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For after all what is man in nature? A nothing in relation to infinity, all in relation to nothing, a central point between nothing and all and infinitely far from understanding either. The ends of things and their beginnings are impregnably concealed from him in an impenetrable secret. He is equally incapable of seeing the nothingness out of which he was drawn and the infinite in which he is engulfed.
- Blaise Pascal, Pensées #72

All I have to say M. Pascal is this..

The first transfinite.


  1. Paul Marks says:

    I believe Pascal was a supporter of predestination as well.

    Yet another person whose reputation is better than it should be.

  2. Thornavis. says:

    Paul Marks

    What is the problem with predestination exactly ? It may be a scary thought but that doesn’t make it wrong, I’ve yet to see a convincing argument from orthodox Christians that refutes it.

  3. Logically there can be two versions of predestination.

    Either people do not choose any of their actions – there is no choice (no moral responsibility – no agents, no persons, just flesh robots).


    We do have a choice over our actions – but God does not care whether we do good or evil (all He cares about is His ARBITRARY choice about who goes to Heaven or Hell – based upon hair colour or whatever….).

    If you can not see what is wrong with both these alternatives I can not help you.

  4. For people who want more theology – see the reply of Erasmus to Martin Luther, and the reply of John Wesley to George Whitfield.

  5. peem birrell says:

    Pascal might have believed in predestination, but he believed in many things, and changed his mind often. I like the quote from the Pensees – it’s got the humility that Pascal definitely believed in. But the post is a nice joke. Seems like the commentators don’t get it. Aleph null…

  6. Ian Hills says:

    If people can’t know anything, how come Pascal was aware of that fact? Reminds me of Marx declaiming that there is no absolute truth, thus positing….an absolute truth.

    Also how can the word “choice” exists if there isn’t any such thing as choice?

  7. Lynne says:

    I think Pascal’s philosophy sucked but I did like Pascal’s Fruits which were highly suckable.

  8. Thornavis. says:

    Paul Marks

    Well if you cannot respond to a simple question without being dismissive then I cannot help you either.

    I am actually well aware of the different arguments surrounding predestination and your approach, as with many, seems to be to say that you don’t like the implications therefore the idea must be wrong, which isn’t very helpful.

    I don’t see either how Pascal’s belief in predestination invalidates all else that he did to the extent that some obscure bloke on an obscure blog claim his reputation is better than it should be.

    Anyway I like him for a reason quite other than his scientific achievements or his philosophy, he started the first bus service so he’s allright with me.

  9. Paul Marks says:

    Thornais – I never asked you to help me.

    As for predestination.

    James McCosh claimed that it did not imply determinism

    My “dismissive” (by entirely accurate) reply to that is that if predestination does not mean determinism then it means that God sends the good to Hell and the evil to Heaven (just because he had their names on an ARBITRARY list – and will not change it).

    Such a view makes God a monster.

    By the way…..

    I never said that Pascal’s support for predestination invalidates other things he said.

    Produce something sensible that Pascal said – go on, I am sure that Nick will be happy to applaud him if you do.

    What I object to is someone being considered correct because they are a “famous name”.

    Thomas Hobbes is a famous name – and wrong. His foe Ralph Cudworth is obscure – and right.

    Lord Keynes is a famous name – and wrong. His foe Ludwig Von Mises is (now) little known – and right.

    If you want to go right back…….

    Plato starts the work we call “Republic” with an attack on the traditional view of justice – as not violating the body and goods of others (paying your debts and so on).

    Plato’s attack is wrong (not just wrong – but dishonest as well, if-someone-lent-you-an-axe-and-then-went-mad-would-you-give-the-axe-back-no-then-justice-is-not-paying-your-debts-and-respecting-property) – but Plato is a famous name so we are not allowed to say he is talking falsely (even though he is). We have to pretend we are dealing with an honest man.

    Then Aristotle comes along and says, against Lycrophon , that the role of government is not to protect the persons and possessions of people against attack (the traditional view of justice that it is to neither suffer or commit aggression) – but, rather, that it is to make people “just and good”.

    We both know that the idea that government can mold people for the best “make the good” is both wrong and horribly EVIL.

    But he was a “famous name” so he must have always been right.

    Especially about the world always being as it is now, and goats breathing through their ears.

    Aristotle said many true things and many false things – but if we hero worship him (the “famous name” trap) we fall into The Pit.

    Short version.

    I do not dispute whether Pascal said a million wonderful things (perhaps he did) – when he talks nonsense the “famous name” should be rejected.

    And the utter contempt for human beings shown in the quote that Nick attacks is, indeed, vile.

  10. NickM says:

    OK, I was being obscure but I think I got through to people at some level. Yes, I found the Pascal quote vile but then I’d only known him as a mathematician really. And yes Hobbes was vile too. When I read as a kid the chapter on him in Russell’s “History of Western Philosophy” I was stunned. I mean if you think folk are that evil then take this rope and I’ll show you a suitable branch…

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