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forms. For instance, the insistence upon good works and "service" which
is preached from many quarters, or the simple faith that any one who
lives a good and useful life need have no "morbid" anxieties about
salvation, is a form of Pelagianism. On the other hand, one sometimes
hears enounced the view that it will make no real difference if all the
traditional religious sanctions for moral behaviour break down, because
those who are born and bred to be nice people will always prefer to
behave nicely, and those who are not will behave otherwise in any case:
and this is surely a form of predestination - for the hazard of being
born a nice person or not is as uncertain as the gift of grace.

It is likely that Pascal was attracted as much by the fruits of
Jansenism in the life of Port-Royal as by the doctrine itself. This
devout, ascetic, thoroughgoing society, striving heroically in the midst
of a relaxed and easy-going Christianity, was formed to attract a nature
so concentrated, so passionate, and so thoroughgoing as Pascal's. But
the insistence upon the degraded and helpless state of man, in
Jansenism, is something also to which we must be grateful, for to it we
owe the magnificent analysis of human motives and occupations which was
to have constituted the early part of his book. And apart from the
Jansenism which is the work of a not very eminent bishop who wrote a
Latin treatise which is now unread, there is also, so to speak, a
Jansenism of the individual biography. A moment of Jansenism may
naturally take place, and take place rightly, in the individual;
particularly in the life of a man of great and intense intellectual
powers, who cannot avoid seeing through human beings and observing the
vanity of their thoughts and of their avocations, their dishonesty and
self-deceptions, the insincerity of their emotions, their cowardice, the
pettiness of their real ambitions. Actually, considering that Pascal
died at the age of thirty-nine, one must be amazed at the balance and
justice of his observations; much greater maturity is required for these
qualities, than for any mathematical or scientific greatness. How easily
his brooding on _the misery of man without God_ might have encouraged in
him the sin of spiritual pride, the _concupiscence de l'esprit_, and how
fast a hold he has of humility!

And although Pascal brings to his work the same powers which he exerted
in science, it is not as a scientist that he presents himself. He does
not seem to say to the reader: I am one of the most distinguished
scientists of the day; I understand many matters which will always be
mysteries to you, and through science I have come to the Faith; you
therefore who are not initiated into science ought to have faith if I
have it. He is fully aware of the difference of subject-matter; and his
famous distinction between the _esprit de géométrie_ and the _esprit de
finesse_ is one to ponder over. It is the just combination of the
scientist, the _honnête homme_, and the religious nature with a
passionate craving for God, that makes Pascal unique. He succeeds where
Descartes fails; for in Descartes the element of _esprit de géométrie_
is excessive.[C] And in a few phrases about Descartes, in the present
book, Pascal laid his finger on the place of weakness.

[C] For a brilliant criticism of the errors of Descartes from a
theological point of view the reader is referred to _Three
Reformers_ by Jacques Maritain (translation published by Sheed &

He who reads this book will observe at once its fragmentary nature; but
only after some study will perceive that the fragmentariness lies in the
expression more than in the thought. The "thoughts" cannot be detached
from each other and quoted as if each were complete in itself. _Le cœur
a ses raisons que la raison ne connaît point_: how often one has heard
that quoted, and quoted often to the wrong purpose! For this is by no
means an exaltation of the "heart" over the "head," a defence of
unreason. The heart, in Pascal's terminology, is itself truly rational
if it is truly the heart. For him, in theological matters, which seemed
to him much larger, more difficult, and more important than scientific
matters, the whole personality is involved.

We cannot quite understand any of the parts, fragmentary as they are,
without some understanding of the whole. Capital, for instance, is his
analysis of the _three orders_: the order of nature, the order of mind,
and the order of charity. These three are _discontinuous_; the higher is
not implicit in the lower as in an evolutionary doctrine it would be.[D]
In this distinction Pascal offers much about which the modern world
would do well to think. And indeed, because of his unique combination
and balance of qualities, I know of no religious writer more pertinent
to our time. The great mystics like St. John of the Cross, are
primarily for readers with a special determination of purpose; the
devotional writers, such as St. François de Sales, are primarily for
those who already feel consciously desirous of the love of God; the
great theologians are for those interested in theology. But I can think
of no Christian writer, not Newman even, more to be commended than
Pascal to those who doubt, but who have the mind to conceive, and the
sensibility to feel, the disorder, the futility, the meaninglessness,
the mystery of life and suffering, and who can only find peace through a
satisfaction of the whole being.

[D] An important modern theory of discontinuity, suggested partly by
Pascal, is sketched in the collected fragments of _Speculations_ by
T. E. Hulme (Kegan Paul).




* * * * *


_Passages_ erased by Pascal are enclosed in square brackets, thus [].
_Words_, added or corrected by the editor of the text, are similarly
denoted, but are in italics.

It has been seen fit to transfer Fragment 514 of the French edition to
the Notes. All subsequent Fragments have accordingly been renumbered.




_The difference between the mathematical and the intuitive mind._[1] - In
the one the principles are palpable, but removed from ordinary use; so
that for want of habit it is difficult to turn one's mind in that
direction: but if one turns it thither ever so little, one sees the
principles fully, and one must have a quite inaccurate mind who reasons
wrongly from principles so plain that it is almost impossible they
should escape notice.

But in the intuitive mind the principles are found in common use, and
are before the eyes of everybody. One has only to look, and no effort is
necessary; it is only a question of good eyesight, but it must be good,
for the principles are so subtle and so numerous, that it is almost
impossible but that some escape notice. Now the omission of one
principle leads to error; thus one must have very clear sight to see all
the principles, and in the next place an accurate mind not to draw false
deductions from known principles.

All mathematicians would then be intuitive if they had clear sight, for
they do not reason incorrectly from principles known to them; and
intuitive minds would be mathematical if they could turn their eyes to
the principles of mathematics to which they are unused.

The reason, therefore, that some intuitive minds are not mathematical is
that they cannot at all turn their attention to the principles of
mathematics. But the reason that mathematicians are not intuitive is
that they do not see what is before them, and that, accustomed to the
exact and plain principles of mathematics, and not reasoning till they
have well inspected and arranged their principles, they are lost in
matters of intuition where the principles do not allow of such
arrangement. They are scarcely seen; they are felt rather than seen;
there is the greatest difficulty in making them felt by those who do
not of themselves perceive them. These principles are so fine and so
numerous that a very delicate and very clear sense is needed to perceive
them, and to judge rightly and justly when they are perceived, without
for the most part being able to demonstrate them in order as in
mathematics; because the principles are not known to us in the same way,
and because it would be an endless matter to undertake it. We must see
the matter at once, at one glance, and not by a process of reasoning, at
least to a certain degree. And thus it is rare that mathematicians are
intuitive, and that men of intuition are mathematicians, because
mathematicians wish to treat matters of intuition mathematically, and
make themselves ridiculous, wishing to begin with definitions and then
with axioms, which is not the way to proceed in this kind of reasoning.
Not that the mind does not do so, but it does it tacitly, naturally, and
without technical rules; for the expression of it is beyond all men, and
only a few can feel it.

Intuitive minds, on the contrary, being thus accustomed to judge at a
single glance, are so astonished when they are presented with
propositions of which they understand nothing, and the way to which is
through definitions and axioms so sterile, and which they are not
accustomed to see thus in detail, that they are repelled and

But dull minds are never either intuitive or mathematical.

Mathematicians who are only mathematicians have exact minds, provided
all things are explained to them by means of definitions and axioms;
otherwise they are inaccurate and insufferable, for they are only right
when the principles are quite clear.

And men of intuition who are only intuitive cannot have the patience to
reach to first principles of things speculative and conceptual, which
they have never seen in the world, and which are altogether out of the


There are different kinds of right understanding;[2] some have right
understanding in a certain order of things, and not in others, where
they go astray. Some draw conclusions well from a few premises, and this
displays an acute judgment.

Others draw conclusions well where there are many premises.

For example, the former easily learn hydrostatics, where the premises
are few, but the conclusions are so fine that only the greatest
acuteness can reach them.

And in spite of that these persons would perhaps not be great
mathematicians, because mathematics contain a great number of premises,
and there is perhaps a kind of intellect that can search with ease a few
premises to the bottom, and cannot in the least penetrate those matters
in which there are many premises.

There are then two kinds of intellect: the one able to penetrate acutely
and deeply into the conclusions of given premises, and this is the
precise intellect; the other able to comprehend a great number of
premises without confusing them, and this is the mathematical intellect.
The one has force and exactness, the other comprehension. Now the one
quality can exist without the other; the intellect can be strong and
narrow, and can also be comprehensive and weak.


Those who are accustomed to judge by feeling do not understand the
process of reasoning, for they would understand at first sight, and are
not used to seek for principles. And others, on the contrary, who are
accustomed to reason from principles, do not at all understand matters
of feeling, seeking principles, and being unable to see at a glance.


_Mathematics, intuition._ - True eloquence makes light of eloquence, true
morality makes light of morality; that is to say, the morality of the
judgment, which has no rules, makes light of the morality of the

For it is to judgment that perception belongs, as science belongs to
intellect. Intuition is the part of judgment, mathematics of intellect.

To make light of philosophy is to be a true philosopher.


Those who judge of a work by rule[3] are in regard to others as those
who have a watch are in regard to others. One says, "It is two hours
ago"; the other says, "It is only three-quarters of an hour." I look at
my watch, and say to the one, "You are weary," and to the other, "Time
gallops with you"; for it is only an hour and a half ago, and I laugh
at those who tell me that time goes slowly with me, and that I judge by
imagination. They do not know that I judge by my watch.[4]


Just as we harm the understanding, we harm the feelings also.

The understanding and the feelings are moulded by intercourse; the
understanding and feelings are corrupted by intercourse. Thus good or
bad society improves or corrupts them. It is, then, all-important to
know how to choose in order to improve and not to corrupt them; and we
cannot make this choice, if they be not already improved and not
corrupted. Thus a circle is formed, and those are fortunate who escape


The greater intellect one has, the more originality one finds in men.
Ordinary persons find no difference between men.


There are many people who listen to a sermon in the same way as they
listen to vespers.


When we wish to correct with advantage, and to show another that he
errs, we must notice from what side he views the matter, for on that
side it is usually true, and admit that truth to him, but reveal to him
the side on which it is false. He is satisfied with that, for he sees
that he was not mistaken, and that he only failed to see all sides. Now,
no one is offended at not seeing everything; but one does not like to be
mistaken, and that perhaps arises from the fact that man naturally
cannot see everything, and that naturally he cannot err in the side he
looks at, since the perceptions of our senses are always true.


People are generally better persuaded by the reasons which they have
themselves discovered than by those which have come into the mind of


All great amusements are dangerous to the Christian life; but among all
those which the world has invented there is none more to be feared than
the theatre. It is a representation of the passions so natural and so
delicate that it excites them and gives birth to them in our hearts,
and, above all, to that of love, principally when it is represented as
very chaste and virtuous. For the more innocent it appears to innocent
souls, the more they are likely to be touched by it. Its violence
pleases our self-love, which immediately forms a desire to produce the
same effects which are seen so well represented; and, at the same time,
we make ourselves a conscience founded on the propriety of the feelings
which we see there, by which the fear of pure souls is removed, since
they imagine that it cannot hurt their purity to love with a love which
seems to them so reasonable.

So we depart from the theatre with our heart so filled with all the
beauty and tenderness of love, the soul and the mind so persuaded of its
innocence, that we are quite ready to receive its first impressions, or
rather to seek an opportunity of awakening them in the heart of another,
in order that we may receive the same pleasures and the same sacrifices
which we have seen so well represented in the theatre.


Scaramouch,[5] who only thinks of one thing.

The doctor,[6] who speaks for a quarter of an hour after he has said
everything, so full is he of the desire of talking.


One likes to see the error, the passion of Cleobuline,[7] because she is
unconscious of it. She would be displeasing, if she were not deceived.


When a natural discourse paints a passion or an effect, one feels within
oneself the truth of what one reads, which was there before, although
one did not know it. Hence one is inclined to love him who makes us feel
it, for he has not shown us his own riches, but ours. And thus this
benefit renders him pleasing to us, besides that such community of
intellect as we have with him necessarily inclines the heart to love.


Eloquence, which persuades by sweetness, not by authority; as a tyrant,
not as a king.


Eloquence is an art of saying things in such a way - (1) that those to
whom we speak may listen to them without pain and with pleasure; (2)
that they feel themselves interested, so that self-love leads them more
willingly to reflection upon it.

It consists, then, in a correspondence which we seek to establish
between the head and the heart of those to whom we speak on the one
hand, and, on the other, between the thoughts and the expressions which
we employ. This assumes that we have studied well the heart of man so as
to know all its powers, and then to find the just proportions of the
discourse which we wish to adapt to them. We must put ourselves in the
place of those who are to hear us, and make trial on our own heart of
the turn which we give to our discourse in order to see whether one is
made for the other, and whether we can assure ourselves that the hearer
will be, as it were, forced to surrender. We ought to restrict
ourselves, so far as possible, to the simple and natural, and not to
magnify that which is little, or belittle that which is great. It is not
enough that a thing be beautiful; it must be suitable to the subject,
and there must be in it nothing of excess or defect.


Rivers are roads which move,[8] and which carry us whither we desire to


When we do not know the truth of a thing, it is of advantage that there
should exist a common error which determines the mind of man, as, for
example, the moon, to which is attributed the change of seasons, the
progress of diseases, etc. For the chief malady of man is restless
curiosity about things which he cannot understand; and it is not so bad
for him to be in error as to be curious to no purpose.

The manner in which Epictetus, Montaigne, and Salomon de Tultie[9]
wrote, is the most usual, the most suggestive, the most remembered, and
the oftenest quoted; because it is entirely composed of thoughts born
from the common talk of life. As when we speak of the common error which
exists among men that the moon is the cause of everything, we never fail
to say that Salomon de Tultie says that when we do not know the truth
of a thing, it is of advantage that there should exist a common error,
etc.; which is the thought above.


The last thing one settles in writing a book is what one should put in


_Order._ - Why should I undertake to divide my virtues into four rather
than into six? Why should I rather establish virtue in four, in two, in
one? Why into _Abstine et sustine_[10] rather than into "Follow
Nature,"[11] or, "Conduct your private affairs without injustice," as
Plato,[12] or anything else? But there, you will say, everything is
contained in one word. Yes, but it is useless without explanation, and
when we come to explain it, as soon as we unfold this maxim which
contains all the rest, they emerge in that first confusion which you
desired to avoid. So, when they are all included in one, they are hidden
and useless, as in a chest, and never appear save in their natural
confusion. Nature has established them all without including one in the


Nature has made all her truths independent of one another. Our art makes
one dependent on the other. But this is not natural. Each keeps its own


Let no one say that I have said nothing new; the arrangement of the
subject is new. When we play tennis, we both play with the same ball,
but one of us places it better.

I had as soon it said that I used words employed before. And in the same
way if the same thoughts in a different arrangement do not form a
different discourse, no more do the same words in their different
arrangement form different thoughts!


Words differently arranged have a different meaning, and meanings
differently arranged have different effects.


_Language._ - We should not turn the mind from one thing to another,
except for relaxation, and that when it is necessary and the time
suitable, and not otherwise. For he that relaxes out of season wearies,
and he who wearies us out of season makes us languid, since we turn
quite away. So much does our perverse lust like to do the contrary of
what those wish to obtain from us without giving us pleasure, the coin
for which we will do whatever is wanted.


_Eloquence._ - It requires the pleasant and the real; but the pleasant
must itself be drawn from the true.


Eloquence is a painting of thought; and thus those who, after having
painted it, add something more, make a picture instead of a portrait.


_Miscellaneous. Language._ - Those who make antitheses by forcing words
are like those who make false windows for symmetry. Their rule is not to
speak accurately, but to make apt figures of speech.


Symmetry is what we see at a glance; based on the fact that there is no
reason for any difference, and based also on the face of man; whence it
happens that symmetry is only wanted in breadth, not in height or depth.


When we see a natural style, we are astonished and delighted; for we
expected to see an author, and we find a man. Whereas those who have
good taste, and who seeing a book expect to find a man, are quite
surprised to find an author. _Plus poetice quam humane locutus es._
Those honour Nature well, who teach that she can speak on everything,
even on theology.


We only consult the ear because the heart is wanting. The rule is

Beauty of omission, of judgment.


All the false beauties which we blame in Cicero have their admirers, and
in great number.


There is a certain standard of grace and beauty which consists in a
certain relation between our nature, such as it is, weak or strong, and
the thing which pleases us.

Whatever is formed according to this standard pleases us, be it house,
song, discourse, verse, prose, woman, birds, rivers, trees, rooms,
dress, etc. Whatever is not made according to this standard displeases
those who have good taste.

And as there is a perfect relation between a song and a house which are
made after a good model, because they are like this good model, though
each after its kind; even so there is a perfect relation between things
made after a bad model. Not that the bad model is unique, for there are
many; but each bad sonnet, for example, on whatever false model it is
formed, is just like a woman dressed after that model.

Nothing makes us understand better the ridiculousness of a false sonnet
than to consider nature and the standard, and then to imagine a woman or
a house made according to that standard.


_Poetical beauty._ - As we speak of poetical beauty, so ought we to speak
of mathematical beauty and medical beauty. But we do not do so; and the
reason is that we know well what is the object of mathematics, and that
it consists in proofs, and what is the object of medicine, and that it
consists in healing. But we do not know in what grace consists, which is
the object of poetry. We do not know the natural model which we ought to
imitate; and through lack of this knowledge, we have coined fantastic
terms, "The golden age," "The wonder of our times," "Fatal," etc., and
call this jargon poetical beauty.[13]

But whoever imagines a woman after this model, which consists in saying
little things in big words, will see a pretty girl adorned with mirrors
and chains, at whom he will smile; because we know better wherein
consists the charm of woman than the charm of verse. But those who are
ignorant would admire her in this dress, and there are many villages in

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