Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Priceless Pascal

I was labelling a title page from the original edition of the Pensées by Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) and was inspired to look up some of his quotes after reading his famous Wager.


  • Dieu est un sphère infinie, dont le centre est partout et la circonférence nulle part.

God is an infinite sphere, of which the centre is everywhere and the circumference is nowhere.

  • L'homme est un roseau, le plus faible en nature, mais c'est un roseau pensant.

Man is a reed, the weakest in nature, but he is a thinking reed.

  • Notre raison est toujours déçue par l'inconstance des apparences.

Reason is always deceived by the inconsistency of appearances.

  • Tout notre raisonnement se réduit a céder au sentiment.

All our reasoning is reduced to yielding to sentiment.

  • Le coeur a ses raisons que la raison ne connaît point.

The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing.

  • Entre nous, et l'enfer ou le ciel, il n'y a vie entre deux, qui est la chose du monde la plus fragile.

Between us, and heaven and hell, there is only life, the most fragile thing in the world.

  • Eloquence is a painting of the thoughts.


Let us weigh up the gain and the loss involved in calling heads that God exists. Let us assess the two cases: if you win, you win everything: if you lose, you lose nothing. Do not hesitate then: wager that he does exist.

  • This is a binary choice. Anyone remember the old computer programming language, PASCAL? If...then...go to....If not...then...go to...?

In other words:

~~ If God does not exist and we wager for, then we lose nothing and gain nothing.

~~ If God does not exist and we wager against, then we gain nothing and lose nothing.

~~ If God exists and we wager against, then we have infinite loss (Hell, or eternal separation from God)

~~ If God exists and we wager for, then we have infinite gain (Heaven)


Anonymous said...

Good old Pascal! Did you translate the quotes? If so, you did a good job. My freshman year at UST, I had to translate a page of Pascal, and I completely changed the meaning. That's when I got discouraged to become a translator.

Olivia said...

Well, I'd seen it in English some time ago. But golly, I had to republish sooo many times after correcting mistakes, I think the website got confused!