Pascal: The Man and His Two Loves

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John Richard Cole
NYU Press, 1995 - Biography & Autobiography - 349 pages
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Ever since the edifying life written by his sister in the months after his death, canonical representations of Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) have revered him for the scientific genius of his youth, the religious conversions of his mid-life, and the great books and greater saintliness of his last years. All this monumentalizes the hero, but it also reduces the man to a mind and spirit and it divides his life and work into unrelated halves. The preeminent specialist, Jean Mesnard, still picks up the subject where Gilberte Pascal left it in 1662. No historian in our language has even attempted to put the halves together again.

In Pascal: The Man and His Two Loves, John R. Cole reintegrates a life that began with familial attachments and achieved youthful marvels of invention and experiment with an Arithmetic Machine and Vacuum Experiments; Cole argues that love for his father spun the wheels and filled the void. Pascal then converted, having suffered particularly painful separations and losses; Cole's central chapters adapt Freudian methods to relate his newly ardent love of God to his prior love of parents. Finally, the convert wrote contrasting classics, the Provincial Letters and the Penses, before years of sanctified suffering terminated his work; Cole suggests that disciplined study of his affective life makes possible new readings of these great books.

  

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Contents

PART ONE Attachments
13
The Widowed Father
27
The Precocious Son
38
PART TWO Separations and Losses
51
The Crisis of 164648
62
The Crisis of 165153
76
PART THREE The Heart ojthe Matter
91
Remembering and Forgetting
104
The Provinciales II
172
PART FIVE Misery
189
The Misery of This Man
211
Other Depressive Traits in Pascals Last Years
231
The Good Uses of This Illness
252
APPENDIXES
261
Affective Disorders and Exceptional Creativity
272
Bibliography of Primary Sources
335

What Does It Mean?
125
PART FOUR Exaltation
143
The Provinciales I
158

Common terms and phrases

Popular passages

Page 338 - Provinciales ou les lettres écrites par Louis de Montalte à un provincial de ses amis et aux RR. PP. Jésuites, sur le sujet de la morale et de la politique de ces Pères.

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About the author (1995)

John R. Cole is Reynolds Professor of History at Bates College.

Bibliographic information