A philosopher, mathematician, theologian, and visionary, Pascal wrote meditations on God and miracles that inspired the project of an apology or defense of the Christian religion (Catholicism) in his works. His innovations in mathematics included contributions to vacuum theory and the geometry of cycloid curves, and he helped create Paris’ public omnibus carriage system.
During the 1650’s Pascal grew interested in theology and moral philosophy. After undergoing a mystical experience at the convent at Port Royal in 1654, he retired from the world. He wrote his recollection of this mystical experience in a text called “The Memorial,” which he sewed into his clothing in order always to have it with him. During 1656 he came out of retirement briefly to defend Antoine Arnauld from an attack by the Jesuits, publishing the Lettres provinciales (1656-1657), a series of letters defending Jansenism.
Pascal led a quiet life within the walls of Port Royal until his death in 1662. Eight years later a group of Jansenists edited and published Pensées de M. Pascal sur la religion et sur quelques autres sujets (commonly known as the Pensées), fragments salvaged from Pascal’s unfinished work “Apologie de la religion catholique.” Pascal’s nephew believed that the order in which these fragments were discovered after his uncle’s death made no sense, and he reorganized them in an order that seriously distorted...
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