Blaise Pascal Criticism - Essay

Isaac Taylor (essay date 1894)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: An introduction to Thoughts on Religion and Philosophy, by Blaise Pascal, translated by Isaac Taylor, Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Adams, & Co., 1894, pp. iii-lx.

[In the following excerpt, Taylor argues that the Pensées reveal Pascal to be an opponent of, rather than apologist for, Roman Catholicism.]

Those periodic agitations to which all social systems, whether civil or religious, are liable, carry with them a twofold and opposite influence; the one, and the most direct, tending to give rise to similar movements in neighbouring communities; and the other, operating with hardly less force, to preclude any such convulsions where else they probably...

(The entire section is 20954 words.)

Jean Mesnard (essay date 1952)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: A conclusion to Pascal: His Life and Works, translated by G. S. Fraser, Harvill Press, 1952, pp. 179-201.

[Below, Mesnard examines Pascal's life and career as a scientist, thinker, theologian, and artist.]

I. The Man

"Pascal, not the writer, but the man": with this phrase the Swiss moral philosopher, Vinet, drawing his inspiration from one of the most famous of the Pensées, headed one of the chapters of his Etudes sur Pascal. It is, indeed, one of the most notable facts about Pascal's astonishing personality that, however great his genius as a mere writer may appear to us to be, it is Pascal the man, in the end,...

(The entire section is 7750 words.)

Jan Miel (essay date 1969)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "Pascal and Theology," in Blaise Pascal, edited by Harold Bloom, Chelsea House Publishers, 1989, pp. 115-22.

[In the following essay, which originally appeared in Pascal and Theology in 1969, Miel emphasizes the historical nature of Pascal's vision of humanity as well as his theological basis for nearly all his thought.]

The historicity of man's condition is certainly one of the most difficult of all theological principles to discuss and keep firmly in mind. Rational thought is by its nature opposed to historical truth, aiming as it does at a truth that transcends historical vicissitudes. Yet, as we have seen [elsewhere], every important element of...

(The entire section is 3836 words.)

David Wetsel (essay date 1994)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "Catechesis and Conversion in the Pensées," in Pascal and Disbelief: Catechesis and Conversion in the "Pensees," The Catholic University of America Press, 1994, pp. 327-86.

[In the following excerpt, Wetsel seeks to determine the person(s) to whom the Pensées are principally addressed, largely basing his conclusions on Pascal's portrayal and analysis of atheists and agnostics in fragments 427 and 429.]

Many sections of the Pensées must remain enigmatic until we are able to reconstruct more completely the mental universe of Pascal's potential convert. But … who is he? The Pensées give us a number of quite dissimilar portraits of...

(The entire section is 6039 words.)

Donald Adamson (essay date 1995)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "The Provincial Letters," in Blaise Pascal: Mathematician, Physicist and Thinker about God, St. Martin's Press, 1995, pp. 85-114.

[In the following essay, Adamson analyzes the various structural and stylistic methods Pascal used in the Provincial Letters to attack the Jesuits' beliefs about casuistry.]

'If the Provincial Letters were serious, nobody would read them any more', Gide has written.1 The Letters are in fact profoundly—even, at times, desperately—serious, but Pascal does not become pompously solemn or tediously earnest: he is never boring. Yet to many, if not most, people the subjects he is basically canvassing...

(The entire section is 11296 words.)

Leszek Kolakowski (essay date 1995)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "Good Reason, Bad Reason, Heart," in God Owes Us Nothing: A Brief Remark on Pascal's Religion and on the Spirit of Jansenism, The University of Chicago Press, 1995, pp. 145-60.

[In the following excerpt, Kolakowski examines several key aspects of Pascal's theology, including his concepts of heart, free will, truth, faith, knowledge, and reason.]

[The] heart, at least in its primary sense, that related to the acquisition of religious truths, is not a sentimental attitude or an emotion. It is a faculty of intellectual intuition whereby we accept truths unattainable either by mathematical reasoning or by the testimony of sense experience. In the essay De...

(The entire section is 6581 words.)