Alexandre Vinet

Swiss theologian and literary historian (1797-1847)

Alexandre Rodolphe Vinet (June 17, 1797 – May 4, 1847) was a Swiss critic and theologian.

The light of conscience ... enters the eyes of the soul, as the light of the sun enters the eyes of the body; and to open the former requires no greater effort than to open the latter.


  • Between God and man, between the gospel and each soul, the interpreter is Love.
    • Reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895), p. 395.
  • Among the English, we see on one side an exhibition of grossness and impudence in wickedness, and on the other, we admire their strictness and lofty eminence in that which is good. In that country, interest and conscience measure every thing. There is nothing intermediate between the two motives.

    In France, on the contrary, the gap between interest and conscience is admirably filled by honour. ... In its origin, honour had for its office to take the place of conscience. Where it was deficient, honour presented itself the heir, the distant relation of conscience. ... But honour itself is becoming weak. ... If this progress continues, it will end by being extinguished. But which will then become the heir of honour? Will it be interest or conscience?

    • History of French Literature in the Eighteenth Century (1854), pp. 366-367.

Evangelical Meditations (1858)

  • We feel the necessity of deceiving ourselves, of even grossly deceiving ourselves, and of believing, when we are doing wrong, that we are doing right. When we do not succeed in reaching such persuasion, merely by sounding our own reason and conscience, we look about for something or some person to aid us in the attempt.
  • The most doubtful reasoning appears to us clear and conclusive, when we can, in any way, twist it to an accordance with what we desire.
  • A conscience that is only sluggish, may submit to truth when it happens to meet with it: but a conscience under the seductions of passion, will not submit to it without great difficulty, and will devise some pretext, some expedient, for resisting the voice of truth that openly rebukes it.
  • Our object to-day is to point out to you, brethren, that tendency we all have to consult another, in order to shun consulting ourselves.
  • The light of conscience ... enters the eyes of the soul, as the light of the sun enters the eyes of the body; and to open the former requires no greater effort than to open the latter.

Studies in Pascal (1859)

  • There is, in Pascal's book — his drama, as we have ventured to call it — a person, real or fictitious, a protagonist; and to analyse the work of Pascal, is, in other words, to unfold the successive thoughts of this mysterious character. This is what we are about to attempt. p. 8
  • Meditation leads from ignorance to ignorance, from ignorance which does not know itself to ignorance which does know itself. This is the point that philosophers attain to. Also, true philosophy is to laugh at philosophy; and if Aristotle and Plato deserve the name of philosophers, it is rather by the practical wisdom of their life than by their metaphysical speculations. Reason alone, then, is an imperfect or a false instrument; and if truth is to enter into us, it is by another door than that of reasoning. p. 12
  • Man feels in himself passions which ought to obey, and a reason which ought to command. But it is in vain: the war is endless; victory on either side is impossible. Neither can reason subdue the passions, nor can the passions put reason to silence. p. 17
  • It is then settled: he will investigate whether God, the fountain of all truth, the key of all mysteries, be not anywhere revealed. To seek Him with the reason alone, holds out no hope of success; the experience which he has had respecting the knowledge of man, has rendered him distrustfull as to the means of knowing God. p. 27-28
  • Has the reason shared the condition of the other faculties, which our fall has so grievously injured? Is the reason corrupted? Mediately, yes; immediately, no: at least that is my belief. Our reason is the reporter of our sensations: if our sensations make a false deposition, our reason will make a false judgment. And this is what happens through the obscuration of our moral sense and the tumult of our passions; the judge is uncorrupted, but he is misinformed. p. 35
  • Perhaps the view of the harmony reestablished in a soul — I say in one only — by the doctrine of redemption, is the proof that Christianity is the remedy devised of God to put an end to our internal discordances. Perhaps, in a word, in these observations dwells a sufficient demonstration, a complete apology. But Pascal does not consider the demonstration as even commenced which he has in view, because that demonstration is calculated for the requirements of pure reason. He only believes that what he has said is fitted to dispose his hearers to listen with good-will, and even with a lively interest, to what he has still to say. p. 48
  • The point of departure, the datum of the whole chapter, is this. "Man is made to know the truth: he desires it ardently, he searches for it; yet when he tries to seize it, he is so dazzled and confounded, that he gives occasion to dispute his possession of it. It is this that has given birth to the two sects of Pyrrhonists and Dogmatists, the former of whom have wished to take away from man all knowledge of the truth, the latter strive to assure him of it; but each with reasons so little truth-like, that they increase the confusion and embarrassment of man, as long as he has no other light than that which he finds in his own nature." p. 131
  • He has tried natural religion, and has found this frail bark unfit to carry humanity. Seeing it sinking under him, he has hastened to pass into another vessel; that is to say, that theism, like atheism, has disappointed him. Always despair, you say. But let us have done with this singular reproach. In fact, what is it to you whether I have begun with despair or not? Am I obliged to render you an account of the matter? I was only responsible to you, or rather to myself, to examine. Have I done so? That is the question. And to return to Pascal; has Pascal examined? Has Pascal been convinced? Has Pascal become a Christian by conviction? Or has Pascal thrown himself into the faith as into a dark abyss? Has his conversion been nought but a suicide of his reason? I appeal on this point to all who have read the Thoughts, to all who are acquainted with the life of Pascal. p. 191
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