I’m reading sections of Pascal’s Pensées in preparation for teaching him in a couple days. When reading the whole thing this summer, I was overwhelmed by the tedium — particularly the biblical proofs that Jesus was the messiah (surely this has been tackled before, as satisfactorily as one could hope for…). The selections, for which I am following a colleague’s suggestions, cut right to what people seem to find most appealling about Pascal: his cynical psychological “realism.” I’ll admit, for example, that I find his meditations on the need for diversion pretty compelling as I have been coping with a bit of listlessness of late.
I’m starting to wonder, though, if Pascal’s cynicism and his tendency toward what we would anachronistically call “fundamentalism” are necessarily linked. Read the rest of this entry »