Pascal's Pensées eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 310 pages of information about Pascal's Penses.

Certainly had he known it, he would not have established this maxim, the most general of all that obtain among men, that each should follow the custom of his own country.  The glory of true equity would have brought all nations under subjection, and legislators would not have taken as their model the fancies and caprice of Persians and Germans instead of this unchanging justice.  We should have seen it set up in all the States on earth and in all times; whereas we see neither justice nor injustice which does not change its nature with change in climate.  Three degrees of latitude reverse all jurisprudence; a meridian decides the truth.  Fundamental laws change after a few years of possession; right has its epochs; the entry of Saturn into the Lion marks to us the origin of such and such a crime.  A strange justice that is bounded by a river!  Truth on this side of the Pyrenees, error on the other side.

Men admit that justice does not consist in these customs, but that it resides in natural laws, common to every country.  They would certainly maintain it obstinately, if reckless chance which has distributed human laws had encountered even one which was universal; but the farce is that the caprice of men has so many vagaries that there is no such law.

Theft, incest, infanticide, parricide, have all had a place among virtuous actions.  Can anything be more ridiculous than that a man should have the right to kill me because he lives on the other side of the water, and because his ruler has a quarrel with mine, though I have none with him?

Doubtless there are natural laws; but good reason once corrupted has corrupted all. Nihil amplius nostrum est;[110] quod nostrum dicimus, artis est.  Ex senatus—­consultis et plebiscitis crimina exercentur.[111] Ut olim vitiis, sic nunc legibus laboramus.[112]

The result of this confusion is that one affirms the essence of justice to be the authority of the legislator; another, the interest of the sovereign;[113] another, present custom,[114] and this is the most sure.  Nothing, according to reason alone, is just in itself; all changes with time.  Custom creates the whole of equity, for the simple reason that it is accepted.  It is the mystical foundation of its authority;[115] whoever carries it back to first principles destroys it.  Nothing is so faulty as those laws which correct faults.  He who obeys them because they are just, obeys a justice which is imaginary, and not the essence of law; it is quite self-contained, it is law and nothing more.  He who will examine its motive will find it so feeble and so trifling that if he be not accustomed to contemplate the wonders of human imagination, he will marvel that one century has gained for it so much pomp and reverence.  The art of opposition and of revolution is to unsettle established customs, sounding them even to their source, to point out their want of authority and justice.  We must, it is said, get back to the natural and fundamental

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Pascal's Pensées from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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