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The Reasons of the Heart: Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) on the 400th Anniversary of His Birth

The Reasons of the Heart: Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) on the 400th Anniversary of His Birth

Andreas Gonçalves Lind and Nuno Ferro, “The Reasons of the Heart: Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) on the 400th Anniversary of His Birth,” Revista Portuguesa de Filosofia 79, no. 4 (2023): 1289–94,

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The Reasons of the Heart: Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) on the 400th Anniversary of His Birth

Item Type Journal Article
Author Andreas Gonçalves Lind
Author Nuno Ferro
Abstract June 19, 2023 was the 400th anniversary of the birth of Blaise Pascal (1623-1662). The present issue of the Portuguese Philosophical Journal (Revista Portuguesa de Filosofia) seeks to take advantage of this occasion to revisit the work and legacy of this important modern author. The son of a renowned mathematician and advisor to the King of France, Blaise Pascal received a meticulous and comprehensive education, both in literature and in the empirical sciences. His genius revealed itself early on in various domains of human knowledge. The contributions he made to the advancement of mathematics and technology, with the invention of the first decimal calculator, for example, attest to his unmistakable dedication to scientific truth. However, although he was committed to studying and understanding the laws of mathematics and nature, he never clung to the rationalists’ belief that there was a single method that could unveil the universal principles of all reality. Indeed, the interest Pascal shows in Christian Revelation, wherein he finds an existential path that responds to the restlessness that pulses in the heart, is mirrored in the set of writings in which Pascal departs from the strictly scientific realm of mathematics and nature. It is the thirst for the absolute that makes him sensitive to what he calls “reasons of the heart:” a kind of immediate knowledge of indemonstrable principles, belonging to the third order above the body and mind. One is dealing, here, with the perceived interiority of the human being, with its affective dimension, which, nevertheless, cannot be reduced to mere feelings. The fact that the reasons of the heart are unknown to universal Reason, and that the God of the Philosophers does not correspond to the biblical God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, does not imply that Pascal fragments the reality in which human beings exist. In fact, he dreams of a project that is able to connect secular and Christian society into a unity of life proper to the inner human person. In this sense, we can say that he surpassed philosophical modernity. It is also important not to forget the influence of his personal history so on the development of thought. We are thinking, in particular, of Jansenism, which shaped the France of his time. In this context, one sees how Pascal comes close to the Jansenism of Port-Royal when he tries to find the Mediator between his finite self, and the God upon whom he wagers his whole life. If universal Reason is not capable of knowing whether God exists, the wager is confirmed by the reasons that the inner person experiences within the heart. Inasmuch as Pascal chooses for God’s existence, the confirmation of the truth comes about through the pacification of his existential restlessness. Thus, the paradoxical experience of closeness and distance, never resolved, between God and human beings, reveals that the question of God is, first of all, anthropological in nature. Indeed, it is the human misery that opens up a person to God. It is the enigma of death, which he can neither avoid nor know, that puts him in the situation of one who does not know where he comes from nor where he is going. And this is why the greatness of humans resides, according to Pascal, in the awareness of their own limits and weaknesses.
Date 2023
Language English
Rights © 2023 Aletheia - Associação Científica e Cultural
Volume 79
Pages 1289-1294
Publication Revista Portuguesa de Filosofia
DOI 10.17990/RPF/2023_79_4_1289
Issue 4
ISSN 0870-5283 ; 2183-461X
Date Added 4/9/2024, 1:31:24 AM
Modified 4/9/2024, 2:18:14 AM


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