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THE PHILOSOPHERS IN AN HOUR OR SO ...
THE ABRIDGED TEXTS
Aristotle - Ethics
Aristotle - Politics
Augustine - Confessions
Ayer - Language, Truth and Logic
Bacon - Advancement of Learning
Bentham - Morals and Legislation
Berkeley - Principles of Human Knowledge
Boethius - Consolations of Philosophy
Burke - Revolution in France
Cicero - Friendship and Old Age
Clausewitz - On War
Comte - Positive Philosophy
Confucius - The Analects
Copernicus - The Revolutions
Darwin - The Origin of Species
Descartes - Discourse on Method
Descartes - Meditations
Emerson - Nature
Epicurus - Sovran Maxims
Erasmus - Praise of Folly
Euclid - Elements
Freud - Psychoanalysis
Galileo - Two World Systems
Hayek - The Road to Serfdom
Hegel - Philosophy of History
Hegel - Philosophy of Religion
Hobbes - Leviathan
Hume - Human Understanding
James - Varieties of Religious Experience
Kant - Critiques of Reason
Kant - Metaphysics of Morals
Kierkegaard - Either Or
Leibniz - Monadology
Locke - Human Understanding
Machiavelli - The Prince
Marcus Aurelius - Meditations
Marx - The Communist Manifesto
Marx and Engels - German Ideology
Mill - On Liberty
Mill - System of Logic
More - Utopia
Newton - Principia
Nietzsche - Beyond Good and Evil
Nietzsche - Genealogy of Morals
Paine - Rights of Man
Pascal - Thoughts
Plato - The Apology
Plato - The Republic
Plato - The Symposium
Popper - Scientific Discovery
Rand - Selfishness
Rousseau - Confessions
Rousseau - Social Contract
Sade - Philosophy in the Boudoir
Sartre - Existentialism is a Humanism
Schopenhauer - World as Will and Idea
Smith - Wealth of Nations
Spinoza - Ethics
The Ancient Greeks
The Aphorisms of the Philosophers
Thoreau - Walden
Tocqueville - America
Turing - Computing Machinery
Wittgenstein - Tractatus
Wollstonecraft - Rights of Woman
... Squashed down to read in about 40 minutes
"Man is but a reed, the most feeble thing in nature, but he is a thinking reed."
Wikipedia - Full Text - Print Edition: ISBN 0140446451
Mathematician, theologian, physicist and philosopher, Blaise Pascal, was born in 1623 at Clermont-Ferrand, his father being a judge and capable mathematician. Pascal's mother died when he was only seven, and, having moved to Paris, his father began a system of education in which he would only allow Blaise to progress once he had completely mastered a subject. Consequently, so it is said, it was found that, at eleven, the boy had secretly discovered for himself the first twenty-three propositions of Euclid's geometry, calling straight lines "bars" and circles "rounds."
His Thoughts are collected from scattered notebooks after his death and are famous for introducing 'Pascal's Wager' - that you might as well bet that God does exist, as, if you're right you'll get eternal life, but if you lose, you lose nothing.
This abridgement is based on chapters I to IX of the translation by WF Trotter. The aphorisms and comments have been drastically reduced in number (down from 98,000 words), but most are complete in themselves. The squashed version may give the impression of a coherence not present in the original, which was compiled posthumously from scattered notes.
Squashed version edited by Glyn Hughes © 2011
THOUGHTS ON MIND AND ON STYLE
1. The difference between the mathematical and the intuitive mind. All mathematicians would then be intuitive if they had clear sight, for they do not reason incorrectly from principles known to them; and intuitive minds would be mathematical if they could turn their eyes to the principles of mathematics to which they are unused.
3. Those who are accustomed to judge by feeling do not understand the process of reasoning, for they would understand at first sight and are not used to seek for principles. And others, on the contrary, who are accustomed to reason from principles, do not at all understand matters of feeling, seeking principles and being unable to see at a glance.
4. To make light of philosophy is to be a true philosopher.
7. The greater intellect one has, the more originality one finds in men. Ordinary persons find no difference between men.
10. People are generally better persuaded by the reasons which they have themselves discovered than by those which have come into the mind of others.
12. Scaramouch, who only thinks of one thing. The doctor, who speaks for a quarter of an hour after he has said everything, so full is he of the desire of talking.
15. Eloquence, which persuades by sweetness, not by authority; as a tyrant, not as a king.
17. Rivers are roads which move, and which carry us whither we desire to go.
19. The last thing one settles in writing a book is what one should put in first.
28. Symmetry is what we see at a glance; based on the fact that there is no reason for any difference, and based also on the face of man; whence it happens that symmetry is only wanted in breadth, not in height or depth.
42. To call a king "Prince" is pleasing, because it diminishes his rank.
44. Do you wish people to believe good of you? Don't speak.
45. Languages are ciphers, wherein letters are not changed into letters, but words into words, so that an unknown language is decipherable.
THE MISERY OF MAN WITHOUT GOD
66. One must know oneself. If this does not serve to discover truth, it at least serves as a rule of life, and there is nothing better.
67. The vanity of the sciences. Physical science will not console me for the ignorance of morality in the time of affliction. But the science of ethics will always console me for the ignorance of the physical sciences.
71. Too much and too little wine. Give him none, he cannot find truth; give him too much, the same.
78. Descartes useless and uncertain.
80. How comes it that a cripple does not offend us, but that a fool does? Because a cripple recognises that we walk straight, whereas a fool declares that it is we who are silly; if it were not so, we should feel pity and not anger.
Imagination cannot make fools wise; but she can make them happy
84. By imagination the smallest objects of our life become affairs of magnitude; and the greatest are ignominiously brought to a low level; as is the case when we discuss the Creator.
94. The nature of man is wholly natural.
100. Self-love. The Catholic religion does not bind us to confess our sins indiscriminately to everybody; it allows them to remain hidden from all other men save one, to whom she bids us reveal the innermost recesses of our heart and show ourselves as we are. There is only this one man in the world whom she orders us to undeceive, and she binds him to an inviolable secrecy, which makes this knowledge to him as if it were not. Can we imagine anything more charitable and pleasant? And yet the corruption of man is such that he finds even this law harsh; and it is one of the main reasons which has caused a great part of Europe to rebel against the Church.
102. Some vices only lay hold of us by means of others, and these, like branches, fall on removal of the trunk.
104. When our passion leads us to do something, we forget our duty; for example, we like a book and read it, when we ought to be doing something else. Now, to remind ourselves of our duty, we must set ourselves a task we dislike; we then plead that we have something else to do and by this means remember our duty.
106. By knowing each man's ruling passion, we are sure of pleasing him; and yet each has his fancies, opposed to his true good, in the very idea which he has of the good. It is a singularly puzzling fact.
111. Inconstancy. We think we are playing on ordinary organs when playing upon man. Men are organs, it is true, but, odd, changeable, variable with pipes not arranged in proper order.
120. Nature diversifies and imitates; art imitates and diversifies.
122. Time heals griefs and quarrels, for we change and are no longer the same persons. Neither the offender nor the offended are any more themselves. It is like a nation which we have provoked, but meet again after two generations. They are still Frenchmen, but not the same.
129. Our nature consists in motion; complete rest is death.
134. How useless is painting, which attracts admiration by the resemblance of things, the originals of which we do not admire!
135. The struggle alone pleases us, not the victory. We love to see animals fighting, not the victor infuriated over the vanquished. Likewise in plays, scenes which do not rouse the emotion of fear are worthless, so are extreme and hopeless misery, brutal lust, and extreme cruelty.
136. A mere trifle consoles us, for a mere trifle distresses us.
141. Men spend their time in following a ball or a hare; it is the pleasure even of kings.
148. We are so presumptuous that we would wish to be known by all the world, even by people who shall come after, when we shall be no more; and we are so vain that the esteem of five or six neighbours delights and contents us.
150. Vanity is so anchored in the heart of man that a soldier, a soldier's servant, a cook, a porter brags and wishes to have his admirers. Even philosophers wish for them. Those who write against it want to have the glory of having written well; and those who read it desire the glory of having read it. I who write this have perhaps this desire, and perhaps those who will read it...
152. Pride. Curiosity is only vanity. Most frequently we wish to know but to talk. Otherwise we would not take a sea voyage in order never to talk of it, and for the sole pleasure of seeing without hope of ever communicating it.
154. I have no friends to your advantage.
162. He who will know fully the vanity of man has only to consider the causes and effects of love. The cause is a je ne sais quoi (Corneille), and the effects are dreadful. This I-know-not-what, so small an object that we cannot recognise it, agitates a whole country, princes, armies, the entire world.
Cleopatra's nose: had it been shorter, the whole aspect of the world would have been altered.
168. Diversion. 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.
171. Misery. The only thing which consoles us for our miseries is diversion, and yet this is the greatest of our miseries.
176. Cromwell was about to ravage all Christendom; the royal family was undone, and his own for ever established, save for a little grain of sand which formed in his ureter. Rome herself was trembling under him; but this small piece of gravel having formed there, he is dead, his family cast down, all is peaceful, and the king is restored.
180. The great and the humble have the same misfortunes, the same griefs, the same passions; but the one is at the top of the wheel, and the other near the centre, and so less disturbed by the same revolutions.
181. We are so unfortunate that we can only take pleasure in a thing on condition of being annoyed if it turn out ill, as a thousand things can do, and do every hour. He who should find the secret of rejoicing in the good, without troubling himself with its contrary evil, would have hit the mark. It is perpetual motion.
183. We run carelessly to the precipice, after we have put something before us to prevent us seeing it.
OF THE NECESSITY OF THE WAGER
184. A letter to incite to the search after God.
187. Order. Men despise religion; they hate it and fear it is true. To remedy this, we must begin by showing that religion is not contrary to reason; that it is venerable, to inspire respect for it; then we must make it lovable, to make good men hope it is true; finally, we must prove it is true.
189. To begin by pitying unbelievers; they are wretched enough by their condition. We ought only to revile them where it is beneficial; but this does them harm.
194. The immortality of the soul is a matter which is of so great consequence to us and which touches us so profoundly that we must have lost all feeling to be indifferent as to knowing what it is. Surely then it is a great evil to be in doubt, but it is at least an indispensable duty to seek when we are in such doubt; and thus the doubter who does not seek is altogether completely unhappy and completely wrong.
195. Before entering into the proofs of the Christian religion, I find it necessary to point out the sinfulness of those men who live in indifference to the search for truth in a matter which is so important to them, and which touches them so nearly.
196. Men lack heart; they would not make a friend of it.
204. If we ought to devote eight hours of life, we ought to devote a hundred years.
206. The eternal silence of these infinite spaces frightens me.
207. How many kingdoms know us not!
212. Instability. It is a horrible thing to feel all that we possess slipping away.
213. Between us and heaven or hell there is only life, which is the frailest thing in the world.
217. An heir finds the title-deeds of his house. Will he say, "Perhaps they are forged" and neglect to examine them?
219. Undoubtedly the question whether the soul is mortal or immortal must have a profound influence on morals . And yet philosophers have constructed their ethics independently of this: they discuss to pass an hour.
221. Atheists ought to say what is perfectly evident; now it is not perfectly evident that the soul is material.
222. Atheists. What reason have they for saying that we cannot rise from the dead? What is more difficult, to be born or to rise again; that what has never been should be, or that what has been should be again? Is it more difficult to come into existence than to return to it? Why cannot a virgin bear a child? Does a hen not lay eggs without a cock? What distinguishes these outwardly from others? And who has told us that the hen may not form the germ as well as the cock?
225. Atheism shows strength of mind, but only to a certain degree.
226. Infidels, who profess to follow reason, ought to be exceedingly strong in reason. What say they then? "Do we not see," say they, "that the brutes live and die like men, and Turks like Christians? They have their ceremonies, their prophets, their doctors, their saints, their monks, like us," etc. (Is this contrary to Scripture? Does it not say all this?)
228. Objection of atheists: "But we have no light."
230. 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.
233. If there is a God, He is infinitely incomprehensible, since, having neither parts nor limits, He has no affinity to us. We are then incapable of knowing either what He is or if He is. This being so, who will dare to undertake to decide the question? Not we, who have no affinity to Him.
How, therefore, shall Christians be blamed for not being able to give reason for their belief, since they profess a religion for which reason cannot be given? They declare, when they show it to the world, that it is a folly; are you, then, to complain that they do not prove it? If they proved it, they would be contradicting themselves; their good sense lies in their having no proof. Do not, then, reprove for error those who have made a choice; for you know nothing about it. "No, but I blame them for having made, not this choice, but a choice; for again both he who chooses heads and he who chooses tails are equally at fault, they are both in the wrong. The true course is not to wager at all."
Yes; but you must wager. It is not optional. You are embarked. You are in the game. 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. Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God exists. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation that He is. "That is very fine. Yes, I must wager; but I may perhaps wager too much." Since there is an equal risk of gain and of loss, if you had only to gain two lives, instead of one, you might still wager. But there is here an infinity of an infinitely happy life to gain, a chance of gain against a finite number of chances of loss "I confess it, I admit it. But, still, is there no means of seeing the faces of the cards?" Yes, Scripture and the rest, etc. "Yes, but I have my hands tied and my mouth closed; I am forced to wager, and am not free. I am not released, and am so made that I cannot believe. What, then, would you have me do?" My reply is this. What you say is quite true. But you may learn from it. Labour to convince yourself, not by accumulating proofs of God, but by weakening your passions. You wish to arrive at the faith, and you do not know the road; you wish to cure yourself of infidelity, and you are asking for remedies; learn, then, from those who have been bound as you are, but now stake all their welfare; they are the people who know the road which you would follow and are healed of the ills of which you would be healed. They began by acting in every way as if they believed, by taking holy water, having masses said, and so on. This will naturally make you believe and will stultify you.
'But that is just what I fear!' And why? What have you to lose?
But to show you that this way leads you to faith, let me tell you that it will lessen the passions which are your stumbling-blocks.
The end of this discourse. Now, what harm will befall you in taking this side? You will be faithful, humble, grateful, generous, a sincere friend, truthful. Certainly you will not have those poisonous pleasures, glory and luxury; but will you not have others? I will tell you that you will thereby gain in this life, and that, at each step you take on this road, you will see so great certainty of gain, so much nothingness in what you risk, that you will at last recognise that you have wagered for something certain and infinite, for which you have given nothing.
If this discourse pleases you and seems impressive, know that it is made by a man who has knelt, both before and after it, in prayer to that Being, infinite and without parts, before whom he lays all he has, for you also to lay before Him all you have for your own good and for His glory, that so strength may be given to lowliness.
239. Objection. Those who hope for salvation have happiness in that; but they have as a counterpoise the fear of hell.
Reply. Who has most reason to fear hell: he who is in ignorance whether there is a hell, and who is certain of damnation if there is; or he who certainly believes there is a hell and hopes to be saved if there is?
OF THE MEANS OF BELIEF
243. It is an astounding fact that no canonical writer has ever made use of nature to prove God. They all strive to make us believe in Him. David, Solomon, etc., have never said, "There is no void, therefore there is a God." They must have had more knowledge than the most learned people who came after them, and who have all made use of this argument. This is worthy of attention.
244. "Why! Do you not say yourself that the heavens and birds prove God?" No. "And does your religion not say so"? No. For although it is true in a sense for some souls to whom God gives this light, yet it is false with respect to the majority of men.
245. There are three sources of belief: reason, custom, inspiration. The Christian religion, which alone has reason, does not acknowledge as her true children those who believe without inspiration.
251. Other religions, as the pagan, are more popular, for they consist in externals. But they are not for educated people. A purely intellectual religion would be more suited to the learned, but it would be of no use to the common people. The Christian religion alone is adapted to all, being composed of externals and internals. It raises the common people to the internal, and humbles the proud to the external; it is not perfect without the two, for the people must understand the spirit of the letter, and the learned must submit their spirit to the letter.
255. Piety is different from superstition.
256. I say there are few true Christians, even as regards faith. There are many who believe but from superstition. There are many who do not believe solely from wickedness. Few are between the two.
276. M. de Roannez said: "Reasons come to me afterwards, but at first a thing pleases or shocks me without my knowing the reason, and yet it shocks me for that reason which I only discover afterwards." But I believe, not that it shocked him for the reasons which were found afterwards, but that these reasons were only found because it shocked him.
278. It is the heart which experiences God, and not the reason. This, then, is faith: God felt by the heart, not by the reason.
288. Instead of complaining that God had hidden Himself, you will give Him thanks for not having revealed so much of Himself; and you will also give Him thanks for not having revealed Himself to haughty sages, unworthy to know so holy a God.
JUSTICE AND THE REASON OF EFFECTS
319. How rightly do we distinguish men by external appearances rather than by internal qualities! Which of us two shall have precedence? Who will give place to the other? The least clever. But I am as clever as he. We should have to fight over this. He has four lackeys, and I have only one. This can be seen; we have only to count. It falls to me to yield, and I am a fool if I contest the matter. By this means we are at peace, which is the greatest of boons.
320. The most unreasonable things in the world become most reasonable, because of the unruliness of men. What is less reasonable than to choose the eldest son of a queen to rule a State? We do not choose as captain of a ship the passenger who is of the best family.
This law would be absurd and unjust; but, because men are so themselves and always will be so, it becomes reasonable and just. For whom will men choose, as the most virtuous and able? We at once come to blows, as each claims to be the most virtuous and able. Let us then attach this quality to something indisputable. This is the king's eldest son. That is clear, and there is no dispute. Reason can do no better, for civil war is the greatest of evils.
327. The world is a good judge of things, for it is in natural ignorance, which is man's true state. The sciences have two extremes which meet. The first is the pure natural ignorance in which all men find themselves at birth. The other extreme is that reached by great intellects, who, having run through all that men can know, find they know nothing, and come back again to that same ignorance from which they set out; but this is a learned ignorance which is conscious of itself. Those between the two, who have departed from natural ignorance and not been able to reach the other, have some smattering of this vain knowledge and pretend to be wise. These trouble the world and are bad judges of everything. The people and the wise constitute the world; these despise it, and are despised. They judge badly of everything, and the world judges rightly of them.
330. The power of kings is founded on the reason and on the folly of the people, and specially on their folly. The greatest and most important thing in the world has weakness for its foundation, and this foundation is wonderfully sure; for there is nothing more sure than this, that the people will be weak. What is based on sound reason is very ill-founded as the estimate of wisdom.
331. We can only think of Plato and Aristotle in grand academic robes. They were honest men, like others, laughing with their friends, and, when they diverted themselves with writing their Laws and the Politics, they did it as an amusement. That part of their life was the least philosophic and the least serious; the most philosophic was to live simply and quietly. If they wrote on politics, it was as if laying down rules for a lunatic asylum; and if they presented the appearance of speaking of a great matter, it was because they knew that the madmen, to whom they spoke, thought they were kings and emperors. They entered into their principles in order to make their madness as little harmful as possible.
358. Man is neither angel nor brute, and the unfortunate thing is that he who would act the angel acts the brute.
378. Scepticism. Excess, like defect of intellect, is accused of madness. Nothing is good but mediocrity.
385. Scepticism. Each thing here is partly true and partly false. Essential truth is not so; it is altogether pure and altogether true. This mixture dishonours and annihilates it. Nothing is purely true, and thus nothing is true, meaning by that pure truth. You will say it is true that homicide is wrong. Yes; for we know well the wrong and the false. But what will you say is good? Chastity? I say no; for the world would come to an end. Marriage? No; continence is better. Not to kill? No; for lawlessness would be horrible, and the wicked would kill all the good. To kill? No; for that destroys nature. We possess truth and goodness only in part, and mingled with falsehood and evil.
394. All the principles of philosophers are true: the sceptics, the stoics, the atheists and so on. But their conclusions are false, because the opposite principles are also true.
400. The greatness of man. We have so great an idea of the soul of man that we cannot endure being despised, or not being esteemed by any soul; and all the happiness of men consists in this esteem.
401. Glory. The brutes do not admire each other. A horse does not admire his companion. Not that there is no rivalry between them in a race, but that is of no consequence; for, when in the stable, the heaviest and most ill-formed does not give up his oats to another, as men would have others do to them. Their virtue is satisfied with itself.
404. The greatest baseness of man is the pursuit of glory. But is the greatest mark of his excellence; for whatever possessions he may have on earth, whatever health and essential comfort, he is not satisfied if he has not the esteem of men. He values human reason so highly that, whatever advantages he may have on earth, he is not content if he is not also ranked highly in the judgement of man. This is the finest position in the world. Nothing can turn him from that desire, which is the most indelible quality of man's heart.
And those who must despise men, and put them on a level with the brutes, yet wish to be admired and believed by men, and contradict themselves by their own feelings; their nature, which is stronger than all, convincing them of the greatness of man more forcibly than reason convinces them of their baseness.
406. Pride counterbalances and takes away all miseries. Here is a strange monster and a very plain aberration. He is fallen from his place and is anxiously seeking it. This is what all men do. Let us see who will have found it.
409. The greatness of man. The greatness of man is so evident that it is even proved by his wretchedness. For what in animals is nature, we call in man wretchedness, by which we recognise that, his nature being now like that of animals, he has fallen from a better nature which once was his.
414. Men are so necessarily mad that not to be mad would amount to another form of madness.
418. It is dangerous to make man see too clearly his equality with the brutes without showing him his greatness. It is also dangerous to make his see his greatness too clearly, apart from his vileness. It is still more dangerous to leave him in ignorance of both. But it is very advantageous to show him both. Man must not think that he is on a level either with the brutes or with the angels, nor must he be ignorant of both sides of his nature; but he must know both.
423. Contraries. Let man now know his value. Let him love himself, for there is in him a nature capable of good; but let him not for this reason love the vileness which is in him. Let him despise himself, for this capacity is barren; but let him not therefore despise this natural capacity. Let him hate himself, let him love himself; he has within him the capacity of knowing the truth and of being happy, but he possesses no truth, either constant or satisfactory.
MORALITY AND DOCTRINE
425. All men seek happiness. This is without exception.
427. Man does not know in what rank to place himself. He has plainly gone astray and fallen from his true place without being able to find it again. He seeks it anxiously and unsuccessfully everywhere in impenetrable darkness.
429. The vileness of man in submitting himself to the brutes and in even worshipping them.
433. After having understood the whole nature of man. That a religion may be true, it must have knowledge of our nature. It ought to know its greatness and littleness, and the reason of both. What religion but the Christian has known this?
437. We desire truth, and find only uncertainty; we seek happiness and find only misery and death. It is inevitable that we should wish for truth and happiness; yet are we incapable of experiencing either the one or the other. This we must consider as a punishment, and a warning to show us from whence we have fallen.
438. If man is not made for God, why is he only happy in God? If man is made for God, why is he so opposed to God?
446. Of original sin. Ample tradition of original sin according to the Jews. On the saying in Genesis 8:21: "The imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth." Rabbi Moses Haddarschan: "This evil leaven is placed in man from the time that he is formed". Massechet Succa: "This evil leaven has seven names in Scripture. It is called evil, the foreskin, uncleanness, an enemy, a scandal, a heart of stone, the north wind; all this signifies the malignity which is concealed and impressed in the heart of man."
451. All men naturally hate one another. They employ lust as far as possible in the service of the public weal. But this is only a pretence and a false image of love; for at bottom it is only hate.
459. The rivers of Babylon rush and fall and sweep away.
O holy Zion, where all is firm and nothing falls!
We must sit upon the waters, not under them or in them, but on them; and not standing but seated; being seated to be humble, and being above them to be secure. But we shall stand in the porches of Jerusalem.
462. Search for the true good. Ordinary men place the good in fortune and external goods, or at least in amusement. Philosophers have shown the vanity of all this and have placed it where they could.
464. Philosophers. We are full of things which take us out of ourselves.
465. The Stoics say, "Retire within yourselves; it is there you will find your rest."
And that is not true.
Others say, "Go out of yourselves; seek happiness in amusement." And this is not true. Illness comes.
Happiness is neither without us nor within us. It is in God, both without us and within us.
468. No other religion has proposed to men to hate themselves. No other religion, then, can please those who hate themselves, and who seek a Being truly lovable. And these, if they had never heard of the religion of a God humiliated, would embrace it at once.
541. None is so happy as a true Christian, nor so reasonable, virtuous, or amiable.
549. It is not only impossible but useless to know God without Jesus Christ.
THE FUNDAMENTALS OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION
556. Men blaspheme what they do not know. The Christian religion consists in two points. It is of equal concern to men to know them, and it is equally dangerous to be ignorant of them. And it is equally of God's mercy that He has given indications of both.
561. There are two ways of proving the truths of our religion; one by the power of reason, the other by the authority of him who speaks.
562. There is nothing on earth that does not show either the wretchedness of man, or the mercy of God; either the weakness of man without God, or the strength of man with God.
565. Recognise, then, the truth of religion in the very obscurity of religion, in the little light we have of it, and in the indifference which we have to knowing it.
568. Objection. The Scripture is plainly full of matters not dictated by the Holy Spirit. Answer. Then they do not harm faith. Do you think that the prophecies cited in the Gospel are related to make you believe? No, it is to keep you from believing.
574. Greatness. Religion is so great a thing that it is right that those who will not take the trouble to seek it, if it be obscure, should be deprived of it.
583. The feeble-minded are people who know the truth.
589. On the fact that the Christian religion is not the only religion. So far is this from being a reason for believing that it is not the true one that, on the contrary, it makes us see that it is so.
590. Men must be sincere in all religions; true heathens, true Jews, true Christians.
593. History of China. I believe only the histories, whose witnesses got themselves killed.
597. Against Mahomet. The Koran is not more of Mahomet than the Gospel is of Saint Matthew, for it is cited by many authors from age to age. Even its very enemies, Celsus and Porphyry, never denied it.
The Koran says Saint Matthew was an honest man. Therefore Mahomet was a false prophet for calling honest men wicked, or for not agreeing with what they have said of Jesus Christ.
599. The difference between Jesus Christ and Mahomet. Mahomet was not foretold; Jesus Christ was foretold. Mahomet slew; Jesus Christ caused His own to be slain. Mahomet forbade reading; the Apostles ordered reading.
600. Any man can do what Mahomet has done; for he performed no miracles, he was not foretold. No man can do what Christ has done.
601. The heathen religion has no foundation at the present day.
603. The Jewish religion is wholly divine in its authority, its duration, its perpetuity, its morality, its doctrine, and its effects.
Pascal's grave in Saint Etienne-Du-Mont, Paris
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