Pensees

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Courier Corporation, 2003 - Philosophy - 297 pages
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"Men despise religion. They hate it and are afraid it may be true," declared Pascal in his Penseés. "The cure for this," he explained, "is first to show that religion is not contrary to reason, but worthy of reverence and respect. Next make it attractive, make good men wish it were true, and then show that it is." Motivated by the 17th-century view of the supremacy of human reason, Pascal (1623–1662) intended to write an ambitious apologia for Christianity, in which he argued the inability of reason to address metaphysical problems. While Pascal's untimely death prevented his completion of the work, these fragments published posthumously in 1670 as Penseés remain a vital part of religious and philosophical literature. Introduction by T. S. Eliot.
 

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Contents

THOUGHTS ON MIND AND ON STYLE
1
THE MISERY OF MAN WITHOUT GOD
14
OF THE NECESSITY OF THE WAGER
52
THE MEANS OF BELIEF
71
JUSTICE AND THE REASON OF EFFECTS
83
PHILOSOPHERS
96
MORALITY AND DOCTRINE
113
THE FUNDAMENTALS OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION
152
PERPETUITY
163
TYPOLOGY
181
THE PROPHECIES
198
PROOFS OF JESUS CHRIST
222
THE MIRACLES
238
APPENDIX POLEMICAL FRAGMENTS
257
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About the author (2003)

French Mathematician Blaise Pascal did much to set in motion what is known today as modern mathematics. An unusually creative mathematician, he developed a number of theorems and mathematical structures, including the beginnings of probability theory and a more sophisticated understanding of the geometry of conic structures. At the age of 16, Pascal wrote a brilliant paper on conics; the paper consisted of one single printed page on which he states his major theorem - the opposite sides of any hexagon inscribed in a cone intersect in a straight line. This theorem led Pascal to develop several hundred related theorems in geometry. Pascal's activities, however, were not confined to pure mathematics. When he was about 19 years old, he built a calculating machine that he demonstrated to the king of France. It worked well enough to allow him to build and sell about 50 of them over a few years' time. His work on problems in atmospheric pressure eventually resulted in an early version of the gas law. At the age of 25, Pascal entered a Jansenist monastery to begin an ascetic life of study and argument. However, he continued his mathematical work. With Pierre de Fermat, Pascal laid the foundation for the theory of probability. In 1654, Pascal's friend, the Chevelier de Mere, had asked him to analyze a problem arising from a game of chance. Pascal in turn exchanged a number of letters with Fermat about the problem. This correspondence became the starting point for a theory of probability. However, neither published the ideas developed in the correspondence. The letters did inspire one of Pascal's contemporaries, Christian Huygens of Holland, to publish in 1657 a short tract on the mathematics of games involving dice. Pascal's name is now attached to "Pascals' Triangle" of binomial coefficients which plays and important role in the study combinations and probability. The triangle was known at least 600 years before Pascal became interested in it, but because of his contributions to its study, the triangle eventually became associated with his name. A sensitive and temperamental man, Pascal was obsessed with religious philosophy, a subject on which he wrote extensively. In his general philosophy he was very much taken with the concept of the infinite, which unsettled him and inspired in him a sense of awe. Over a period of years, he wrote on many religious, philosophical, and mathematical subjects. His notes and letters were edited and published posthumously as his Pensees.

Thomas Stearns Eliot was born in St Louis, Missouri, in 1888. He moved to England in 1914 and published his first book of poems in 1917. He received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1948. Eliot died in 1965.

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