Characters

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Last Updated on August 7, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 527

Pascal's Pensées is not a story, so there are no characters in the conventional sense of the term. Nevertheless, one could say that Pascal himself is a very important character in this collection of some of his most profound and enduring thoughts. Throughout the book, we are treated to a privileged glimpse of the inner workings of his soul through the often paradoxical opinions he expresses on a wide variety of subjects. Reading the Pensées, we gain a profound insight, not just into Pascal's character, but into the very nature of the human condition itself. Once we've closed this most remarkable of books, we feel that Pascal has laid bare his very soul to us, and in doing so, has told us many things about ourselves that we'd otherwise never have grasped.

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Much of the Pensées is devoted to Pascal's relationship with God. In that sense, one could say that God appears as a character in the book. Pascal is a devout Catholic, and religion is clearly everything to him. At the same time, Pascal is a mathematician of genius, an innovator in the field of natural science, and a man of reason. And it's as a man of reason that Pascal wishes to convince others of a similar level of education of religion's intrinsic rationality.

To that end, Pascal posits his famous Wager, an argument designed to convince the learned skeptic that he really has nothing to lose by believing in God. At the same time, Pascal is at pains to point out that knowledge of God's existence is not amenable to rational proof or argument; it's purely a matter of faith. Though the existence of God cannot be proved by reason, belief in God does indeed have a rational basis according to Pascal, and this is the point that he tries to make using his famous Wager argument.

One could say that the learned skeptic is himself a character in the book. Although most people in Pascal's day were quite devout, there were some among the upper echelons of society who adopted...

(The entire section contains 527 words.)

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