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Blaise Pascal
French mathematician, physicist and philosopher
(1623-62)



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Le coeur a ses raisons que la raison ne connaît point; on le sait en mille choses.
The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of. We feel it in a thousand things.
-- Pensées (Thoughts)

Le silence éternel de ces espaces infinis m’effraie.
The eternal silence of these infinite spaces fills me with dread.
-- Blaise Pascal

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, puisqu’il sait qu’il meurt, et l’avantage que l’univers a sur lui ; l’univers n’en sait rien.

Toute notre dignité consiste donc en la pensée. C’est de là qu’il faut nous relever et non de l’espace et de la durée, que nous ne saurions remplir. Travaillons donc à bien penser : voilà le principe de la morale.


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.
-- Pensées (Thoughts)

Ni la contradiction n'est marque de fausseté, ni l'incontradiction n'est marque de vérité.
Contradiction is not a sign of falsity, nor the lack of contradiction a sign of truth.
-- Blaise Pascal

Si les hommes savaient ce qu'ils disent les uns des autres, il n'y aurait pas quatre amis dans le monde.
If all men knew what each said of the other, there would not be four friends in the world.
-- Pensées sur la religion (Thoughts on Religion)

Car enfin qu'est-ce que l'homme dans la nature ? Un néant à l'égard de l'infini, un tout à l'égard du néant, un milieu entre rien et tout, infiniment éloigné de comprendre les extrêmes; la fin des choses et leurs principes sont pour lui invinciblement cachés dans un secret impénétrable. Également - incapable de voir le néant d'où il est tiré et l'infini où il est englouti.
For in fact what is man in nature? A nothingness in comparison with the infinite, an all in comparison with the nothingness, a mean between nothing and everything. Since he is infinitely removed from comprehending the extremes, the end of things and their beginning are hopelessly hidden from him in an impenetrable secret, he is equally incapable of seeing the nothingness from which he emerges, and the infinite in which he is engulfed.
-- Pensées (Thoughts)


Pensées and Other Writings (Oxford World's Classics)Pensées and and Other Writings (Oxford World's Classics)

For much of his life, Pascal (1623-62) worked on a magnum opus which was never published in the form the philosopher intended. Instead, Pascal left a mass of fragments, some of them meant as notes for the Apologie. These became known as the Pensées, and they occupy a crucial place in Western philosophy and religious writing. This translation is the only one based on the Pensées as Pascal left them. It includes the principal dossiers classified by Pascal, as well as the essential portion of his important Writings on Grace. -- Oxford University Press

Click here for more details about Pascal's Pensées and and Other Writings (Oxford World's Classics)


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The selection of the above quotes and the writing of the accompanying notes was performed by the author David Paul Wagner.

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