The Paradox of Pascal’s Pensées

  • Robert McBride


One of the striking features of the Pensées is the fact that they do not begin their apology for the Christian religion with any of the classical Christian proofs of the existence of God and the truth of Christianity. The reader cannot fail to notice the absence of such traditional scholastic arguments as those based on cosmology, teleology, the rational ordering of the universe, and the moral consciousness of man which leads him to accept a metaphysical source for his value-judgements. Pascal likewise refuses to employ ontological arguments, such as Descartes’ proof of God’s existence derived from the presence in his mind of the idea of perfection.1 Arguments drawn from history and prophecy, as well as from the comparative study of other religions, are used in the second part of the Pensées, but they serve a secondary function in the overall design of the apology.


Christian Religion True Religion Nous Sommes Existential Situation Divine Truth 
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  1. 4.
    H. Friedrich, ‘Pascals Paradox. Das Sprachbild einer Denkform’. ZFRP, 56 (1936), pp. 322–70.Google Scholar
  2. 6.
    see L. Brunschvicg, Descartes et Pascal, lecteurs de Montaigne (New York, 1944), Ch. 3.Google Scholar
  3. 14.
    On the ways in which Montaigne uses the sceptical principles of Sextus Empiricus, see R. H. Popkin, The History of Scepticism from Erasmus to Descartes (Assen, 1960), Ch. 3.Google Scholar
  4. 20.
    on the various positions suggested for the wager fragment in the apology see H. Gouhier, Blaise Pascal, Commentaires (Paris, 1966 ), pp. 297–306.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Robert McBride 1979

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert McBride
    • 1
  1. 1.The Queen’s University of BelfastUK

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