Monday, January 10, 2011

Pascal Surplus

I am giving a talk (MP3) on Pascal Tuesday. I didn’t have room for a third of the Pensees quotes I like, so I am posting the rest of them here.

“We never keep to the present. We recall the past; we anticipate the future as if we found it too slow in coming and were trying to hurry it up, or we recall the past as if to stay its too rapid flight. We are so unwise that we wander about in times that do not belong to us…Let each of us examine his thoughts; he will find them wholly concerned with the past or the future…Thus we never actually live, but hope to live, and since we are always planning to be happy it is inevitable that we should never be so.”

“The power of kings if founded on the reason and folly of the people, but especially their folly. The greatest and most important thing in the world is founded on weakness. This is a remarkably sure foundation, for nothing is surer than that people will be weak. Anything founded on sound reason is very ill-founded, like respect for reason.”

“Put the world’s greatest philosopher on a plank that is wider than need be: if there is a precipice below, although his reason may convince him that he is safe, his imagination will prevail.”

“Justice and truths are two points so fine that our instruments are too blunt to touch them exactly.”

“Man is nothing but a subject full of natural error that cannot be eradicated except through grace. Nothing shows him the truth, everything deceives him. The two principals of truth, reason and senses, are not only both genuine, but are engaged in mutual deception. The senses deceive reason through false appearances, and, just as they trick the soul, they are tricked by it in their passions, which produce false impressions. The both compete in lies and deception.”

“If our condition were truly happy we should not need to divert ourselves from thinking about it.”

“How tiresome it is to give up pursuits to which we have become attached. A man enjoying a happy home-life has only to see a woman who attracts him, or spend five or six pleasant days gambling, and he will be very sorry to go back to what he was doing before. It happens every day.”

“…as men could not make might obey right, they have made right obey might. As they could not fortify justice they have justified force…”

“It is just as pointless and absurd for reason to demand proof of first principles from the heart before agreeing to accept them as it would be absurd for the heart to demand an intuition of all the propositions demonstrated by reason before agreeing to accept them.”

“Man’s greatness comes from knowing he is wretched…”

“If he exalts himself, I humble him.
If he humbles himself, I exalt him.
And I go on contradicting him
Until he understands
That he is a monster that passes all understanding.”

“This means open war between men, in which everyone is obliged to take sides, either with the dogmatist or with the skeptics, because anyone who imagines he can stay neutral is a skeptic par excellence. This neutrality is the essence of their clique…They are not even for themselves; they are neutral, indifferent suspending judgment on everything, including themselves.”

“Let us concede to the skeptics what they have so often proclaimed, that truth lies beyond our scope and is an unattainable quarry, that it is no earthly denizen, bt at home in heaven, lying in the lap of God, to be known only in so far as it pleases him to reveal it. Let us learn our true nature from the uncreated and incarnate truth.”

“Know then, proud man, what a paradox you are to yourself. Be humble, impotent reason! Be silent, feeble nature! Learn that man infinitely transcends man, hear from your master your true condition, which is unknown to you. Listen to God…man infinitely transcends man, and without the aid of faith he would remain inconceivable to himself…Consequently, it is not through the proud activity of our reason but through its simple submission that we can really know ourselves. ”

“Diversion: Being unable to cure death, wretchedness and ignorance, men have decided, in order to be happy, not to think about such things…That is why men are so fond of hustle and bustle; that is why prison is such a fearful punishment…”

“All our life passes in this way: we seek rest by struggling against certain obstacles, and once they are overcome, rest proves intolerable because of the boredom it produces. We must get away from it and crave excitement.”

“…none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words, God himself.”

“When everyone is moving towards depravity, no one seems to be moving.”
“Reason never wholly overcomes imagination, though the contrary is quite common…Imagination cannot make fools wise, but it can make them happy…Imagination exaggerates small objects with fanatical exaggeration until they fill our souls.”

“Our imagination…will grow weary of conciving things before nature grows weary of producing them.”

“I believe with (our) curiosity changed into wonder (we) will be more disposed to contemplate them in silence than to investigate them with presumption.”

“Do the philosophers, who offer us nothing else for our good but the good that is within us? Have they found the cure for our ills?”

“There is enough light for those who desire only to see, and enough darkness for those of a contrary disposition.”

“We run heedlessly into the abyss after putting something in front of us to stop us (from) seeing it.”

“Jesus came to blind those who have clear sight and to give sight to the blind; to heal the sick and let the healthy die; to call sinners to repentance and justify them, and to leave the righteous to their sins; to fill the hungry with good things and sedn the rich away empty.”

“True conversion consists in self-annihilation before the universal being whom we have so often vexed and who is perfectly entitled to destroy us at any moment.”

“Total Submission to Jesus Christ...Eternal bliss, in exchange for a day of hard training in this world. May I never forget your words.”

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