Great Throughts Treasury

This site is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Alan William Smolowe who gave birth to the creation of this database.

Blaise Pascal

French Catholic Philosopher, Scientist, Mathematician, Inventor, Writer

"All of mans’ trouble stems from his inability to sit quietly in a room alone."

"A belief is a wise wager. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation that He Exists."

"A thinking reed. It is not from space that I must seek my dignity, but from 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."

"All men naturally hate one another. They employ lust as far as possible in the service of the public weal. But this is only a [pretense] and a false image of love; for at bottom it is only hate."

"All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end... The infinite abyss can only be filled by an infinite and immutable object, that is to say, only by God Himself."

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

"Earnestness is enthusiasm tempered by reason."

"Custom should be followed only because it is custom, and not because it is reasonable or just. But people follow it for this sole reason, that they think it just. Otherwise they would follow it no longer, although it were the custom; for they will only submit to reason or justice. Custom without this would pass for tyranny; but the sovereignty of reason and justice is no more tyrannical than that of desire. They are principles natural to man."

"Education produces natural intuitions, and natural intuitions are erased by education."

"Everything is true in part and false in part."

"Few men speak humbly of humility, chastely of chastity, skeptically of skepticism."

"For we must not misunderstand ourselves; we are as much automatic as intellectual; and hence it comes that the instrument by which conviction is attained is not demonstrated alone. How few things are demonstrated! Proofs only convince the mind. Custom is the source of our strongest and most believed proofs. It bends the automaton, which persuades the mind without its thinking about the matter."

"Faith indeed tells what the senses do not tell, but not the contrary of what they see. It is above them and not contrary to them."

"Force without justice is tyrannical; justice without force is impotent."

"Happiness is neither within us only, or without us; it is the union of ourselves with God."

"Great souls, who, having run though all that men can know, find they know nothing."

"Force rules the world - not opinion; but opinion which makes use of force."

"Human life is thus only a perpetual illusion; men deceive and flatter each other. No one speaks of us in our presence as he does of us in our absence. Human society is founded on mutual deceit; few friendships would endure if each knew what his friend said of him in his absence, although he then spoke in sincerity and without passion. Man is, then, only disguise, falsehood, and hypocrisy, both in himself and in regard to others. He does not wish any one to tell him the truth; he avoids telling it to others, and all these dispositions, so removed from justice and reason, have a natural root in his heart. I set it down as a fact that if all men know what each said to the other, there would not be four friends in the world."

"If our condition were truly happy, we would not need diversion from thinking of it in order to make ourselves happy."

"He only is miserable who knows himself to be miserable."

"In proportion as our own mind is enlarged we discover a greater number of men of originality. Commonplace people see no difference between one man and another."

"I have discovered that all the unhappiness of men arises from one single fact, they cannot stay quietly in their own chamber."

"It is a strange and tedious war when violence attempts to vanquish truth. All the efforts of violence cannot weaken truth, and only serve to give it fresh vigor. All the lights of truth cannot arrest violence, and only serve to exasperate it."

"Little things console us, because little things afflict [affect] us."

"Look on little deeds as great."

"It is your own assent to yourself, and the constant voice of your own reason, and not of others, that should make you believe."

"One must know oneself. If this does not serve to discover truth, it at least serves as a rule of life, and there is nothing better."

"Losses are comparative, imagination only makes them of any moment."

"Man is only a reed, the weakest in nature, but he is a thinking reed. There is no need for the whole universe to take up arms to crush him: a vapour, a drop of water is enough to kill him But even if the universe were to crush him, man would still be nobler than his slayer, because he knows that he is dying and the advantage the universe has over him. the universe knows none of this. Thus all our dignity consists in thought. It is on thought that we must depend for our recovery, not on space and time, which we could never fill. Let us then strive to think well; that is the basic principle of morality."

"Noble deeds are most estimable when hidden."

"Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction."

"Most of man's trouble comes from his inability to be still."

"Nothing is so intolerable to man as being fully at rest, without passion, without business, without entertainment, without care. It is then that he recognizes that he is empty, insufficient, dependent, ineffectual. From the depths of the soul now comes at once boredom, gloom, sorrow, chagrin, resentment and despair."

"Nothing is more common than good things; the only question is how to discern them; it is certain that all of them are natural and within our reach and even known by every one. But we do not know how to distinguish them. This is universal. It is not in things extraordinary and strange that excellence of any kind is found. We reach up for it, and we are further away; more often than not we must stoop. The best books are those whose readers think they; could have written them. Nature, which alone is good, is familiar and common throughout."

"Nothing gives rest but the sincere search for truth."

"Our nature lies in movement; complete rest is death."

"The infinite distance between body and mind is a symbol of the infinitely more infinite distance between mind and charity; for charity is supernatural."

"The greatest baseness of man is the pursuit of glory. But it is also the great mark of his excellence; for whatever possessions he may have on earth, whatever health and essential comfort, he is not satisfied if he has not the esteem of men."

"The virtue of a man ought to be measured not by his extraordinary exertions, but by his every-day conduct."

"There is internal war in man between reason and the passions... But having both, he cannot be without strife, being unable to be a peace with the one without being at war with the other. Thus he is always divided against and opposed to himself."

"True fear comes from faith; false fear comes from doubt. True fear is joined to hope, because it is born of faith, and because men hope in the God in whom they believe. False fear is joined to despair, because men fear the God in whom they have no belief. The former fear to lose Him; the latter fear to find Him."

"The more intelligent a man is, the more originality he discovers in men. Ordinary people see no difference between men."

"The strength of a man's virtue should not be measured by his special exertions, but by his habitual acts."

"Two things instruct man about his whole nature; instinct and experience."

"We desire truth, and find within ourselves only uncertainty. We seek happiness, and find only misery and death."

"We find fault with perfection itself."

"We have so exalted a notion of the human soul that we cannot bear to be despised, or even not to be esteemed by it. Man, in fact, places all his happiness in his esteem."

"We make an idol of truth itself; for truth apart from charity is not God, but his image and idol, which we must neither love nor worship."

"We know truth, not only by reason, but also by the heart, and it is from this last that we know first principles; and reason, which has nothing to do with it, tries in vain to combat them. The skeptics who desire truth alone labor in vain."

"We never love a person, only qualities."