The Cambridge Companion to Pascal (Cambridge Companions to Philosophy)
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Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) occupies a position of pivotal importance in many domains: philosophy, mathematics, physics, religious polemics and apologetics. A team of leading scholars surveys the range of his achievement and intellectual background as well as the reception of his work. New readers and nonspecialists will find a convenient and accessible guide to Pascal and advanced students and specialists, a conspectus of recent developments in the interpretation of his works.
Pascal refers to himself as Salomon de Tultie (an anagram of his pseudonym Louis de Montalte from the Lettres provinciales), he names himself, Montaigne and Epictetus as examples of particularly effective writers, because their style is based on ‘ordinary conversations’ (L 745/S 618). In 1655, the very time that he is believed to have formulated his ideas on persuasion in De l’esprit g éom étrique, Pascal became more actively involved at Port-Royal. His famous discussion with Sacy, his
isolated exercise would serve no practical purpose for the Christian apologist. Rather, Pascal ad- dresses himself to Montaigne’s readers, who might be tempted to adopt Montaigne’s overall perspective for themselves. Pascal, using Montaigne as a familiar starting point, provides simultaneously a basis for going beyond Montaigne. The precise way in which Pascal worked with the text of the Essays is unclear. Jean Mesnard argues plausibly that Pascal adopted the method of his contemporaries,
Christianity, others make it clear that these proofs are ‘not of such a kind that they can be said to be absolutely convincing’ (L 835/S 423). In fact, it would not have been ‘right that [God] should appear in a manner manifestly divine and absolutely capable of convincing all men’ (L 149/S 182). As I shall show shortly, He only ‘convinces’ those whom He causes to believe through the grace He confers on them. In any case, the existence of God and the immortality of the soul are not
Stevin’s law that the pressure exerted by water on the surface below it will be equal to the weight of the column of water with this surface as base and, for height, the vertical distance rising to the upper surface of the water. From this law he derived the hydrostatic paradox: a single pound of water can exert the same amount of pressure at the base of a vessel which contains it as one thousand pounds of water, ‘indeed as much as the whole ocean’, exerts on the base of its container. For
cœur) (L 7, 110/S 41, 142). ‘This is what faith is. God perceptible to the heart, not the reason’ (L 418/S 680). If we take the parallel seriously, as we must, then, if you have this supernatural state of belief, God is as real to you as the physical world, and a doctrine like original sin, however incomprehensible in itself, carries as much conviction as the reality of number, in which we believe even though we cannot grasp the relationship between finite and infinite number (see L 418/S