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Friday, May 19, 2017

Blaise Pascal and persuasion


Photo source: Wikimedia Commons, Palace of Versailles

Photo license: CC BY 3.0


Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) was an influential philosopher and mathematician best known for inventing the first modern mechanical calculator in 1642. Regarding Pascal's philosophy, Thomas Molnar says,


"Pascal was no obscurantist, but he measured how far science (esprit de géometrie) may go and become irrelevant to the problems of human destiny. The achievements of science are not denied by this stand, nor are they dismissed as the ostrich with its head burrowed in sand dismisses reality. What is asserted is that our original endowments as they reflect on the data of experience, are, with all their limitations and imperfections, the only necessary and indispensable means by which we confront existence, the only weapon commensurate with our struggle."


The rest of this post is some quotes from Pascal.




"In order to enter into a real knowledge of your condition, consider it in this image: A man was cast by a tempest upon an unknown island, the inhabitants of which were in trouble to find their king, who was lost; and having a strong resemblance both in form and face to this king, he was taken for him, and acknowledged in this capacity by all the people." (The Art of Persuasion)


"Logic has borrowed, perhaps, the rules of geometry, without comprehending their force... it does not thence follow that they have entered into the spirit of geometry, and I should be greatly averse... to placing them on a level with that science that teaches the true method of directing reason." (The Art of Persuasion)


Knowledge and emotion


"God only pours out his light into the mind after having subdued the rebellion of the will by an altogether heavenly gentleness which charms and wins it." (The Art of Persuasion)


"Of the truths within our reach... the mind and the heart are as doors by which they are received into the soul, but... few enter by the mind, whilst they are brought in crowds by the rash caprices of the will, without the council of reason." (The Art of Persuasion)


"It is necessary to have regard to the person whom we wish to persuade, of whom we must know the mind and the heart, what principles he acknowledges, what things he loves; and then observe in the thing in question what affinity it has with the acknowledged principles, or with the objects so delightful by the pleasure which they give him." (The Art of Persuasion)