Category Archives: Philosophy

Pascal, Pensées, S 680–687

Index for this series

The reading is Sellier 680–7, which is Lafuma 418–35, or

Labels are

Sellier–La Guern–Lafuma–Brunschvicg.


We have here le discours de la machine, promised in the first reading, Ordre, first in S 39, L 5, B 247:

Une lettre d’exhortation à un ami pour le porter à chercher. ¶ Et il répondra : Mais à quoi me servira de chercher ? Rien ne paraît. ¶ Et lui répondre : Ne désespérez pas. ¶ Et il répondrait qu’il serait heureux de trouver quelque lumière, mais que selon cette religion même, quand il croirait ainsi, cela ne lui servirait de rien et qu’ainsi il aime autant ne point chercher. ¶ Et à cela lui répondre : La machine.

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Pascal, Pensées, S 651–679

Index for this series

Simon Stevin, “La Spartostatique”
Les Œuvres Mathematiques (1634)
See S 667 below

The reading is Sellier 651–79, which is Lafuma 432, 504–14, and 799–829, thus:

Labels are

Sellier–La Guern–Lafuma–Brunschvicg.



How does one come to believe or understand?


Il y a trois moyens de croire :

  1. la raison,
  2. la coutume,
  3. l’inspiration la révélation.

La religion chrétienne, qui seule a la raison, n’admet point pour ses vrais enfants ceux qui croient sans inspiration

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Pascal, Pensées, S 612–650

Index for this series


Fragment non autographe
écrit probablement par un enfant
ou une personne qui vient d’apprendre à écrire

The reading is Sellier 612–50, which is Lafuma 730–98, or

  • Pensées diverses IV (SÉRIE XXVI): 23 fragments

  • Pensées diverses V (SÉRIE XXVII): 7 fragments

  • Pensées diverses VI (SÉRIE XXVIII): 5 fragments

Labels are

Sellier–La Guern–Lafuma–Brunschvicg.


IV.1 (612)

In John, contradictions

  • Scripture itself (Psalm 82) has God calling men gods

  • Jesus says,

    • Lazarus

      • will not die
      • is sleeping
      • is dead
    • Lazarus, come forth

IV.2 (613)

Ces gens manquent de cœur / On n’en ferait pas son ami / Poète et non honnête homme

IV.3 (614)

La source de toutes les hérésies est l’exclusion de quelques‑unes de ces vérités

  1. Jesus Christ is god and man
  2. The sacramental bread is his body and symbol (figure)
  3. Indulgences (not spelled out)

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Pascal, Pensées, S 491–611

Index for this series

The reading is Sellier 491–611, which is Lafuma 592–729, or

Numbers of fragments are in the order Sellier–Le Guern–Lafuma–Brunschvicg, possibly preceded by number within the bundles above.

Massimo Stanzione
Loth et ses Filles (c. 1640)
Musée des Beaux-arts et de l’Archéologie de Besançon
(photo source)
For Pascal if perhaps not painters like Stanzione,
the daughters of Lot (III.65–591–606–713–923) show how virtue is not mechanical.


Before the seminar of April 13, 2021, on this reading, I noted as below the themes of religion, passion, hatred, sin, blindness, and witnessing. The church as distinct from religion is also a theme, but I am mostly ignorant of the history that Pascal alludes to.

During the seminar, I saw how much I had left out.

There is something to be said for reading the Pensées (or anything else) in a printed book, where words have a place on a page, and the page a place among other pages.

I had forgotten a short fragment that summarizes everything, II.31–557–572–678–358:

L’homme n’est ni ange ni bête, et le malheur veut que qui veut faire l’ange fait la bête.

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Abraham and Gideon

The general question of this post is how Pascal’s thinking in the Pensées relates to the thinking of himself and his contemporaries about the physical and mathematical worlds.

The specific question is why Pascal juxtaposes Abraham and Gideon in two fragments of the Pensées.

A possible answer to the specific question is that God demands sacrifices of both men.

Caravaggio, Sacrifice of Isaac, 1603, Uffizi

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Pascal, Pensées, S 452–90

Index for this series

Of this reading, of Pensées Diverses I, a theme is—no theme! There is no general ruleIl n’y a point de règle générale—in the following matters.

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Pascal, Pensées, S 438–451

Pascal, Pensées, S 415–437

Before the annotated text of the Pensées of Pascal, Sellier 415–437, here is an attempt at a detailed summary. I have tried to indicate all chapters of the Bible (OT, Apocrypha, NT) quoted from by Pascal or by me. I may have figured out what passages are by looking at the notes of Descotes and Proust. I may not always have completed this work, which can be tedious and which I hope not to be doing so much for later readings. Pascal may be study scripture as scientists such as himself study nature, and Isaac Newton (nineteen years younger) may resemble him in this.

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Pascal, Pensées, S 329–414

The present reading of the Pensées of Pascal comprises the following sections, each consisting of the fragments given in the numberings of Sellier and Lafuma:

  • PREUVES DE JÉSUS-CHRIST (S 329–53, L 298–322)

    I see two points:

    • There are three orders, of body, mind, and wisdom. As Archimedes is above most of us in mind (or spirit), Jesus is above him and everybody else in wisdom (or charity).

    • Through the Babylonian Captivity, the Jewish people were sustained by their prophets, who passed along the promise that the sceptre would be returned. The Romans took the worldly or carnal sceptre away again, and it has not been returned.

  • PROPHÉTIES (S 354–80, L 323–48)

    The last point is fleshed out more, and there is a definition:

    Prophétiser c’est parler de Dieu, non par preuves du dehors, mais par sentiment intérieur et immédiat.

  • FIGURES PARTICULIÈRES (S 381–2, L 349–50)

    Two short fragments, one possibly alluding to the three orders above:

    Double loi, doubles tables de la loi, double temple, double captivité.

    There are doubles, or pairs, in the next section:

  • MORALE CHRÉTIENNE (S 383–408, L 351–76)

    We are vile and in the image of God, and the Christian is neither abject nor proud about it. We are so miserable that only a god can save us. We should understand ourselves as members of a body.

  • CONCLUSION (S 409–14, L 377–82)

    There’s a long distance between knowing and loving God. Miracles don’t convert, but condemn. You can be a believer without the Bible; you just cannot convert anybody else.

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Pascal, Pensées, S 254–328

The present reading of the Pensées of Pascal comprises the following sections, each consisting of the fragments given in the numberings of Sellier and Lafuma:

  1. RENDRE LA RELIGION AIMABLE (S 254–5, L 221–2)

  2. FONDEMENTS (S 256–77, L 223–44)

  3. LOI FIGURATIVE (S 278–307, L 245–76)

  4. RABBINAGE (S 308–10, L 277–8)

  5. PERPÉTUITÉ (S 311–21, L 279–89)

  6. PREUVES DE MOISE (S 322–8, L 290–7)

I attempt brief summaries of these sections.

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