Pensées "We Shall Die Alone"

Blaise Pascal

"We Shall Die Alone"

Context: French author and religious leader, Blaise Pascal was an ardent defender of the religious reform movement of Jansenism. Other than Pensées, his best known work is Lettres Provinciales, which began to appear anonymously in 1656 and later under the pseudonym of Montalte; in these letters he sharply attacked the Jesuit opponents of Jansenism. Before his conversion, he was acutely interested in science, devising a theory of probability which, in the opinion of some critics, anticipated the system of calculus. Pensées, a collection of reflections on religion and philosophy, was found among the effects of the author after his death, but publication in its entirety was delayed for more than two centuries (1884) for fear that the thoughts expressed were unorthodox. Actually these reflections represent the first notes for a projected defense of Christianity. Convinced of the inability of man's reason to solve the human dilemma or to satisfy its yearnings, Pascal exalts faith and mystic revelation, saying that the "heart has reasons of which reason itself knows nothing." Human history, indeed our own personal history, has taught us the bitter facts of man's indifference to his fellow man. God alone is immutable; human friends soon falter and fail:

We are fools to depend upon the society of our fellow-men. Wretched as we are, powerless as we are, they will not aid us; we shall die alone. We should therefore act as if we were alone, and in that case should we build fine houses? We should seek the truth without hesitation; and, if we refuse it, we show that we value the esteem of men more than the search for truth.