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About the Author: Blaise Pascal

French mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal was a contemporary of René Descartes and was ten when Galileo Galilei was forced to recant his belief that the earth circled the sun. He and Thomas Hobbes lived in Paris at the same time (1640) including the year Hobbes published his famous Leviathan (1651). Together with Pierre de Fermat, Pascal created the calculus of probabilities.

A near-fatal carriage accident in November 1654 — less than eight years before his death — persuaded him to turn his intellect finally toward religion. The story goes that on the proverbial dark and stormy night, while Pascal was riding in a carriage across a bridge in a Paris suburb, a fright caused the horses to bolt, sending them over the edge. The carriage bearing Pascal survived. Pascal took the incident as a sign and devoted himself to theology. It was at this point that he began writing a series against the Jesuits in 1657 called the Provincial Letters.

Pascal is perhaps most famous for his Wager ('Pascal's Wager'), which is not as clear in his language as in this summary: "If Jesus does not exist, the non Christian loses little by believing in him and gains little by not believing. If Jesus does exist, the non Christian gains eternal life by believing and loses an infinite good by not believing.”

Sick throughout his life, Pascal died in Paris, probably from a combination of tuberculosis and stomach cancer at age 39. At the last he was a Jansenist Catholic. No one knows if Pascal won his Wager.

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Paperback, Published in Jul 2008 by Oxford University Press, USA

ISBN10: 0199540365 | ISBN13: 9780199540365

Page count: 267

For much of his life, Pascal (1623-62) worked on a magnum opus which was never published in its intended form. Instead, he left a mass of fragments which became known as the Pensées, and they occupy a crucial place in Western philosophy and religious writing. Pascal's general intention was to confound scepticism about metaphysical questions. Some of the Pensées are fully developed literary reflections on the human condition, some contradict others, and some remain jottings whose meaning will never be clear. The most important are among the most powerful aphorisms about human experience and behaviour ever written in any language.

This translation is the only one based on the Pensees as Pascal left them. It includes the principal dossiers classified by Pascal, as well as the essential portion of the important Writings on Grace.

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