<history of philosophy, biography> French mathematician and theologian (1623-1662). A member of the community at Port-Royal, Pascal in the Lettres provinciales (Provincial Letters) (1657) defended his Jansenist friends against the persecution of the Jesuits. In Les Pense/es (Thoughts) (1665), Pascal defended a fideistic approach to religion, according to which "Le coeur a ses raisons que le raison ne connait point." ("The heart has its reasons that reason does not know at all.") Pascal's work with Fermat on the nature of probability presaged the development of modern decision theory, on the basis of which he argued that belief in god, although not rational, is a clever wager. Recommended Reading: Bernard Rogers, Pascal (Routledge, 1999); Dawn M. Ludwin, Blaise Pascal's Quest for the Ineffable (Peter Lang, 2001); Leszek Kolakowski, God Owes Us Nothing: A Brief Remark on Pascal's Religion and on the Spirit of Jansenism (Chicago, 1998); and Buford Norman, Portraits of Thought: Knowledge, Methods, and Styles in Pascal (Ohio State, 1989).
[A Dictionary of Philosophical Terms and Names]
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