Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 182
Mathematician Blaise Pascal's collection of philosophical essays, Pensées, has various theological themes. One of the most prominent themes is the search for human existence's purpose. Pascal opines that the search for God is equivalent to the search for meaning in one's life. Therefore, our current human existence is part of our journey toward divinity.
Within this theme, Pascal states that the search for the divine will lead to immortality. He believes that our existence on Earth has limitations, such as human frailties and flaws. Humans—regardless of class and status—will all experience death, but there is a metaphysical plane beyond death.
Another theme in the text is Pascal's argument for the existence of God. God's existence itself is interlinked to our own existence. This symbiotic relationship between mortals and God is the essence of religion. However, Pascal also believes that rational thought will not conflict with religious faith. He recognizes that human behavior is rooted in thoughts, but he believes that the reasonable person will choose to believe in God, because it is the option that makes the most sense.
Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 641
Having distinguished between the God of philosophers and scholars and the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jesus, Pascal elaborates his convictions about God and God’s relation to humankind. As a Christian, Pascal affirms that his religion teaches two essential truths: There is a God we can know; there is also a corruption in human nature that renders us unworthy. God, however, is “a God of love,” adds Pascal, and God will “fill the soul and heart of those whom He possesses.” Such claims, however, are not rationally demonstrable. On the contrary, religion often places us in a precarious position, saying that people are in “darkness and estranged from God.” Religion pushes reason to its limits, but, Pascal asserts in one of his most famous lines, “the heart has its reasons, which reason does not know.” He goes on to argue that primarily the heart, not reason, experiences God. Indeed faith is characterized by heartfelt experience of God.
As Pascal saw it, one’s decision as to whether life makes sense does not depend ultimately on reason alone but at least as much on one’s willingness to act when confronted by a forced wager. This is Pascal’s fundamental spiritual point. He argues that this situation need not offend reason. Indeed, defining life as meaningful is no greater affront to reason than the opposite decision. One has everything to gain and nothing to lose, at least in the long run, by believing. An eternity of happiness is at stake.
In fact, when forced to gamble, the paradox is that the reasonable action is to let choice transcend reason in order to allow oneself to be possessed by God. According to Pascal, those who demand certainty prior to commitment fail to understand the human situation. If one objects that religion is too uncertain and God too difficult, while sufficient meaning can be found without entanglement in the vagaries of either,...
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