Blaise Pascal, A 17Th Century Philosopher Known For His

1464 WordsFeb 23, 20176 Pages
Blaise Pascal, a 17th century philosopher known for his work Pensées, or The Thoughts, serves as a voice of human limitation. Throughout his aphorisms, he clearly expresses the limitations of man as he refers to man’s “inconstancy, boredom, [and] anxiety” and claims that man should “know [his] nothingness” (Pascal 33, 28) Pascal holds a pessimistic view towards man’s position in the world and ultimately deems man to be “utter(ly) worthless” (Pascal vii). Pascal’s disappointment towards the limitations of mankind ultimately causes him to contradict the beliefs of Descartes who strives to find “just one thing, however slight, that is certain and unshaken” in order to distinguish true from false with absolute certainty by identifying a firm,…show more content…
Infinitely far from grasping the extremes, the end of things and their beginning are for him invincibly hidden in an impenetrable secret; and he is equally incapable of seeing the nothingness out of which he is drawn, and the infinite in which he is swallowed up. (Pascal 5) Pascal views the human condition through a substantially dark, pessimistic perspective. He believes man holds an incredibly insubstantial position in the world, for he is “limited in all respects” and merely occupies a sort of mid-position between nothing and everything (Pascal 7). Man lives a short life that stands as a mid-point between the eternity that precedes him and the eternity that will follow him. Man has no way of knowing for certain what came before him or what will come after him; after all, how could such a small, fragile, perishable, and limited thing have any certain knowledge of anything vast, imperishable, and unlimited? The nature of man is to be nothing more than a part of a whole, and “if man studied himself, he would see how incapable he is of going beyond himself” (Pascal 8). Man, according to Pascal, refuses to accept his puniness and limitations. We refuse to accept that our very nature is minuscule and limited in the grand scheme of eternity. “Is not the duration of our life still infinitesimal within eternity, even if ten years be added to it?” (Pascal 8). Unlike the infinite, we are finite, perishable
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