Sunday, March 20, 2011

A Bit of Pascal

As I am speaking on one angle of Blaise Pascal’s Wager argument the end of this week, let me share a quote from the Pensees…some may be familiar with a bit of this “thoughts,” so here is a larger quote from Honor Levi's translation; Pensees #164:

Those who think they can remain neutral are Pyrrhonists [skeptics] par excellence. This neutrality is the essence of their conspiracy. Anyone who is not against them must be in the highest degree on their side. They are not even supporters, they are neutral, indifferent, totally detached from everything, including themselves.

What will we do in this state of mind? Shall we cast doubt on everything? Shall we doubt if we are awake, if we are pinched, if we are burnt? Will we doubt whether we doubt? Will we doubt that we exist at all? We cannot get to that state, and I am quite certain that no truly genuine Pyrrhonists has ever existed. Nature upholds powerlessness of reason and prevents it ever reaching that stage of lunacy.

So on the other hand will we say that we certainly know the truth when, given the slightest nudge, we cannot demonstrate the basis of this claim and we have to give way?

What a figment of the imagination human beings are! What a novelty, what monsters! Chaotic, contradictory, prodigious, judging everything, mindless worm of the earth, storehouse of truth, cesspool of uncertainty and error, glory and refuse of the universe.

Who will unravel this tangle?

It is certainly beyond dogmatism and Pyrrhonism and the whole of human philosophy.

Man is beyond man. Let us allow the Pyrrhonists what they have so often claimed, that truth is neither within our grasp nor is it our target. It does not reside on earth but belongs in heaven, in God’s bosom, and we can know it only as much as he is pleased to reveal. Let us then learn our true nature from the uncreated and incarnate truth...Be aware then, proud men, what a paradox you are to yourselves! humble yourself, powerless reason! Be silent, foolish nature! Learn that humanity infinitely transcends humanity and hear from your Master your true condition of which you are unaware.

Listen to God.

Blaise Pascal The Pensees and Other Writings: A New Translation by Honor Levi (1995) New York, Oxford University Press. P 41-42

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