Talk:Blaise Pascal

From Wikiquote
Jump to navigation Jump to search


I've used babelfish and some guesses to translate the following:

  • Penser fait la grandeur de l'homme.
    • Translation: Thought makes the greatness of Man.
  • Puisqu'on ne peut être universel en sachant tout ce qui se peut savoir sur tout, il faut savoir peu de tout.
    • Since one cannot be universal and know everything that can be known about everything, one must know a little about everything.

Anyone who actually knows French is welcome to look over these and fix up translation issues. ~ MosheZadka (Talk) 05:45, 2 October 2005 (UTC)[reply]

They seem almost nice, but if I recall correctly "tout ce qui se peut savoir sur tout" means literally "everything which can be known about everything"; so precisely "by knowing everything about everything, as far as one can know" supposedly. (My French is not so excellent, but philosopher likes such wording") --Aphaia 09:33, 2 October 2005 (UTC)[reply]

Looking through my copy of Pensées in French, I can not find the quote « Il n'est pas certain que tout soit certain. » The closest that I can find is part of a larger sentence, the il at the beginning being preceded by qu'; moreover, the quotation as written there is « Il n'est pas certain que tout soit incertain » -- that is, "It is not certain that everything is uncertain." If someone could provide a reference to the quote currently on the page, it would be helpful-- it is quite possible that I have missed it. However, if none is given soon, I will change it, and the accompanying English translation, to what I've found. --Doulos

All right, I found the Pensée whence the aforementioned quotation most likely comes. I just changed the word from « certain » to « incertain » -- I felt it unnecessary to add in the rest of the quote, as it keeps the same meaning. For anyone who is interested, though, this is the pensée in its entirety: « Il se peut faire qu'il y ait de vraies démonstrations ; mais cela n'est pas certain. Ainsi, cela ne montre autre chose, sinon qu'il n'est pas certain que tout soit incertain, à la gloire du pyrrhonisme. » --Doulos

I don't have access to Pensée No. 420, but found this quote in a book called Angels, Apes & Men by Stanley Jaki, can someone please check it is correct. Thanks Pluke 20:16, 22 November 2006 (UTC)[reply]

If he exalt himself, I humble him; if he humble himself, I exalt him; and I always contradict him, till he understands that he is an incomprehensible monster.

Pluke: that is indeed one of Pascal's quotations. In my edition, it is Pensée #326, but there are many differences between the many editions of Pensées. The original French of this quote is: « S'il se vante, je l'abaisse, S'il s'abaisse, je le vante ; Et le contredis toujours, Jusqu'à ce qu'il comprenne Qu'il est un monstre incompréhensible. » The English translation seems rather solid; a few things are changed slightly to make it more comfortable in English, but none of these take away the meaning. Perhaps it would be wise to insert "Man" in square brackets [ ] the first time the word "he" appears, since it is implied, referring to a previous Thought in which Pascal discussed the duplicity of man. Just a thought. It's also noteworthy that Pascal did write this divided into five lines. So, it would read something like this (with each number being the beginning of a new line): 1. "If [Man] exalt himself, I humble him, 2. If he humble himself, I exalt him; 3. And [I] always contradict him, 4. Until he understands 5. That he is an incomprehensible monster." Doulos

Thanks Doulos, I've added it Pluke 23:52, 1 December 2006 (UTC)[reply]

Quote Expansion[edit]

I was looking for my favorite Blaise Pascal quote on here, and I only found half of it.

  • The full quote as I know it: "The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of... We know the truth not only by the reason, but by the heart." - Blaise Pascal
  • The part already here in Wikiquote has only the first part: "The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of."

I personally prefer the latter half of the quote, which is why I was surprised not to see it here. But anyways, the half of the quote already here is translated from French, whereas I don't have the full French version of the quote. (I got the English translation straight from my old 'History of Psychology' textbook.) Some other editors might have the full French version. Cougroyalty 18:31, 17 March 2008 (UTC)[reply]

Here is the original French:

Le cœur a ses raisons, que la raison ne connaît point. On le sent en mille choses. C'est le cœur qui sent Dieu, et non la raison. Voilà ce que c'est que la foi parfaite, Dieu sensible au cœur.

The Project Gutenberg translation is as follows:

"The heart has its reasons, which reason does not know. We feel it in a thousand things. It is the heart which experiences God, and not the reason. This, then, is faith: God felt by the heart, not by the reason."

Based on this, I will edit the Pascal page accordingly. - InvisibleSun 20:19, 17 March 2008 (UTC)[reply]

Source for Unsourced Quote[edit]

According to the Rational Wiki on "Pascal's Wager" the "If God does not exist" quote can be sourced to Pensee 233. Although the way that page presents the quote is slightly different. See

Ileanadu 15:28, 28 January 2009 (UTC)[reply]

Rational Wiki says: "Pascal's "original wager was as a fairly short paragraph in Pensées... [His] original text is long-winded and written in somewhat convoluted philosophy-speak..." It's long but perhaps not too long to paste here to help in deciding what to place in the article:

Let us then examine this point, and say, "God is, or He is not." But to which side shall we incline? Reason can decide nothing here. There is an infinite chaos which separated us. A game is being played at the extremity of this infinite distance where heads or tails will turn up. What will you wager? According to reason, you can do neither the one thing nor the other; according to reason, you can defend neither of the propositions.
Do not then reprove for error those who have made a choice; for you know nothing about it. "No, but I blame them for having made, not this choice, but a choice; for again both he who chooses heads and he who chooses tails are equally at fault, they are both in the wrong. The true course is not to wager at all."
Yes; but you must wager. It is not optional. You are embarked. Which will you choose then? Let us see. Since you must choose, let us see which interests you least. You have two things to lose, the true and the good; and two things to stake,[Pg 67] your reason and your will, your knowledge and your happiness; and your nature has two things to shun, error and misery. Your reason is no more shocked in choosing one rather than the other, since you must of necessity choose. This is one point settled. But your happiness? Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation that He is.—"That is very fine. Yes, I must wager; but I may perhaps wager too much."—Let us see. Since there is an equal risk of gain and of loss, if you had only to gain two lives, instead of one, you might still wager. But if there were three lives to gain, you would have to play (since you are under the necessity of playing), and you would be imprudent, when you are forced to play, not to chance your life to gain three at a game where there is an equal risk of loss and gain. But there is an eternity of life and happiness. And this being so, if there were an infinity of chances, of which one only would be for you, you would still be right in wagering one to win two, and you would act stupidly, being obliged to play, by refusing to stake one life against three at a game in which out of an infinity of chances there is one for you, if there were an infinity of an infinitely happy life to gain. But there is here an infinity of an infinitely happy life to gain, a chance of gain against a finite number of chances of loss, and what you stake is finite. It is all divided; wherever the infinite is and there is not an infinity of chances of loss against that of gain, there is no time to hesitate, you must give all. And thus, when one is forced to play, he must renounce reason to preserve his life, rather than risk it for infinite gain, as likely to happen as the loss of nothingness.

BobEnyart (talk) 16:27, 5 August 2021 (UTC)[reply]

Imported from Wikipedia[edit]

The Wikipedia article of Pensées was actually just a massive collection of quotes. I have removed it from there (as it defies [WP:ISNOT]), and am placing it here for further reference (as mentioned on talk page there). I do not have the time to go through the quotes and cross-reference them with the article at the moment, so here they all are (some, if not all, will probably be redundant with this page):

Peace and Passion 19:18, 1 August 2009 (UTC)[reply]

Contents of Wikipedia page "Pensées" which have been cut:[edit]

(Note: All formatting is retained - eg. references are hidden in script for some entries)

To clarify, this section is NOT saying that these quotes were cut because they shouldn't be listed in this Pascal quotes article. (They were cut from a WP page and copied here exactly so that folks here can decide whether to paste any of them in among the Pascal quotes.) BobEnyart (talk) 16:04, 5 August 2021 (UTC)[reply]


On the abysses[edit]

"Let man contemplate Nature entire in her full and lofty majesty; let him put far from his sight the lowly objects that surround him; let him regard that blazing light, placed like an eternal lamp to illuminate the world; let the earth appear to him but a point within the vast circuit which that star describes; and let him marvel that this immense circumference is itself but a speck from the viewpoint of the stars that move in the firmament. And if our vision is stopped there, let imagination pass beyond... All this visible world is but an imperceptible element in the great bosom of nature. No thought can go so far... It is an infinite sphere whose center is everywhere, and whose circumference is nowhere. This is the most perceivable feature of the almightiness of God, so that our imagination loses itself in this thought."

"The eternal silence of these infinite spaces frightens me."

Le silence éternel de ces espaces infinis m'effraie.[1]

"He who sees himself thus will be frightened by himself, and, perceiving himself sustained... between these two abysses of infinity and nothing, will tremble... and will be more disposed to contemplate these marvels in silence than to explore them with presumption. For in the end, what is man in nature? A nothing in respect to the infinite, everything in respect to the nothing, a halfway between nothing and all. Infinitely far from comprehending the extremes, both the end and the beginning or principle of things are invincibly hidden in an impenetrable secret; he is equally incapable of seeing the nothing whence he has been drawn, and the infinite in which he is engulfed."*

* "The French language," said Sainte-Beuve, "has no finer pages than the simple and severe lines of this incomparable picture." [2]
On reason[edit]

"The wisest reason takes as her own principles those which the imagination of man has everywhere rashly introduced."

"Nothing is so conformable to reason as to disavow reason."

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

On heart and head[edit]

"The heart has its reasons, of which reason knows nothing."

Le cœur a ses raisons que la raison ne connaît point.
On soul and body[edit]

"It is impossible that our rational part should be other than spiritual; and if any one maintain that we are simply corporeal, this would far more exclude us from the knowledge of things, there being nothing so inconceivable as to say that matter knows itself. It is impossible to imagine how it should know itself."

"What a Chimera is man! What a novelty, a monster, a chaos, a contradiction, a prodigy! Judge of all things, an imbecile worm; depository of truth, and sewer of error and doubt; the glory and refuse of the universe. Who shall unravel this confusion?"

Quelle chimère est-ce donc que l'homme? quelle nouveauté, quel monstre, quel chaos, quel sujet de contradictions, quel prodige? Juge de toutes choses, imbécile ver de terre, dépositaire du vrai, cloaque d'incertitude et d'erreur, gloire et rebut de l'univers. Qui démêlera cet embrouillement?

On Man's fallen nature[edit]

"Man is only a disguise, a liar, a hypocrite, both to himself and to others."

"How hollow is the heart of man, and how full of excrement!"

On vanity[edit]

"We would never travel on the sea if we had no hope of telling about it later... We lose our lives with joy provided people talk about it... Even philosophers wish for admirers."

Yet Man is noble[edit]

"The grandeur of man is great in that he knows himself to be miserable."

"Man is but a reed, the most feeble (thing) in nature; but he is a thinking reed.* The entire universe need not arm itself in order to crush him; a vapor, a drop of water, suffices to kill him. But when (even if) the universe would (were to) crush him, man would (still) yet be more noble than that which kills him, because he knows that he is dying (that he dies) and the advantage (which) the universe has over him; the universe knows nothing of it (of this)."

* L'homme n'est qu'un roseau, le plus faible de la nature, mais c'est un roseau pensant. Il ne faut pas que l'univers entier s'arme pour l'écraser; une vapeur, une goutte d'eau suffit pour le tuer. Mais quand l'univers l'écraserait, l'homme serait encore plus noble que ce qui le tue, parce qu'il sait qu'il meurt et l'avantage que l'univers a sur lui; l'univers n'en sait rien.

(Original text quoted from "Cours Supérieur" AMSCO School Publications, 1970.)

Regarding the Wager[edit]
For more information, see Pascal's Wager.

"You must wager; it is not optional... Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God exists... If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation, that He exists."

"Bless yourself with holy water, have Masses said, and so on; by a simple and natural process this will make you believe, and will dull you*—will quiet your proudly critical intellect."

* cela vous fera croire, et vous abêtira

"Go to confession and communion; you will find it a relief and a strengthening."

On Futility[edit]

"Picture a number of men in chains, and all condemned to death; each day some are strangled in the sight of the rest; those who remain see their own condition in that of their fellows, looking at one another with sorrow and without hope, each awaiting his turn. This is the picture of the condition of man."

The mystery of God[edit]

"It is incomprehensible that God should exist, and it is incomprehensible that He should not exist; that the soul should be joined to the body, and that we should have no soul; that the world should be created, and that it should not be created, etc.; that original sin should be, and that it should not be."

"We understand nothing of the works of God unless we take it as a principle that He wishes to blind some and to enlighten others."

"This is what I see, and what troubles me. I look on all sides, and everywhere I see nothing but obscurity. Nature offers me nothing that is not a matter of doubt and disquiet. If I saw no signs of a divinity, I would fix myself in denial. If I saw everywhere the marks of a Creator, I would repose peacefully in faith. But seeing too much to deny [Him], and too little to assure me, I am in a pitiful state, and I would wish a hundred times that if a God sustains nature it would reveal Him without ambiguity."

On the Bible[edit]

In Pensees' Section X "Typography", Pascal presents an unusual proof for a "double meaning" interpretation of The Bible.

642. Proof of the two Testaments at once.--To prove the two at one stroke, we need only see if the prophecies in one are fulfilled in the other. To examine the prophecies, we must understand them. For if we believe they have only one meaning, it is certain that the Messiah has not come; but if they have two meanings, it is certain that He has come in Jesus Christ.
The whole problem then is to know if they have two meanings.
That the Scripture has two meanings, which Jesus Christ and the Apostles have given, is shown by the following proofs:
1. Proof by Scripture itself.
2. Proof by the Rabbis. Moses Maimonides says that it has two aspects and that the prophets have prophesied Jesus Christ only.
3. Proof by the Kabbala.
4. Proof by the mystical interpretation which the Rabbis themselves give to Scripture.
5. Proof by the principles of the Rabbis, that there are two meanings; that there are two advents of the Messiah, a glorious and an humiliating one, according to their desert; that the prophets have prophesied of the Messiah only--the Law is not eternal, but must change at the coming of the Messiah--that then they shall no more remember the Red Sea; that the Jews and the Gentiles shall be mingled.
6. Proof by the key which Jesus Christ and the Apostles give us.

Pascal subsequently identifies the major problem of a "double meaning" reconciliation.

648. Two errors: 1. To take everything literally. 2. To take everything spiritually.

In the fields of mathematics, computer science and information theory Pascal is widely regarded to be the "father of modern probability theory", the branch of science that underpins cryptography. Pascal's strangely disembodied conclusion to his closing argument for the "double meaning" divinity of the Bible, and his choice of the word "cipher", which was the technical word for "cryptogram" in its day, has been cited frequently in the context of "Bible codes", referring to information that is purported to be encrypted in the Torah of the Old Testament.

691. If one of two persons, who are telling silly stories, uses language with a double meaning, understood in his own circle, while the other uses it with only one meaning, any one not in the secret, who hears them both talk in this manner, will pass upon them the same judgment. But, if, afterwards, in the rest of their conversation one says angelic things, and the other always dull commonplaces, he will judge that the one spoke in mysteries, and not the other; the one having sufficiently shown that he is incapable of such foolishness and capable of being mysterious; and the other that he is incapable of mystery and capable of foolishness.
The Old Testament is a cipher.
On atheists[edit]

"Atheism shows strength of mind, but only to a certain degree."


(References which were present are still contained in scripting above)

  1. Pensees, Fragment 187, Edition Gallimard (1977)
  2. Sainte-Beuve, Seventeenth Century, 174

Source of the quote[edit]

The quote:

  • Puisqu'on ne peut être universel en sachant tout ce qui se peut savoir sur tout, il faut savoir peu de tout.
    • Since one cannot be universal by knowing everything that can be known about everything, it is necessary to know a little about everything.

According to Władyslaw Tatarkiewicz's "Historia filozofii" ("History of philosophy") the quote is from: Pensées, no 42 et 65, ed. Chevalier, 1954.

Source for "In faith there is enough light..."[edit]

From "Sourced":

In faith there is enough light for those who want to believe and enough shadows to blind those who don't.
Blaise Pascal, quoted in Thoughts from Earth (2004), p. 9

Any original sources? If the only or earliest known source is from 2004, then I don't think it belongs in Sourced. --Chriswaterguy 02:21, 3 December 2010 (UTC)[reply]

The original quote in French is: "Il y a assez de lumière pour ceux qui ne désirent que de voir, et assez d'obscurité pour ceux qui ont une disposition contraire." - missing is: "in faith," - the rest is there. It is from the Pascal's book: "Pensées sur la religion et sur quelques autres sujets" --B M Moritz (talk) 15:33, 16 March 2019 (UTC)[reply]


  • In every man's heart there is an emptiness that only God can fill with his son Jesus Christ.
  • Justice without force is powerless; force without justice is tyrannical.
  • Ne pouvant fortifier la justice, on a justifié la force.
    • Not being able to fortify justice, they justified force.
  • Ce qui fait qu'on va si loin dans l'amour, c'est que l'on ne songe pas que l'on aura besoin d'autre chose que ce que l'on aime.
    • That which makes us go so far for love is that we never think that we might have need of anything besides that which we love.
  • C'est une maladie naturelle à l'homme de croire qu'il possède la vérité.
    • It is man's natural sickness to believe that he possesses the Truth.
    • This quote is almost universally propagated in English truncating the most important part, directly. Without that it makes no sense if you think about it. He was writing about the need and methods to establish geometric proof and was generalizing. The complete and logical sentence is:
C'est une maladie naturelle à l'homme de croire qu'il possède la vérité directement; et de là vient qu'il est toujours disposé à nier tout ce qui lui est incompréhensible ; au lieu qu'en effet il ne connaît naturellement que le mensonge, et qu'il ne doit prendre pour véritables que les choses dont le contraire lui paraît faux.
  • Opuscule sur l'esprit de géométrie, Section I — Jbgfour (talk) 03:28, 31 May 2015 (UTC)[reply]
  • Les hommes se gouvernent plus par caprice que par raison.
    • Man governs himself more by capriciousness (impulse) than reason
  • Penser fait la grandeur de l'homme.
    • Thinking makes man great.
  • Puisqu'on ne peut être universel en sachant tout ce qui se peut savoir sur tout, il faut savoir peu de tout.
    • Since one cannot be universal by knowing everything that can be known about everything, it is necessary to know a little about everything.
  • Jurisdiction is given not for the sake of the judge, but for that of the litigant.
    • Possibly translated from Pensées, Section XIV, 879.

Sitting still in a room alone[edit]

  • J'ai dit souvent que tout le malheur des hommes vient d'une seule chose, qui est de ne savoir pas demeurer en repos dans une chambre.
  • J'ai souvent dit que tout le malheur des hommes vient de ne savoir pas se tenir en repos dans une chambre.

(two versions in French via Wikisource)

  • All the misfortunes of man derive from one single thing, which is their inability to be at ease in a room. (Oxford Dictionary of Quotations)
  • All men's miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone.

I believe this means ‘from man’s inability to meditate’ not literally to ‘sit in a quiet room alone.’

This appears in Pascal's Pensées 139.

Should: Histories, Wager, & Immortality quotes be added?[edit]

Should these quotes be added?

Referring to belief in God, "If you gain, you gain all. If you lose, you lose nothing. Wager then, without hestitation, that He exists." Pensées III, 233

Referring to the prophets and apostles of the Judeo-Christian scriptures, "I only believe histories whose witnesses are ready to be put to death." Pensées IX, 592

"The immortality of the soul is a matter which is of so great consequence to us and which touches us so profoundly that we must have lost all feeling to be indifferent about it." Pensées III, 194

BobEnyart (talk) 16:37, 5 August 2021 (UTC)[reply]