Sir Thomas Browne
‘The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing …Is it reason that makes you love yourself?’
Blaise Pascal (1623–62) was a mathematician and physicist who invented the mechanical calculator and developed probability theory. After experiencing a crisis and renewal of faith, he set out to write what he titled a ‘Defence of the Christian Religion’. He did not live to complete it, but after his death, his followers published the collection of fragments and essays he had left in preparation. This series of reflections – pensées – on subjects as varied as reason, infinity, boredom and human nature, lead Pascal to the same conclusions: that reason alone cannot explain our existence, and that man needs God in order to be happy.
Pascal is equally celebrated for his simple, original prose style and for his profound conclusions that have influenced generations of thinkers and writers from Kierkegaard to Samuel Beckett. The only illustrated edition of Pensées in print, this volume contains a magnificent range of paintings by Pascal’s contemporary, Philippe de Champaigne, who became a follower of the Jansenist creed espoused by Pascal after his daughter was cured at the Abbey of Port-Royal, the same place that inspired Pascal’s renewal of faith. The introduction, by T. S. Eliot, is a brilliant analysis of Pascal’s thought and influence.
‘There are passages in the Pensées that stop you dead – breathtakingly bold and elegant formulations of their author’s views on human nature and behaviour, Scripture, prophecy and divinity. When Pascal decries the vanity of painting (it makes us admire things we care little for in real life) or explains his famous “wager” (you might as well believe in God since you have nothing to lose if He doesn’t exist), the ingenuity of his argumentation recommends ideas which in a lesser writer might unsettle or even outrage. Wise, wry, provocative and disarmingly honest, this collection of short essays and aphorisms presents a form of literature without equivalent anywhere else – a literary mosaic in which every tessera possesses its own brilliance, but whose meaning, profound yet clear, emerges only from an apprehension of the whole.’
Review by PAULALOUD on 2nd Mar 2013
"A handsome bound edition of a classic. Pleasing typeface, great format and a compelling read. Beautiful illustrations make this a desirable volume to have in your collection. Pascal was primarily a..." [read more]