'Pensées and Other Writings'
By Blaise Pascal (Author), Anthony Levi (Editor), Honor Levi (Translator)
For much of his life, Pascal (1623-62) worked on a magnum opus which was never published in the form the philosopher intended. Instead, Pascal left a mass of fragments, some of them meant as notes for the Apologie. These 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 behavior ever written in any language.
This translation is the only one based on the Pensées as Pascal left them. It includes the principal dossiers classified by Pascal, as well as the essential portion of the important Writings on Grace. A detailed thematic index gives access to Pascal's areas of concern, while the selection of texts and the introduction help to show why Pascal changed the plan of his projected work before abandoning the book he might have written.
About the Series: For over 100 years Oxford World's Classics has made available the broadest spectrum of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford's commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, voluminous notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more.
"It is an outstandingly clear translation."
(Doug Kennard, Moody Bible Institute)
"Excellent edition and translation."
(Professor Forrest Williams, University of Colorado)
"With its informative introduction, clear translation, and accessible arrangement, this volume would serve admirably in sparking discussion in class and in inducing students to ponder unexpected questions."
(Pashcal M. Baumstein, O.S.B., Belmont Abbey College)
"Very readable. A fine translation."
(Professor Michael Boylan, Marymount University)
"This is the edition of the Pensees I've been waiting for. I'll definitely use it in undergraduate courses."
(Doug Blount, Criswell College)
"This is a solid translation and Anthony Levi's introduction brings a definite plus to it."
(Catherine Danielou, University of Alabama at Birmingham)
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.