Blaise Pascal (1623 – 1662) was a French mathematician, inventor and philosopher. Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God exists. If you win, you win all; if you lose, you lose nothing.
Quotations from Blaise Pascal
The will is one of the chief factors in belief, not that it creates belief, but because things are true or false according to the aspect in which we look at them. The will, which prefers one aspect to another, turns away the mind from considering the qualities of all that it does not like to see; and thus the mind, moving in accord with the will, stops to consider the aspect which it likes, and so judges by what it sees.
Yes; but you must wager. It is not optional. You are embarked. Which will you choose then? Let us see. Since you must choose, let us see which interests you least. You have two things to lose, the true and the good; and two things to stake, your reason and your will, your knowledge and your happiness; and your nature has two things to shun, error and misery. Your reason is no more shocked in choosing one rather than the other, since you must of necessity choose. This is one point settled. But your happiness? Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation that He is.
The heart has its reasons, which reason does not know. [The reason is fear.]
The understanding and the feelings are moulded by intercourse; the understanding and feelings are corrupted by intercourse. Thus good or bad society improves or corrupts them. It is, then, all-important to know how to choose in order to improve and not to corrupt them; and we cannot make this choice, if they be not already improved and not corrupted. Thus a circle is formed, and those are fortunate who escape it.
People almost invariably arrive at their beliefs not on the basis of proof but on the basis of what they find attractive.
FIRE. God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, not of the philosophers and scholars. Certainty. Certainty. Feeling. Joy. Peace.
To make light of philosophy is to be a true philosopher.
Our reason is always disappointed by the inconstancy of appearances.
…it is rare that mathematicians are intuitive, and that men of intuition are mathematicians, because mathematicians wish to treat matters of intuition mathematically, and make themselves ridiculous, wishing to begin with definitions and then with axioms, which is not the way to proceed in this kind of reasoning. Not that the mind does not do so, but it does it tacitly, naturally, and without technical rules; for the expression of it is beyond all men, and only a few can feel it.
When we wish to correct with advantage, and to show another that he errs, we must notice from what side he views the matter, for on that side it is usually true, and admit that truth to him, but reveal to him the side on which it is false. He is satisfied with that, for he sees that he was not mistaken, and that he only failed to see all sides.
…no one is offended at not seeing everything; but one does not like to be mistaken, and that perhaps arises from the fact that man naturally cannot see everything, and that naturally he cannot err in the side he looks at, since the perceptions of our senses are always true.
People are generally better persuaded by the reasons which they have themselves discovered than by those which have come into the mind of others.
When a natural discourse paints a passion or an effect, one feels within oneself the truth of what one reads, which was there before, although one did not know it. Hence one is inclined to love him who makes us feel it, for he has not shown us his own riches, but ours. …such community of intellect that we have with him necessarily inclines the heart to love
Eloquence is an art of saying things in such a way—(1) that those to whom we speak may listen to them without pain and with pleasure; (2) that they feel themselves interested, so that self-love leads them more willingly to reflection upon it.
It [eloquence] consists, then, in a correspondence which we seek to establish between the head and the heart of those to whom we speak on the one hand, and, on the other, between the thoughts and the expressions which we employ. …We must put ourselves in the place of those who are to hear us, and make trial on our own heart… We ought to restrict ourselves, so far as possible, to the simple and natural, and not to magnify that which is little, or belittle that which is great. It is not enough that a thing be beautiful; it must be suitable to the subject, and there must be in it nothing of excess or defect.
Man loves malice, but not against one-eyed men nor the unfortunate, but against the fortunate and proud.
Lust is the source of all our actions, and humanity, &c.
I always feel uncomfortable under such complements as these: “I have given you a great deal of trouble,” “I am afraid I am boring you,” “I fear this is too long.” We either carry our audience with us, or irritate them.
Knowledge of physical science will not console me for ignorance of morality in time of affliction, but knowledge of morality will always console me for ignorance of physical science.
When we read too fast or too slowly, we understand nothing.
For after all what is man in nature? A nothing in relation to infinity, all in relation to nothing, a central point between nothing and all and infinitely far from understanding either. The ends of things and their beginnings are impregnably concealed from him in an impenetrable secret. He is equally incapable of seeing the nothingness out of which he was drawn and the infinite in which he is engulfed.
.we need no less capacity for attaining the Nothing than the All. Infinite capacity is required for both, and it seems to me that whoever shall have understood the ultimate principles of being might also attain to the knowledge of the Infinite. The one depends on the other, and one leads to the other.
Excessive qualities are prejudicial to us and not perceptible by the senses; we do not feel but suffer them. Extreme youth and extreme age hinder the mind, as also too much and too little education. In short, extremes are for us as though they were not, and we are not within their notice. They escape us, or we them. This is our true state; this is what makes us incapable of certain knowledge and of absolute ignorance. We sail within a vast sphere, ever drifting in uncertainty, driven from end to end. When we think to attach ourselves to any point and to fasten to it, it wavers and leaves us; and if we follow it, it eludes our grasp, slips past us, and vanishes for ever. Nothing stays for us. This is our natural condition, and yet most contrary to our inclination; we burn with desire to find solid ground and an ultimate sure foundation whereon to build a tower reaching to the Infinite. But our whole groundwork cracks, and the earth opens to abysses.
Since everything then is cause and effect, dependent and supporting, mediate and immediate, and all is held together by a natural though imperceptible chain, which binds together things most distant and most different, I hold it equally impossible to know the parts without knowing the whole, and to know the whole without knowing the parts in detail.
Man is to himself the most wonderful object in nature; for he cannot conceive what the body is, still less what the mind is, and least of all how a body should be united to a mind. This is the consummation of his difficulties, and yet it is his very being.
One says that the sovereign good consists in virtue, another in pleasure, another in the knowledge of nature, another in truth, another in total ignorance, another in indolence, others in disregarding appearances, another in wondering at nothing, and the true skeptics in their indifference, doubt, and perpetual suspense, and others, wiser, think to find a better definition. We are well satisfied.
I cannot forgive Descartes. In all his philosophy he would have been quite willing to dispense with God. But he had to make Him give a fillip to set the world in motion; beyond this, he has no further need of God.
Epictetus goes much further when he asks: Why do we not lose our temper if someone tells us that we have a headache, while we do lose it if someone says there is anything wrong with our arguments or our choice?
It is natural for the mind to believe, and for the will to love; so that, for want of true objects, they must attach themselves to false.
Imagination.—It is that deceitful part in man, that mistress of error and falsity, the more deceptive, that she is not always so; for she would be an infallible rule of truth, if she were an infallible rule of falsehood. But being most generally false, she gives no sign of her nature, impressing the same character on the true and the false. I do not speak of fools, I speak of the wisest men; and it is among them that the imagination has the great gift of persuasion. Reason protests in vain; it cannot set a true value on things.
Imagination.—This arrogant power, the enemy of reason, who likes to rule and dominate it, has established in man a second nature to show how all-powerful she is. She makes men happy and sad, healthy and sick, rich and poor; she compels reason to believe, doubt, and deny; she blunts the senses, or quickens them; she has her fools and sages; and nothing vexes us more than to see that she fills her devotees with a satisfaction far more full and entire than does reason.
Those who are clever in imagination are far more pleased with themselves than prudent men could reasonably be.
If magistrates had true justice, and if physicians had the true art of healing, they would have no occasion for square caps; the majesty of these sciences would of itself be venerable enough. But having only imaginary knowledge, they must employ those silly tools that strike the imagination with which they have to deal; and thereby in fact they inspire respect.
Our reason is always disappointed by the inconsistency of appearances.
he devotes all his attention to hiding his faults both from others and from himself, and he cannot endure either that others should point them out to him, or that they should see them. Truly it is an evil to be full of faults; but it is a still greater evil… to be unwilling to recognise them, since that is to add the further fault of a voluntary illusion. We do not like others to deceive us; we do not think it fair that they should be held in higher esteem by us than they deserve; it is not then fair that we should deceive them, and should wish them to esteem us more highly than we deserve.
Hence it happens that if any have some interest in being loved by us, they are averse to render us a service which they know to be disagreeable. They treat us as we wish to be treated. We hate the truth, and they hide it from us. We desire flattery, and they flatter us. We like to be deceived, and they deceive us.
Human society is founded on mutual deceit; few friendships would endure if each knew what his friend said of him in his absence, although he then spoke in sincerity and without passion.
Nothing is so insufferable to man as to be completely at rest, without passions, without business, without diversion, without study. He then feels his nothingness, his forlornness, his insufficiency, his dependence, his weakness, his emptiness. There will immediately arise from the depth of his heart weariness, gloom, sadness, fretfulness, vexation, despair.
How useless is painting, which attracts admiration by the resemblance of things, the originals of which we do not admire!
Many more expose themselves to extreme perils, in my opinion as foolishly, in order to boast afterwords that they have captured a town. Lastly, others wear themselves out in studying all these things, not in order to become wiser, but only in order to prove that they know them; and these are the most senseless of the band, since they are so, knowingly, whereas one may suppose of the others, that if they knew it, they would no longer be foolish.
for the purpose of happiness it is better for him not to know himself?
Curiosity is nothing more than vanity. More often than not we only seek knowledge to show it off.
It is not shameful for a man to succumb to pain and it is shameful to succumb to pleasure.
As men are not able to fight against death, misery, ignorance, they have taken it into their heads, in order to be happy, not to think of them at all.
Make religion attractive, make good men wish it were true, and then show that it is. Worthy of reverence because it really understands human nature. Attractive because it promises true good.
…the only way to succeed in this life is to make ourselves appear honorable, faithful, judicious, and capable of useful service to a friend; because naturally men love only what may be useful to them. Now, what do we gain by hearing it said of a man that he has now thrown off the yoke, that he does not believe there is a God who watches our actions, that he considers himself the sole master of his conduct, and that he thinks he is accountable for it only to himself? Does he think that he has thus brought us to have henceforth complete confidence in him, and to look to him for consolation, advice, and help in every need of life? Do they profess to have delighted us by telling us that they hold our soul to be only a little wind and smoke, especially by telling us this in a haughty and self-satisfied tone of voice? Is this a thing to say gaily? Is it not, on the contrary, a thing to say sadly, as the saddest thing in the world?
Let us imagine a number of men in chains, and all condemned to death, where some are killed each day in the sight of the others, and those who remain see their own fate in that of their fellows, and wait their turn, looking at each other sorrowfully and without hope. It is an image of the condition of men.
When I consider the short duration of my life, swallowed up in the eternity before and after, the little space which I fill, and even can see, engulfed in the infinite immensity of spaces of which I am ignorant, and which know me not, I am frightened, and am astonished at being here rather than there; for there is no reason why here rather than there, why now rather than then. Who has put me here? By whose order and direction have this place and time been allotted to me?
It is incomprehensible that God should exist, and it is incomprehensible that He should not exist; that the soul should be joined to the body, and that we should have no soul; that the world should be created, and that it should not be created, etc.; that original sin should be, and that it should not be.
All our reasoning boils down to yielding to sentiment.
The heart has its reasons, which Reason does not know. We feel it in a thousand things. It is the heart which feels God, and not Reason. This, then, is perfect faith: God felt in the heart.
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 vapor, 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 endeavor then, to think well; this is the principle of morality.
We find fault with perfection itself.
We do not sustain ourselves in virtue by our own strength, but by the balancing of two opposed vices, just as we remain upright midst two contrary gales. Remove one of the vices, and we fall into the other.
It is not good to have too much liberty. It is not good to have all one wants.
It is true that there must be inequality among men; but if this be conceded, the door is opened not only to the highest power, but to the highest tyranny.
Contradiction is not a sign of falsity, nor the want of contradiction a sign of truth.
In faith there is enough light for those who want to believe and enough shadows to blind those who don’t.
Man is so made that if he is told often enough that he is a fool he believes it.
All that tends not to charity is figurative. The sole aim of the Scripture is charity.
They cannot subsist alone because of their defects, nor unite because of their opposition, and thus they break and destroy each other to give place to the truth.
Whilst in speaking of human things, we say that it is necessary to know them before we love can them…the saints on the contrary say in speaking of divine things that it is necessary to love them in order to know them, and that we only enter truth through charity.
we believe scarcely any thing except which pleases us.
there is no man more different from another than from himself at different times.
This art, which I call the art of persuading, and which, properly speaking, is simply the process of perfect methodical proofs, consists of three essential parts: of defining the terms of which we should avail ourselves by clear definitions, of proposing principles of evident axioms to prove the thing in question; and of always mentally substituting in the demonstrations the definition in the place of the thing defined.
I would inquire of reasonable persons whether this principle: Matter is naturally wholly incapable of thought, and this other: I think, therefore I am, are in fact the same in the mind of Descartes, and in that of St. Augustine, who said the same thing twelve hundred years before.
One man will say a thing of himself without comprehending its excellence, in which another will discern a marvelous series of conclusions, which makes us affirm that it is no longer the same expression, and that he is no more indebted for it to the one from whom he has learned it, than a beautiful tree belongs to the one who cast the seed, without thinking of it, or knowing it, into the fruitful soil which caused its growth by its own fertility.
Logic has borrowed, perhaps, the rules of geometry, without comprehending their force… it does not thence follow that they have entered into the spirit of geometry, and I should be greatly averse… to placing them on a level with that science that teaches the true method of directing reason.
The method of not erring is sought by all the world. The logicians profess to guide it, the geometricians alone attain it, and apart from science, and the imitations of it, there are no true demonstrations.
The best books are those, which those who read them believe they themselves could have written.
Words differently arranged have different meanings, and meanings differently arranged have different effects.
No religion except ours has taught that man is born in sin; none of the philosophical sects has admitted it; none therefore has spoken the truth
COMMENTS on Quotations from Blaise Pascal
Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation that God exists. This is Pascal’s most famous quote, and yet it is the worst advice possible for the simple reason that if God does exist, and he sees to the depths of a man’s soul as a religious man like Pascal would believe, then God would know perfectly well that Pascal is intending to deceive Him. We would assume that God would resent an intelligent man trying to deceive him, and would therefore, when Pascal died, send him to the most horrible Hell. God would look more kindly on an Atheist because an atheist is simply observing that God has left no clear and reliably testable evidence of His existence. Every claimed evidence comes to an atheist as hearsay from men, and everyone who knows mankind, even a little, is aware that they lie when it is in their own self-interest to lie. But an atheist might be forgiven by God, because they only question the accuracy of some men’s statements who sometimes lie. But Pascal has carried his lie to a higher order of lie, when he earnestly recommends to other people that they follow his example, and try and deceive God too. If God does exist he must bring Pascal to a very special place, perhaps even more unpleasant than those who tell more uplifting lies about Him and his character. Pascal’s wager is a great one from Nassim Taleb’s Black Swan theory, when one is betting against the stock market, but God isn’t the stock market.
Let us endeavor to think well; this is the principle of morality. Thinking well is a fine thing, but it isn’t morality. Morality consists in treating people well, and even dogs with considerably less ability to think well than most men, are much better at treating people well, if they themselves are treated well. Men are well known for often biting the hand that feeds them.
We do not sustain ourselves in virtue by our own strength, but by the balancing of two opposed vices, just as we remain upright midst two contrary gales. Remove one of the vices, and we fall into the other. This principle later modified into a principle of government where men are assumed to be motivated by personal gain and are balanced against others with similar motivations. The balancing of powers of opposing parties is intended to create a more stable condition where more people may often live in peace, but perhaps not always. They cannot subsist alone because of their defects, nor unite because of their opposition, and thus they break and destroy each other to give place to the truth. It is an eternal struggle, but the average is armed hostility called peace.
Contradiction is not a sign of falsity, nor the want of contradiction a sign of truth. This is an important observation, and supports the idea that everyone and every idea should be challenged. That process will expose the good, the bad and the otherwise, and generally eliminate the worst abuses. Thus, everyone is encouraged to speak-up when they observe a problem.
In faith there is enough light for those who want to believe and enough shadows to blind those who don’t. There arises a problem in that there are an infinity of ways to believe an infinity of imaginary things and only one way of doubting – to doubt. Unfortunately, it is much easier to organize people to a belief than to a doubt, and to set them into a fighting mood.
Man is so made that if he is told often enough that he is a fool he believes it. That assertion is perhaps intended as a sarcastic joke. Everyone considers himself to be above average, in intelligence, wisdom and morality.
People almost invariably arrive at their beliefs not on the basis of proof but on the basis of what they find attractive. If this is true then Pascal’s work on creating axiomatic driven human behavior is a waste of time. It is even more complex than Kant’s Categorical Imperative which is also unworkable. But, what is workable is to present ideas in a story format which is attractive, which obeys his observation.
All that tends not to charity is figurative. The sole aim of the Scripture is charity. It would appear that Jesus’ message was to help other people to attain the highest level of approaching a heavenly state. The Beatitudes is a ladder to Heaven, and his Golden Rule, “All things whatsoever, men should do to you, do you even-so unto them,” is the active process for helping them, and yourself. It isn’t charity, it is kindness. Charity is helping unfortunate others, kindness is helping everyone to achieve a higher level toward their perfection.
Logic has borrowed, perhaps, the rules of geometry, without comprehending their force… it does not thence follow that they have entered into the spirit of geometry, and I should be greatly averse… to placing them on a level with that science that teaches the true method of directing reason. This is an example of applied convergence, where two seeming remote realms of human endeavor have an even more abstract driving force. When this type of action is observed it is a strong indicator that other applications of this driving force are probably available for use in remote fields.
One of the principal reasons that diverts those who are entering upon this knowledge so much from the true path which they should follow, is the fancy that they take at the outset that good things are inaccessible, giving them the name great, lofty, elevated, sublime. This destroys everything. I would call them low, common, familiar: these names suit it better; I hate such inflated expressions. It is strange that the Stoics weren’t more popular with seekers, as their stated goal was to find tranquility in the simply attained things available to everyone. Theirs was only a habit of changing one’s attention from those things difficult to attain to those which were easy. In Pascal’s terms to change from the pursuit of the sublime to the acceptance of the common.
No religion except ours has taught that man is born in sin; none of the philosophical sects has admitted it; none therefore has spoken the truth. Stated more strongly this claims a baby is born a religious criminal, and then condemns all other religions for not accusing their children of being born criminals. The Eveish Selection theory of humanity would claim the precise opposite, that normal humans are born with a natural propensity to be good, and it is only from faulty environmental circumstances that they become antisocial.
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