Pascal's Pensées eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 370 pages of information about Pascal's Pensées.




I can well conceive a man without hands, feet, head (for it is only experience which teaches us that the head is more necessary than feet).  But I cannot conceive man without thought; he would be a stone or a brute.


The arithmetical machine produces effects which approach nearer to thought than all the actions of animals.  But it does nothing which would enable us to attribute will to it, as to the animals.


The account of the pike and frog of Liancourt.[128] They do it always, and never otherwise, nor any other thing showing mind.


If an animal did by mind what it does by instinct, and if it spoke by mind what it speaks by instinct, in hunting, and in warning its mates that the prey is found or lost; it would indeed also speak in regard to those things which affect it closer, as example, “Gnaw me this cord which is wounding me, and which I cannot reach.”


The beak of the parrot, which it wipes, although it is clean.


Instinct and reason, marks of two natures.


Reason commands us far more imperiously than a master; for in disobeying the one we are unfortunate, and in disobeying the other we are fools.


Thought constitutes the greatness of man.


Man is but a reed, the most feeble thing in nature; but he is a thinking reed.  The entire universe need not arm itself to crush him.  A vapour, a drop of water suffices to kill him.  But, if the universe were to crush him, man would still be more noble than that which killed him, because he knows that he dies and the advantage which the universe has over him; the universe knows nothing of this.

All our dignity consists, then, in thought.  By it we must elevate ourselves, and not by space and time which we cannot fill.  Let us endeavour, then, to think well; this is the principle of morality.


A thinking reed.—­It is not from space that I must seek my dignity, but from the government of my thought.  I shall have no more if I possess worlds.  By space the universe encompasses and swallows me up like an atom; by thought I comprehend the world.


Immateriality of the soul.—­Philosophers[129] who have mastered their passions.  What matter could do that?


The Stoics.—­They conclude that what has been done once can be done always, and that since the desire of glory imparts some power to those whom it possesses, others can do likewise.  There are feverish movements which health cannot imitate.

Epictetus[130] concludes that since there are consistent Christians, every man can easily be so.


Those great spiritual efforts, which the soul sometimes assays, are things on which it does not lay hold.[131] It only leaps to them, not as upon a throne, for ever, but merely for an instant.

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Pascal's Pensées from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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