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Publisher writes

Blaise Pascal, the precociously brilliant contemporary of Descartes, was a gifted mathematician and physicist, but it is his unfinished apologia for the Christian religion upon which his reputation now rests. "The Pensees" is a collection of philosohical fragments, notes and essays in which Pascal explores the contradictions of human nature in pscyhological, social, metaphysical and - above all - theological terms. Mankind emerges from Pascal's analysis as a wretched and desolate creature within an impersonal universe, but who can be transformed through faith in God's grace.

Author Information

Blaise Pascal , (translated by A. J. Krailsheimer),

Blaise Pascal (1623-62) left his mark on mathematics, physics, religious controversy and literature. A convert to Jansenism, he engaged in passionate debate with the Jesuits the results of which are the Lettres Provincales, on which, with Pensees, his fame now rests. He is regarded by many as the greatest of French prose stylists. A J Krailsheimer was Tutor in French at Christ Church, Oxford and translated widely from the French.

Judges' and contributors' comments

Cally Hammond: The only one on the top ten I haven’t yet read at all. But I have promised myself that I will. The other judges made it sound both fundamental and appealing.

Jenny Monds: We felt this defence of Christianity, perhaps little read today, was deserving of a new audience.

Mark Oakley: ‘All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.’ I love fragmented theology, jigsaw placings, and so Pascal’s thoughts have been very sustaining over the years.

Reader comments

Jon Blanchard

07 August 2015 @ 11:02

The majority of Pascal’s Penseés are quite uninspiring: repeated unconvincing arguments from the supposed fulfilment of prophecy and the like. But ten percent are pure gold. As a teenager I was impressed by C S Lewis that there was a good reason for all aspects of the Christian faith, but in due time that was unpersuasive and I was deeply depressed and just wanted some glimmer that life was worth living. Discovering Pascal then was a great relief. We can’t prove anything but we can make a wager. Pascal gives hope. Unlike much current self-help optimism and its Christian variants, with their cheery stress on being positive at all costs, Pascal faces our existential misery, confusion and loneliness full on and finds our ground of hope there.

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