvation.
    • Variant translation: For knowledge of the 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 arguments.

Section V Justice and the Reason of Effects (291-338)Edit

  • Why are you killing me for your own benefit? I am unarmed.' 'Why, do you not live on the other side of the water? My friend, if you lived on this side, I should be a murderer, but since you live on the other side, I am a brave man and it is right.'
    • Variant: "Why do you kill me? What! do you not live on the other side of the water? If you lived on this side, my friend, I should be an assassin, and it would be unjust to slay you in this manner. But since you live on the other side, I am a hero, and it is just." 293
  • Doubtless there are natural laws; but good reason once corrupted has corrupted all. 294
    • There no doubt exist natural laws, but once this fine reason of ours was corrupted, it corrupted everything. [Variant Translation]
  • A strange justice that is bounded by a river! Truth on this side of the Pyrenees, error on the other side. 294
    • It is a funny sort of justice whose limits are marked by a river; truth on this side of the Pyrenees, error on the other. [Variant Translation]
  • Equality of possessions is no doubt right, but, as men could not make might obey right, they have made right obey might. 299
  • Justice is as much a matter of fashion as charm is. 309
  • Mais c'est une ignorance savante qui se connaît. 327
    • Translation: It is a wise ignorance which knows itself.
    • Translation: A learned ignorance which is conscious of itself.
  • Nothing is surer than that the people will be weak. 330
  • One must have deeper motives and judge everything accordingly, but go on talking like an ordinary person.

Section VI The Philosophers (339-424)Edit

  • I cannot imagine a man without thought; he would be a stone or an animal. 339
  • The arithmetical machine produces effects which approach nearer to thought than all the actions of animals. But it does nothing which would enable us to attribute will to it, as to the animals. 340
  • Instinct and reason, marks of two natures. 344
  • Reason commands us far more than imperiously than a master; for in disobeying the one we are unfortunate, and in disobeying the other we are fools. 345
  • Thought constitutes the greatness of man. 346
  • L'homme n'est qu'un roseau, le plus faible de la nature; mais c'est un roseau pensant. Il ne faut pas que l’univers entier s’arme pour l’écraser : une vapeur, une goutte d’eau suffit pour le tuer. Mais quand l’univers l’écraserait, l’homme serait encore plus noble que ce qui le tue, parce qu’il sait qu’il meurt, et l’avantage que l’univers a sur lui, l’univers n’en sait rien. Ainsi toute notre dignité consiste dans la pensée. C'est de là qu'il faut nous relever, non de l'espace et de la durée. Travaillons donc à bien penser. voilà le principe de la morale. (Pascal, Pensées, ed.Ch.M des Granges, Garnier, Paris, 1964, no.347 p.162)
    • Man is but a reed, the most feeble thing in nature; but he is a thinking reed. The entire universe need not arm itself to crush him. A vapour, a drop of water suffices to kill him. But, if the universe were to crush him, man would still be more noble than that which killed him, because he knows that he dies and the advantage which the universe has over him; the universe knows nothing of this. All our dignity consists, then, in thought. By it we must elevate ourselves, and not by space and time which we cannot fill. Let us endeavour, then, to think well; this is the principle of morality. 347
  • It is not from space that I must seek my dignity, but from the government of my thought. I shall have no more if I possess worlds. By space the universe encompasses and swallows me up like an atom; by thought I comprehend the world. 348
    • It is not in space that I must seek my human dignity, but in the ordering of my thought. It will do me no good to own land. Through space the universe grasps me and swallows me up like a speck; through thought I grasp it. [Variant Translation]
  • Immateriality of the soul.Philosophers who have mastered their passions. What matter could do that? 349
  • Those great spiritual efforts, which the soul sometimes assays, are things on which it does not lay hold. It only leaps to [toward] them, not as upon a throne, for ever, but merely for an instant. 351
  • The strength of a man's virtue must not be measured by his efforts, but by his ordinary life. 352
  • We do not display greatness by going to one extreme, but in touching both at once, and filling all the intervening space. But perhaps this is only a sudden movement of the soul from one to the other extreme, and in fact it is ever at one point only, as in the case of a firebrand. ...at least this indicates agility, if not expanse of soul. 353
  • Continuous eloquence wearies. ...Grandeur must be abandoned to be appreciated. Continuity in everything is unpleasant. ...Nature acts by progress, itus et reditus. It goes and returns, then advances further, then twice as much backwards, then more forward than ever, etc. The tide of the sea behaves in the same manner; and so apparently does the sun in its course. 355
  • The nourishment of the body is little by little. Fullness of nourishment and smallness of substance. 356
  • When we would pursue virtues to their extremes on either side, vices present themselves insensibly there, in their insensible journeys towards the infinitely little; and vices present themselves in a crowd towards the infinitely great, so that we lose ourselves in them, and no longer see virtues. 357
  • We find fault with perfection itself. 357
  • L'homme n'est ni ange ni bête, et le malheur veut que qui veut faire l'ange fait la bête.
    • Man is neither angel nor brute, and the unfortunate thing is that he who would act the angel acts the brute. 358
  • We do not sustain ourselves in virtue by our own strength, but by the balancing of two opposed vices, just as we remain upright amidst two contrary gales. Remove one of the vices, and we fall into the other. 359
  • Thought.—All the dignity of man consists in thought. Thought is therefore by its nature a wonderful and incomparable thing. It must have strange defects to be contemptible. But it has such, so that nothing is more ridiculous. How great it is in its nature! How vile it is in its defects! But what is this thought? How foolish it is! 365
    • Thought constitutes the greatness of man. [Variant Translation]
  • The power of flies; they win battles, hinder our soul from acting, eat our body. 367
  • When it is said that heat is only the motion of certain molecules, and light the conatus recedendi [attempts to recede] which we feel, it astonishes us. ...The sensation from the fire, the warmth which affects us in a manner wholly different from touch, the reception of sound and light, all this appears to us mysterious, and yet it is material like the blow of a stone. 368
  • Memory is necessary for all the operations of reason. 369
  • Chance gives rise to thoughts, and chance removes them; no art can keep or acquire them. A thought has escaped me. I wanted to write it down. I write instead, that it has escaped me. 370
  • I constantly forget. This is as instructive to me as my forgotten thought; for I strive only to know my nothingness. 372
  • Scepticism.—I shall here write my thoughts without order, and not perhaps in unintentional confusion; that is the true order, which will always indicate my object by its very disorder. I should do too much honor to my subject, if I treated it with order, since I want to show that it is incapable of it. 373
  • What astonishes me most is to see that all the world is not astonished at its own weakness. ...But it is well that there are so many people in the world, who are not sceptics for the glory of scepticism, in order to show that man is quite capable of the most extravagant opinions, since he is capable of believing that he is not in a state of natural and inevitable weakness, but, on the contrary, of natural wisdom. 374
  • I have seen changes in all nations and men, and thus after many changes of judgement regarding true justice, I have recognized that our nature was but in continual change, and I have not changed since; and if I changed, I would confirm my opinion. The sceptic Arcesilaus, who became a dogmatist. 375
  • This sect derives more strength from its enemies than from its friends; for the weakness of man is far more evident in those who know it not than in those who know it. 376
  • Discourses on humility are a source of pride in the vain, and of humility in the humble. So those on scepticism cause believers to affirm. Few men speak humbly of humility, chastely of chastity, few doubtingly of scepticism. We are only falsehood, duplicity, contradiction; we both conceal and disguise ourselves from ourselves. 377
    • Man is only a disguise, a liar, a hypocrite, both to himself and to others. [Variant Translation]
  • Scepticism.—Excess, like defect of intellect, is accused of madness. Nothing is good but mediocrity. The majority has settled that, and finds fault with him who escapes it at whatever end, I will not oppose it. I quite consent to put myself there, and refuse to be at the lower end, not because it is low, but because it is an end; for I would likewise refuse to be placed at the top. To leave the mean is to abandon humanity. The greatness of the human soul consists in knowing how to preserve the mean. So far from greatness consisting in leaving it, it consists in not leaving it. 378
  • It is not good to have too much liberty. It is not good to have all one wants. 379
  • All good maxims are in the world. We only need apply them. 380
  • It is true that there must be inequality among men; but if this be conceded, the door is opened not only to the highest power, but to the highest tyranny. 380
  • We must relax our minds a little; but this opens the door to debauchery. Let us mark the limits. There are no limits in things. Laws would put them there, and the mind cannot suffer it. 380
  • When we are too young, we do not judge well; so, also, when we are too old. If we do not think enough, or if we think too much on any matter, we get obstinate and infatuated about it. If one considers one's work immediately after having done it, one is entirely prepossessed in its favour; by delaying too long, one can no longer enter into the spirit of it. So with pictures seen from too far or too near; there is but one exact point which is the true place wherefrom to look at them: the rest are too near, too far, too high, or too low. Perspective determines that point in the art of painting. But who shall determine it in truth and morality? 381
    • If we look at our work immediately after completing it, we are still too involved; if too long afterwards, we cannot pick up the thread again. [Variant Translation]
  • When all is equally agitated, nothing appears to be agitated, as in a ship. When all tend to debauchery, none appears to do so. He who stops draws attention to the excess of others, like a fixed point. 382
  • The licentious tell men of orderly lives that they stray from nature's path, while they themselves follow it; as people in a ship think those move who are on the shore. On all sides the language is similar. We must have a fixed point in order to judge. The harbour decides for those who are in a ship; but where shall we find a harbour in morality? 383
  • Contradiction is a bad sign of truth; several things which are certain are contradicted; several things which are false pass without contradiction. Contradiction is not a sign of falsity, nor the want of contradiction a sign of truth. 384
  • Scepticism.—Each thing here is partly true and partly false. Essential truth is not so; it is altogether pure and altogether true. This mixture dishonors and annihilates it. ...You will say it is true that homicide is wrong. Yes; for we know well the wrong and the false. ...Not to kill? No; for lawlessness would be horrible, and the wicked would kill all the good. To kill? No; for that destroys nature. We possess truth and goodness only in part, and mingled with falsehood and evil. 385
  • If we dreamt the same thing every night, it would affect us as much as the objects we see every day. And if the artisan were sure to dream every night for twelve hours' duration that he was king, I believe he would be almost as happy as a king, who should dream every night that he was an artisan. 386
  • Life is a dream a little less inconstant. 386
  • Il n'est pas certain que tout soit incertain. 387
    • It is not certain that everything is uncertain.
  • ...we cannot define these things without obscuring them, while we speak of them with all assurance. ...our doubts cannot take away all the clearness, nor our own natural lights chase away all the darkness. 392
  • ...logicians. It seems that their license must be without any limits or barriers, since they have broken through so many that are so just and sacred. 393
  • All the principles of skeptics, stoics, atheists, etc., are true. But their conclusions are false, because the opposite principles are also true. 394
  • We have an incapacity of proof, insurmountable by all dogmatism. We have an idea of truth, invincible to all skepticism. 395
  • Two things instruct man about his whole nature; instinct and experience. 396
  • The greatness of man is great in that he knows himself to be miserable. A tree does not know itself to be miserable. It is then being miserable to know oneself to be miserable; but it is also being great to know that one is miserable. 397
    • The grandeur of man is great in that he knows himself to be miserable. [Variant Translation]
  • ...we cannot endure being despised, or not being esteemed by any soul; and all the happiness of men consists in this esteem. 400
  • Who is unhappy at having only one mouth? And who is not unhappy at having only one eye? Probably no man ever ventured to mourn at not having three eyes. But any one is inconsolable at having none. 409
  • Notwithstanding the sight of all our miseries, which press upon us and take us by the throat, we have an instinct which we cannot repress, and which lifts us up. 411
  • There is internal war in man between reason and the passions. If he had only reason without passions. If he had only passions without reason. But having both, he cannot be without strife, being unable to be at peace with the one without being at war with the other. Thus he is always divided against, and opposed to himself. 412
  • This internal war of reason against the passions has made a division of those who would have peace into two sects. The first would renounce their passions, and become gods; the others would renounce reason, and become brute beasts. But neither can do so, and reason still remains, to condemn the vileness and injustice of the passions, and to trouble the repose of those who abandon themselves to them; and the passions keep always alive in those who would renounce them. 413
  • Men are so necessarily mad, that not to be mad would amount to another form of madness. 414
  • This twofold nature of man is so evident that some have thought that we had two souls. A single subject seemed to them incapable of such sudden variations from unmeasured presumption to a dreadful dejection of heart. 417
  • Man must not think that he is on a level either with the brutes or with the angels, nor must he be ignorant of both sides of his nature; but he must know both. 418
  • S’il se vante, je l’abaisse ; s’il s’abaisse, je le vante, et le contredis toujours, jusqu’à ce qu’il comprenne, qu’il est un monstre incompréhensible. [1]
    • Translation: If [Man] exalt himself, I humble him, if he humble himself, I exalt him; and [I] always contradict him, until he understands that he is an incomprehensible monster.
  • I blame equally those who choose to praise man, those who choose to blame him, and those who choose to amuse themselves; and I can only approve of those who seek with lamentation. 421
  • It is good to be tired and wearied by the vain search after the true good, that we may stretch out our arms to the Redeemer. 422

Section VII Morality and Doctrine (425-555)Edit

  • All these examples of wretchedness prove his greatness. It is the wretchedness of a great lord, the wretchedness of a dispossessed king. 425
  • Qu’est-ce donc que nous crie cette avidité et cette impuissance, sinon qu’il y a eu autrefois en l’homme un véritable bonheur dont il ne lui reste maintenant que la marque et la trace toute vide, qu’il essaye inutilement de remplir de tout ce qui l’environne, en cherchant dans les choses absentes le secours qu’il n’obtient pas des présentes, et que les unes et les autres sont incapables de lui donner, parce que ce gouffre infini ne peut être rempli que par un objet infini et immuable, c'est-à-dire que par Dieu même. (425)
    • What does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object, in other words by God himself.
  • In faith there is enough light for those who want to believe and enough shadows to blind those who don't.
    • Variant translation: There is enough light for those who only desire to see, and enough obscurity for those who have a contrary disposition. 430
  • Qui sait si cette autre moitié de la vie où nous pensons veiller n'est pas un autre sommeil un peu différent du premier.
    • Who knows if this other half of life where we think we're awake is not another sleep a little different from the first.
    • who knows whether the other half of our life, in which we think we are awake, is not another sleep a little different from the former, from which we awake when we suppose ourselves asleep? 434 [Variant Translation]
  • What a chimera then is man! What a novelty! What a monster, what a chaos, what a contradiction, what a prodigy! Judge of all things, imbecile worm of the earth; depositary of truth, a sink of uncertainty and error; the pride and refuse of the universe! 434
    • What a Chimera is man! What a novelty, a monster, a chaos, a contradiction, a prodigy! Judge of all things, an imbecile worm of the earth; depository of truth, and sewer of error and doubt; the glory and refuse of the universe. [Variant Translation]
  • Le moi est haïssable.
  • Self is hateful. 455
    • The self is hateful. [Variant Translation]
  • Man is so made that if he is told often enough that he is a fool he believes it. 535

Section VIII The Fundamentals of the Christian Religion (556-588)Edit

  • ...religion must so be the object and center to which all things tend, that whoever knows the principles of religion can give an explanation both of the whole nature of man in particular, and of the whole course of the world in general. 555

Section IX Perpetuity (589-641)Edit

  • Rivers are highways that move on, and bear us whither we wish to go.
    • Reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • Différence entre J.-C. et Mahomet. Mahomet non prédit, J.-C. prédit. Mahomet en tuant, J.-C. en faisant tuer les siens. Mahomet en défendant de lire, les apôtres en ordonnant de lire. Enfin cela est si contraire que si Mahomet a pris la voie de réussir humainement, J.-C. a pris celle de périr humainement et qu'au lieu de conclure que puisque Mahomet a réussi, J.-C. a bien pu réussir, il faut dire que puisque Mahomet a réussi, J.-C. devait périr.
    • The difference between Jesus Christ and Mahomet. — Mahomet was not foretold; Jesus Christ was foretold.
      Mahomet slew; Jesus Christ caused His own to be slain.
      Mahomet forbade reading; the Apostles ordered reading.
      In fact the two are so opposed, that if Mahomet took the way to succeed from a worldly point of view, Jesus Christ, from the same point of view, took the way to perish. And instead of concluding that, since Mahomet succeeded, Jesus Christ might well have succeeded, we ought to say that since Mahomet succeeded, Jesus Christ should have failed.
    • 598

Section X Typology (642-692)Edit

  • Surge. God, wishing to show that He could form a people holy with an invisible holiness, and fill them with an eternal glory, made visible things. As nature is an image of grace, He has done in the bounties of nature what He would do in those of grace, in order that we might judge that He could make the invisible, since He made the visible excellently. 642
  • The ordinary life of men is like that of the saints. They all seek their satisfaction, and differ only in the object in which they place it... God has then shown the power which He has of giving invisible blessings, by that which He has shown Himself to have over things visible. 642
  • Two errors: 1. To take everything literally. 2. To take everything spiritually. 647
  • The clearness in divine things requires us to revere the obscurities in them. 649
  • Particular Types.—A double law, double tables of the law, a double temple, a double captivity. 651
  • In God the word does not differ from the intention, for He is true; nor the word from the effect, for He is powerful; nor the means from the effect, for He is wise. Bern., ult sermo in Missam. 653
  • Augustine, De civitate Dei, v. 10. This rule is general. God can do everything, except those things, which if He could do, He would not be almighty, as dying, being deceived, lying, &c. 653
  • The six ages, the six Fathers of the six ages, the six wonders at the beginning of the six ages, the six mornings at the beginning of the six ages. 654
  • The symbols of the Gospel for the state of the sick soul are sick bodies; but because one body cannot be sick enough to express it well, several have been needed. Thus there are the deaf, the dumb, the blind, the paralytic, the dead Lazarus, the possessed. All this crowd is in the sick soul. 657
  • Types.—To show that the Old Testament is only figurative, and that the prophets understood by temporal blessings other blessings, this is the proof: First, that this would be unworthy of God. Secondly, that their discourses express very clearly the promise of temporal blessings, and that they say nevertheless that their discourses are obscure, and that their meaning will not be understood. Whence it appears that this secret meaning was not that which they openly expressed, and that consequently they meant to speak of other sacrifices, of another deliverer, etc. They say that they will be understood only in the fullness of time. The third proof is that their discourses are contradictory, and neutralize each other; so that if we think that they did not mean by the words "law" and "sacrifice" anything else than that of Moses, there is a plain and gross contradiction. Therefore they meant something else, sometimes contradicting themselves in the same chapter. 658
  • Lust has become natural to us, and has made our second nature. Thus there are two natures in us—the one good, the other bad. Where is God? Where you are not, and the kingdom of God is within you. 659
  • "The Messiah," said they, "abideth for ever, and this man says that he shall die." Therefore they believed Him neither mortal nor eternal; they only sought in Him for a carnal greatness. 661
    • John xii, 34.
  • "If the light be darkness, how great is that darkness!" 664
    • Matthew vi, 23.
  • Sinners lick the dust, that is to say, love earthly pleasures. 665
    • Ps. lxxii, 9.
  • The Old Testament contained the types of future joy, and the New contains the means of arriving at it. The types were of joy; the means of penitence; and nevertheless the Paschal Lamb was eaten with bitter herbs, cum amaritudinibus.
  • The world having grown old in these carnal errors, Jesus Christ came at the time foretold, but not with the expected glory; and thus men did not think it was He. After His death, Saint Paul came to teach men that all these things had happened in allegory; that the kingdom of God did not consist in the flesh, but in the spirit; that the enemies of men were not the Babylonians, but the passions; that God delighted not in temples made with hands, but in a pure and contrite heart; that the circumcision of the body was unprofitable, but that of the heart was needed... 669
  • But God, not having desired to reveal these things to this people who were unworthy of them, and having nevertheless desired to foretell them, in order that they might be believed, foretold the time clearly, and expressed the things sometimes clearly, but very often in figures, in order that those who loved symbols might consider them, and those who loved what was symbolized might see it therein. 669
  • All which tends not to the sole end is the type of it. For since there is only one end, all which does not lead to it in express terms is figurative. 669
  • And Christians take even the Eucharist as a type of the glory at which they aim. 669
  • The type has been made according to the truth, and the truth has been recognized according to the type. 672
  • For the visible blessings which they received from God were so great and so divine, that He indeed appeared able to give them those that are invisible, and a Messiah. 674
  • For nature is an image of Grace, and visible miracles are images of the invisible. 674
  • In these promises each one finds what he has most at heart, temporal benefits or spiritual, God or the creatures; but with this difference, that those who therein seek the creatures find them, but with many contradictions, with a prohibition against loving them, with the command to worship God only, and to love Him only, which is the same thing... 674
  • A type conveys absence and presence, pleasure and pain. A cipher has a double meaning, one clear, and one in which it is said that the meaning is hidden. 676
  • A cipher has two meanings. ...the more so if we find obvious contradictions in the literal meaning? The prophets have clearly said... that their meaning would not be understood, and that it was veiled. 677
  • How greatly then ought we to value those who interpret the cipher, and teach us to understand the hidden meaning, especially if the principles which they educe are perfectly clear and natural! This is what Jesus Christ did, and the Apostles. They broke the seal; He rent the veil, and revealed the spirit. They have taught us through this that the enemies of man are his passions; that the Redeemer would be spiritual, and His reign spiritual; that there would be two advents, one in lowliness to humble the proud, the other in glory to exalt the humble; that Jesus Christ would be both God and man. 677
  • Two great revelations are these. (1) All things happened to them in types: vere Israëlitæ, vere liberi, true bread from Heaven. (2) A God humbled to the Cross. It was necessary that Christ should suffer in order to enter into glory, "that He should destroy death through death." Two advents. 678
  • Types.—When once this secret is disclosed, it is impossible not to see it. Let us read the Old Testament in this light, and let us see if the sacrifices were real; if the fatherhood of Abraham was the true cause of the friendship of God; and if the promised land was the true place of rest. No. They are therefore types. Let us in the same way examine all those ordained ceremonies, all those commandments which are not of charity, and we shall see that they are types. All these sacrifices and ceremonies were then either types or nonsense. Now these are things too clear, and too lofty, to be thought nonsense. 679
  • To know if the prophets confined their view in the Old Testament, or saw therein other things. 679
  • Typical.—The key of the cipher. Veri adoratores.—Ecce agnus Dei qui tollit peccata mundi. 680
    • Veri adoratores meaning true worshipers from John iv, 23: But the hour is coming, and it is now, when true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth.
    • Ecce agnus etc. meaning Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world from John i, 29: as John saw Jesus coming toward him.
  • Types.—The letter kills. All happened in types. Here is the cipher which Saint Paul gives us. Christ must suffer. An humiliated God. Circumcision of the heart, true fasting, true sacrifice, a true temple. The prophets have shown that all these must be spiritual. Not the meat which perishes, but that which does not perish. "Ye shall be free indeed." Then the other freedom was only a type of freedom. "I am the true bread from Heaven." 682
    • "Ye shall be free indeed."—John viii, 36
    • "I am the true bread from Heaven."—John vi, 32.
  • Contradiction. ...Thus, to understand Scripture, we must have a meaning in which all the contrary passages are reconciled. ...We must then seek for a meaning which reconciles all discrepancies. ...If we take the law, the sacrifices, and the kingdom as realities, we cannot reconcile all the passages. They must then necessarily be only types. We cannot even reconcile the passages of the same author, nor of the same book, nor sometimes of the same chapter, which indicates copiously what was the meaning of the author. 683
  • Do all these passages indicate what is real? No. Do they then indicate what is typical? No, but what is either real or typical. 684
  • Contradictions.— ...The eternal law—changed. The eternal covenant—a new covenant. Good laws—bad precepts. 685
  • When the word of God, which is really true, is false literally, it is true spiritually. 686
  • If one of two persons, who are telling silly stories, uses language with a double meaning, understood in his own circle, while the other uses it with only one meaning, any one not in the secret, who hears them both talk in this manner, will pass upon them the same judgment. But if afterwords, in the rest of their conversation one says angelic things, and the other always dull commonplaces, he will judge that the one spoke in mysteries, and not the other; the one having sufficiently shown that he is incapable of such foolishness, and capable of being mysterious; and the other that he is incapable of mystery, and capable of foolishness. The Old Testament is a cipher. 690
  • There are some that see clearly that man has no other enemy than lust, which turns him from God, and not God; and that he has no other good than God, and not a rich land. Let those who believe that the good of man is in the flesh, and evil in what turns him away from sensual pleasures, [satiate] themselves with them, and [die] in them. ...I shall make them see that a Messiah has been promised, who should deliver them from their enemies, and that One has come to free them from their iniquities, but not from their enemies. 691
    • There are those who clearly perceive, that man has no enemy but the propensity to evil which draws him from God, and that his only good must be God, and not earthly good. Let those who believe that sensual enjoyment constitutes man's chief good, and that its deprivation is the greatest evil that can befall him, indulge themselves without restraint, and perish in their excesses. ...A Messiah was promised, to deliver his people from their enemies: and a Messiah has come to deliver them, not from temporal enemies, but from their sins. [translator: Isaac Taylor, Esq., 1838]

Section XI The Prophecies (693-736)Edit

  • When I see the blindness and the wretchedness of man, when I regard the whole silent universe, and man without light, left to himself, and, as it were, lost in this corner of the universe, without knowing who has put him there, what he has come to do, what will become of him at death, and incapable of all knowledge, I become terrified, like a man who should be carried in his sleep to a dreadful desert island, and should awaken without knowing where he is, and without means of escape. And thereupon I wonder how people in a condition so wretched do not fall into despair. 692
  • I see other persons around me of a like nature. I ask them if they are better informed than I am. They tell me that they are not. And thereupon these wretched and lost beings, having looked around them, and seen some pleasing objects, have given and attached themselves to them. For my own part, I have not been able to attach myself to them, and, considering how strongly it appears that there is something else than what I see, I have examined whether this God has not left a sign of Himself. 692
  • Every one can call himself a prophet. But I see the Christian religion wherein prophecies are fulfilled; and that is what every one cannot do. 692
  • Now, if the passions had no hold on us, a week and a hundred years would amount to the same. 693
  • It is glorious to see with the eyes of faith the history of Herod and Cæser. 699
  • Prophecies. Proofs of Divinity.—Is. xli.: "Shew the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that ye are gods: we will incline our heart unto your words. Teach us the things that have been at the beginning, and declare us things for to come. "By this we shall know that ye are gods. Yea, do good and do evil, if you can. Let us then behold it and reason together. Behold ye are of nothing, and only an abomination, &c. Who," (among contemporary writers), "hath declared from the beginning and origin? that we may say, You are righteous. There is none that teacheth us, yea, there is none that declareth the future."
  • It was foretold that, in the time of the Messiah, He should come to establish a new covenant, which should make them forget the escape from Egypt (Jer. xxiii, 5; Is. xliii, 10); that He should place His law not in externals, but in the heart; that He should put His fear, which had only been from without, in the midst of the heart. Who does not see the Christian law in all this? 728

Section XII Proofs of Jesus Christ (737-802)Edit

  • A God humiliated, even to the death on the cross; a Messiah triumphing over death by his own death. Two natures in Jesus Christ, two advents, two states of man's nature. 764

Section XIII The Miracles (803-856)Edit

  • Miracles and truth are necessary, because it is necessary to convince the entire man, in body and soul. 805

Section XIV Appendix: Polemical Fragments (857-924)Edit

  • Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.894 - #895 in the French original 895
  • Le silence est la plus grande persécution; jamais les saints ne se sont tus. 919
    • Silence is the greatest persecution; never do the saints keep themselves silent.

Pensées Quotes without NumbersEdit

  • The two principles of truth, reason and senses, are not only both not genuine, but are engaged in mutual deception. The senses deceive reason through false appearances, and the senses are disturbed by passions, which produce false impressions.
  • Thinking too little about things or thinking too much both make us obstinate and fanatical.
  • This is what I see, and what troubles me. I look on all sides, and everywhere I see nothing but obscurity. Nature offers me nothing that is not a matter of doubt and disquiet.
  • We understand nothing of the works of God unless we take it as a principle that He wishes to blind some and to enlighten others.
  • We would never travel on the sea if we had no hope of telling about it later... We lose our lives with joy provided people talk about it... Even philosophers wish for admirers.
  • What amazes me the most is to see that everyone is not amazed at his own weakness.
  • What must I do? I see nothing but obscurities on every side. Shall I believe I am nothing? Shall I believe I am God?
  • What part of us feels pleasure? Is it our hand, our arm, our flesh, or our blood? It must obviously be something immaterial.
  • Go to confession and communion; you will find it a relief and a strengthening. [no reference found]

Discourses on the Condition of the GreatEdit

  • In order to enter into a real knowledge of your condition, consider it in this image: A man was cast by a tempest upon an unknown island, the inhabitants of which were in trouble to find their king, who was lost; and having a strong resemblance both in form and face to this king, he was taken for him, and acknowledged in this capacity by all the people.
  • Thus he had a double thought: the one by which he acted as king, the other by which he recognized his true state, and that it was accident alone that had placed him in his present condition.
  • Do not imagine that it is less an accident by which you find yourself master of the wealth which you possess, than that by which this man found himself king.
  • If it had pleased them [the legislators] to order that this wealth, after having been possessed by fathers during their life, should return to the republic after their death, you would have no reason to complain of it.
  • The whole title by which you possess your property, is not a title of nature but of a human institution.
  • This right which you have, is not founded any more than his upon any quality or any merit in yourself which renders you worthy of it. Your soul and your body are, of themselves, indifferent to the state of boatman or that of duke; and there is no natural bond that attaches them to one condition rather than to another.
  • If you act externally with men in conformity with your rank, you should recognize, by a more secret but truer thought, that you have nothing naturally superior to them.
  • If the public thought elevates you above the generality of men, let the other humble you, and hold you in a perfect equality with all mankind, for this is your natural condition.
  • Do not mistake yourself by believing that your being has something in it more exalted than that of others.
  • What would you say of that man who was made king by the error of the people, if he had so far forgotten his natural condition as to imagine that this kingdom was due to him, that he deserved it, and that it belonged to him of right? You would marvel at his stupidity and folly. But is there less in the people of rank who live in so strange a forgetfulness of their natural condition?
  • 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.
  • If, being duke and peer, you would not be contented with my standing uncovered before you, but should also wish that I should esteem you, I should ask you to show me the qualities that merit my esteem. If you did this, you would gain it, and I could not refuse it to you with justice; but if you did not do it, you would be unjust to demand it of me; and assuredly you would not succeed, were you the greatest prince in the world.
  • What is it, in your opinion, to be a great nobleman? It is to be master of several objects that men covet, and thus to be able to satisfy the wants and the desires of many. It is these wants and these desires that attract them towards you, and that make them submit to you: were it not for these, they would not even look at you; but they hope, by these services... to obtain from you some part of the good which they desire, and of which they see that you have the disposal.
  • 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.
  • You are in the same manner surrounded with a small circle of persons... full of desire. They demand of you the benefits of desire... You are therefore properly the king of desire. ...equal in this to the greatest kings of the earth... It is desire that constitutes their power; that is, the possession of things that men covet.
  • It is not your strength and your natural power that subjects all these people to you. Do not pretend then to rule them by force or to treat them with harshness. Satisfy their reasonable desires; alleviate their necessities; let your pleasure consist in being beneficent; advance them as much as you can, and you will act like the true king of desire.
  • There are some men who expose themselves to damnation so foolishly by avarice, by brutality, by debauches, by violence, by excesses, by blasphemies! ...it is always a great folly for a man to expose himself to damnation... He must despise desire and its kingdom, and aspire to that kingdom of love in which all the subjects breathe nothing but love, and desire nothing but the benefits of love.

Conversation on Epictetus and MontaigneEdit

  • In reading this author [ Montaigne ] and comparing him with Epictetus, I have found that they are assuredly the two greatest defenders of the two most celebrated sects of the world, and the only ones conformable to reason, since we can only follow one of these two roads, namely: either that there is a God, and then we place in him the sovereign good; or that he is uncertain, and that then the true good is also uncertain, since he is incapable of it.
  • 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, as I have endeavored to do in this study.
  • The source of the errors of these two sects, is in not having known that the state of man at the present time differs from that of his creation; so that the one, remarking some traces of his first greatness and being ignorant of his corruption, has treated nature as sound and without need of redemption, which leads him to the height of pride; whilst the other, feeling the present wretchedness and being ignorant of the original dignity, treats nature as necessarily infirm and irreparable, which precipitates it into despair of arriving at real good, and thence into extreme laxity.
  • These two states which it is necessary to know together in order to see the whole truth, being known separately, lead necessarily to one of these two vices, pride or indolence, in which all men are invariably led before grace, since if they do not remain in their disorders through laxity, they forsake them through vanity, so true is that which you have just repeated to me from St. Augustine, and which I find to a great extent; for in fact homage is rendered to them in many ways.
  • One, knowing the duties of man and being ignorant of his impotence, is lost in presumption, and that the other, knowing the impotence and being ignorant of the duty, falls into laxity; whence it seems that since the one leads to truth, the other to error, there would be formed from their alliance a perfect system of morals. But instead of this peace, nothing but war and a general ruin would result from their union; for the one establishing certainty, the other doubt, the one the greatness of man, the other his weakness, they would destroy the truths as well as the falsehoods of each other. So that they cannot subsist alone because of their defects, nor unite because of their opposition, and thus they break and destroy each other to give place to the truth of the Gospel. This it is that harmonizes the contrarieties by a wholly divine act, and uniting all that is true and expelling all that is false, thus makes of them a truly celestial wisdom in which those opposites accord that were incompatible in human doctrines.
  • These philosophers of the world place contrarieties in the same subject; for the one attributed greatness to nature and the other weakness to this same nature, which could not subsist; whilst faith teaches us to place them in different subjects: all that is infirm belonging to nature, all that is powerful belonging to grace. Such is the marvelous and novel union which God alone could teach, and which he alone could make, and which is only a type and an effect of the ineffable union of two natures in the single person of a Man-God.

The Art of PersuasionEdit

  • No one is ignorant that there are two avenues by which opinions are received into the soul, which are its two principal powers: the understanding and the will.
  • All men are almost led to believe not of proof, but by attraction. This way is base, ignoble, and irrelevant; every one therefore disavows it. Each one professes to believe and even to love nothing but what he knows to be worthy of belief and love.
  • 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.
  • Whilst in speaking of human things, we say that it is necessary to know them before we love can them...the saints on the contrary say in speaking of divine things that it is necessary to love them in order to know them, and that we only enter truth through charity.
  • They [men] have corrupted this [God's supernatural] order by making profane things what they should make of holy things, because in fact, we believe scarcely any thing except which pleases us.
  • 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.
  • Of the truths within our reach... the mind and the heart are as doors by which they are received into the soul, but... few enter by the mind, whilst they are brought in crowds by the rash caprices of the will, without the council of reason.
  • Several particular maxims... are as powerful, although false, in carrying away belief, as those the most true.
  • As soon as the soul has been made to perceive that a thing can conduct it to that which it loves supremely, it must inevitably embrace it with joy.
  • A doubtful balance is made between truth and pleasure, and... the knowledge of one and the feeling of the other stir up a combat the success of which is very uncertain, since, in order to judge of it, it would be necessary to know all that passes in the innermost spirit of the man, of which man himself is scarcely ever conscious.
  • It is necessary to have regard to the person whom we wish to persuade, of whom we must know the mind and the heart, what principles he acknowledges, what things he loves; and then observe in the thing in question what affinity it has with the acknowledged principles, or with the objects so delightful by the pleasure which they give him.
  • The art of persuasion consists as much in that of pleasing as in that of convincing, so much more are men governed by caprice than by reason!
  • The principles of pleasure are not firm and stable. They are different in all mankind, and variable in every particular with such a diversity that there is no man more different from another than from himself at different times.
  • There are hardly any truths upon which we always remain agreed, and still fewer objects of pleasure which we do not change every hour, I do not know whether there is a means of giving fixed rules for adapting discourse to the inconstancy of our caprices.
  • This art, which I call the art of persuading, and which, properly speaking, is simply the process of perfect methodical proofs, consists of three essential parts: of defining the terms of which we should avail ourselves by clear definitions, of proposing principles of evident axioms to prove the thing in question; and of always mentally substituting in the demonstrations the definition in the place of the thing defined.
  • If we do not secure the foundation, we cannot secure the edifice.
  • A few rules include all that is necessary for the perfection of the definitions, the axioms, and the demonstrations, and consequently of the entire method of the geometrical proofs of the art of persuading.
  • Rules for Definitions. I. Not to undertake to define any of the things so well known of themselves that the clearer terms cannot be had to explain them. II. Not to leave any terms that are at all obscure or ambiguous without definition. III. Not to employ in the definition of terms any words but such as are perfectly known or already explained.
  • Rules for Axioms. I. Not to omit any necessary principle without asking whether it is admittied, however clear and evident it may be. II. Not to demand, in axioms, any but things that are perfectly evident in themselves.
  • Rules for Demonstrations. I. Not to undertake to demonstrate any thing that is so evident of itself that nothing can be given that is clearer to prove it. II. To prove all propositions at all obscure, and to employ in their proof only very evident maxims or propositions already admitted or demonstrated. III. To always mentally substitute definitions in the place of things defined, in order not to be misled by the ambiguity of terms which have been restricted by definitions.
  • These eight rules [above] contain all the precepts for solid and immutable proofs.
  • Five [of the above] rules are of absolute necessity, and cannot be dispensed with without essential defect and often without error.
  • Rules necessary for definitions. Not to leave any terms at all obscure or ambiguous without definition; Not to employ in definitions any but terms perfectly known or already explained.
  • Rules necessary for axioms. Not to demand in axioms any but things perfectly evident.
  • Rules necessary for demonstrations. To prove all propositions, and to employ nothing for their proof but axioms fully evident of themselves, or propositions already demonstrated or admitted; Never to take advantage of the ambiguity of terms by failing mentally to substitute definitions that restrict or explain them.
  • These five rules [above] form all that is necessary to render proofs convincing, immutable, and to say all, geometrical; and the eight rules together render them even more perfect.
  • It is necessary to show that there is nothing so little known [as the above rules], nothing more difficult to practice, or nothing more useful and universal.
  • As to the objection that these rules are common in the world, that it is necessary to define every thing and to prove every thing, and that logicians themselves have placed them among their art, I would that the thing were true and that it were so well known... But so little is this the case, that, geometricians alone excepted, who are so few in number that they are a single in a whole nation and long periods of time, we see no others that know it.
  • If they have entered into the spirit if these rules, and if the rules have made sufficient impression on them to become rooted and established in their minds, they will feel how much difference there is between what is said here and what a few logicians may perhaps have written by chance approximating to it in a few passages of their works.
  • All who say the same things do not possess them in the same manner; and hence the incomparable author of the Art of Conversation pauses with so much care to make it understood that we must not judge of the capacity of a man by the excellence of a happy remark that we heard him make. ...let us penetrate, says he, the mind from which it proceeds... it will oftenest be seen that he will be made to disavow it on the spot, and will be drawn very far from this better thought in which he does not believe, to plunge himself into another, quite base and ridiculous.
    • Montaigne, Essais, liv. III, chap. viii.—Faugère
  • I would inquire of reasonable persons whether this principle: Matter is naturally wholly incapable of thought, and this other: I think, therefore I am, are in fact the same in the mind of Descartes, and in that of St. Augustine, who said the same thing twelve hundred years before. ...I am far from affirming that Descartes is not the real author of it, even if he may have learned it only in reading this distinguished saint; for I know how much difference there is between writing a word by chance without making a longer and more extended reflection on it, and perceiving in this word an admirable series of conclusions, which prove the distinction between material and spiritual natures, and making of it a firm and sustained principle of a complete metaphysical system, as Descartes has pretended to do. ...it is on this supposition that I say that this expression is as different in his writings from the saying in others who have said it by chance, as in a man full of life and strength, from a corpse.
    • see St. Augustine, Civitate Dei, 1. XI, c. xxvi
  • One man will say a thing of himself without comprehending its excellence, in which another will discern a marvelous series of conclusions, which makes us affirm that it is no longer the same expression, and that he is no more indebted for it to the one from whom he has learned it, than a beautiful tree belongs to the one who cast the seed, without thinking of it, or knowing it, into the fruitful soil which caused its growth by its own fertility.
  • Logic has borrowed, perhaps, the rules of geometry, without comprehending their force... it does not thence follow that they have entered into the spirit of geometry, and I should be greatly averse... to placing them on a level with that science that teaches the true method of directing reason.
  • The method of not erring is sought by all the world. The logicians profess to guide it, the geometricians alone attain it, and apart from science, and the imitations of it, there are no true demonstrations.
  • Nothing is more common than good things: the point in question is only to discriminate them; and it is certain that they are all natural and within our reach and even known to all mankind.
  • It is not among extraordinary and fantastic things that excellence is to be found, of whatever kind it may be. We rise to attain it and become removed from it: it is oftenest necessary to stoop for it.
  • The best books are those, which those who read them believe they themselves could have written.
  • Nature, which alone is good, is wholly familiar and common.
  • I make no doubt... that these rules are simple, artless, and natural.
  • The mind must not be forced; artificial and constrained manners fill it with foolish presumption, through unnatural elevation and vain and ridiculous inflation, instead of solid and vigorous nutriment.
  • One of the principal reasons that diverts those who are entering upon this knowledge so much from the true path which they should follow, is the fancy that they take at the outset that good things are inaccessible, giving them the name great, lofty, elevated, sublime. This destroys everything. I would call them low, common, familiar: these names suit it better; I hate such inflated expressions.

Quotes about PascalEdit

  • Pascal scornfully said that simple workmen had been able to convince of error those great men that are called 'philosophers'. It was, then, these unlearned men... who were most ready to believe 'what they saw with their eyes and touched with their hands'.


DisputedEdit

  • La netteté d’esprit cause aussi la netteté de la passion; c’est pourquoi un esprit grand et net aime avec ardeur, et il voit distinctement ce qu’il aime.
    • Clarity of mind means clarity of passion, too; this is why a great and clear mind loves ardently and sees distinctly what it loves.
    • Discours sur les passions de l'amour ('Discourse on the Passions of Love'), doubtfully attributed to Pascal.

External linksEdit

Wikipedia
Wikipedia has an article about:
Wikisource has original works written by or about:
Last modified on 17 April 2014, at 09:14