Essay On Pascal On Human Reasoning
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According to Pascal’s strong argument, a true religion should explain a human condition better than its rivals. “Man’s greatness and wretchedness are so evident that the true religion must necessarily teach us that there is in man some great principle of greatness and some great principle of wretchedness.”
Pascal, in his variety of works, expresses the incongruousness in human thoughts. He attributes this to the complete myriad and spectrum of human experience. He is empathetic to a situation between scepticism and rationality. The famous French mathematician and scientist was a devote Roman Catholic with an intense faith in Jesus Christ.
His thinking and teaching was often influenced by Jansenists, a Christian Catholic Movement that stressed the importance on a life style in seeking God’s grace in salvation and a lifestyle in full vibrancy and consistence with such intentions.
Pascal began gathering his thoughts and started making notes for creating a book on apologetics. He never could complete it in his lifetime. It was the same notes that was published posthumously as Pensees. Since Pascal never completed his work, Pensees is fairly incoherent and a lot is left to the readers’ interpretation of the book.
Pascal held that it is not possible to provide metaphysical evidence in support of existence of God. This treatise is in support of the modern day pagans and is acclaimed to be much ahead of his time. It was because of his premature death that the completeness of this treatise cannot be seen and it was almost impossible according to Pascal to provide complete reason for faith. Pascal held that faith was a gift directly from God.
There have been records which indicate that Pascal was repugnant to emotional expressions. Pascal had another belief that God performed Americans and he was known to attribute his niece’s cure of a serious eye infection as a God’s miracle. This commitment to religion shows that his belief was unqualified and had unwavering faith in God and Christianity.
Since Pascal failed to complete many of his works and whatever was published posthumously can also be attributed predominantly to those who edited those works. Hence, it is an obvious inference that all these works have immense influence of the editors and carried their own interpretations in even Pensees.
The predominant philosophical reflections seemed to be consistent interpretations of human conditions and seemed to be adapted from St. Augustine. The fundamental point of origin for Pascal’s philosophy seemed to be Adam’s fall from Grace, which further shows the corruption of mind without any possibility of recovery by any means.
The limits to his theory of knowledge and reason also seem to be stemming from a negative assessment in his final years, during which he is acknowledged to be deeply depressed because of his physical condition and hence his boundary of reasoning that stemmed from his knowledge seems to be determined by those physical, mental, and emotional conditions.
Drawing from St. Augustine, Pascal seems to have been taking the view that recovery from any fallen state was a gift that is directly attributed to God. Moreover, one of the key elements for getting such a gift is religious faith, which relied more on theological interpretations.
While other contemporary Christian philosophers believed that any Christian invitation must be reasonable and intelligible, and there are to be no mysteries; thus religious faith compensated for lack of metaphysical or other evidence. However, according to Pascal, religious faith crossed all limits of reasoning and claimed no limits to God, thereby making the faith in religion a compass to the understanding of human kind. He even goes further in Pensees “if one submits everything to reason, our religion will contain nothing that is mysterious or supernatural.”
Pascal further goes on to state that, if a human being has had the gift of genuine faith, they would accept things that are not only uncertain but also those realities that are not comprehendible. There was no further explanation that Pascal gave on this position.
There were two aspects of Pascal’s thinking – one that of a mathematician and a logician and second is of a deep religious faith that promoted in support of acceptance of the incomprehensible, which is attributed straight to faith in God that is seen as a divine gift. While the thinking of mathematician and logician made Pascal provide careful empirical evidence to all his propositions, which even led to certain discoveries based on his thoughts. However, what Pascal proposes in terms of accepting the incomprehensible attributed to faith in God is in total contradiction to the reasoning that he sees as a mathematician.
Pascal’s boundary of reason has origins in both logic and faith. While Pascal accepts unquestioned faith and explanations of miracles as just faith, his model of reasoning seems to be rather dichotomist. While there is no straight away rejection of reason or experimentation, he seems to attribute corruption as something that circumscribes reason. He also seems to have exalted humans because of the ability to think and in the same breath. He also seems to describe fragility of reasoning and goes on to state that it does not have sufficient stamina while facing distractions.
Reason seems to be thrown totally off course and subjugated to faith. He seems to have been immensely seized of the fall of Adam and draws that all humans have also fallen and are corrupt in nature. Human have been banished from divine arrangements because of this corruption and he boldly states that it continues even till today.
He seems to believing that normal course of human reasons can easily be thrown off track by extraneous factors, and all those beyond normal control of human beings under ordinary circumstances. Pascal seems to have consistently stated that human mind is almost the supreme judge of everything that happens around but never fully insulated to the noise that surrounds it. This seems to be more in an effort to draw the human attention on the limitations of the human mind itself. He seems to believe that the dignity in human thought can be easily distracted even under normal conditions. He seems to have accepted faults as part of human life. Pascal seems to have also pondered of human tendency of presumptions, which he calls as reasons of “proud reason” and accepts distortion in these thought due to deep rooted interest and passions that consume the human mind.
Pascal makes a blanked statement that man is made for thinking and it is in thinking that there is dignity and merit, and that a human being’s sole duty is to think. Now, this leaves with a moot question of what is to be thought about – from the most mundane to the most dignified and points to those who have been bestowed with honour and how they misuse that particular faculty of thought, which dignifies them as they divert their thoughts from the so called ultimate issues to the routine and mundane.
Pascal says that this is where and how the very greatness endowed upon the dignified is abused. Probably for the first time in the human history, Pascal points to human self-concept and self-awareness and postulates that self-awareness as a sign of excellence. Though there are not very clear examples that he has given, Pascal seems to have indicated to these in his work.
Pascal bestows the position of greatness on human reason, while accepting that there are innumerable opportunities and modalities deception. He goes on to say that reason is possibly debilitated by fall, and is limited to extrinsic factors that eventually lead to frustration of the aims of thought itself. He goes on to explain that reason can also be impacted and affected by myriad choices of imagination, self-interest, numerous diversions, misinterpretations, pride, vanity, and even illness to which he himself was a victim that he may or may not have even realized.
Human reason, even according to Pascal says the limitations of which are incorrigibly linked to God’s revelation of knowledge and thereby finally linking reason to divine faith. Pascal’s thinking on thoughts has both logic as well as incomprendable divine faith to which he seems to have accepted subservient to.
Anon., 2009. Faith and Reason in the Philosophy of Pascal, s.l.: Pedagogical University of Cracow.
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Copleston, F., 1960. A History of Philosophy. NY: Image Books.
Fernandes, D. P., 2010. The Apologetic Methodology of Blaise Pascal. [Online] Available at: http://www.leaderu.com/apologetics/pascalmethodology.html[Accessed 10 January 2015].
Keller, W., 1956. The Bible as History. New York: William Morrow and Company.
Kreeft, P., 1993. Christianity for Modern Pagans. San Francisco: Ignatius.
Morris, T. V., 1992. Making Sense of It All. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
Pascal, B., 1966. Pensees. NY: Penguin.
Schaeffer, F. A., 1990. Trilogy. Wheaton: Crossway Books.
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