Blaise Pascal Quotes

Blaise Pascal, 1623 – 1662

Born: 19 June 1623, Clermont-Ferrand, Auvergne, France
Died: 19 August 1662, Paris, France

Few 17 year old boys can claim to have created a mathematical theorem known centuries later, but Blaise Pascal could. The Pascal theorem, laid out in his first serious work on mathematics, Essai pour les coniques (“Essay on Conics”) was sent in by his father to Père Mersenne, the leading mathematician of the era. It was so advanced that it brought accusations that it was the work not of Blaise Pascal, but of his father Etienne.

While Etienne Pascal didn’t create the theorem, he did nurture his son’s talent. Blaise’s mother died when he was three, and Etienne took control of the education of his children Blaise, Jacqueline, and Gilberte. Blaise was the most talented in mathematics and science.

After a brush with the displeasure of Cardinal Richelieu, Etienne Pascal was assigned as tax commissioner of Rouen, in northern France, in 1639. This led Blaise to create a mechanical calculator, called a Pascal’s calculator or Pascaline, to help his father in 1642. It was not a commercial success due to cost. Around this time, he began showing signs of the chronic illness that eventually killed him.

Pascal produced many important advances in mathematics, science and philosophy. He created a convenient way of representing binomial coefficients (Pascal’s Triangle), helped invent probability theory, and laid out Pascal’s Wager, a probability-based argument for belief in God. He was also fascinated by hydrodynamics and hydrostatics, inventing both the hydraulic press and the syringe.

In 1654 Pascal had a vision which led him to write his first major work on religion, the Provincial Letters. The popular eighteen-letter series, published between 1656 and 1657, denounced casuistry as an excuse for moral laxness, incensed Louis XIV, and influenced the style of later writers such as Voltaire and Rousseau. His most influential theological work was the Pensées, intended to be a sustained and coherent defense of the Christian faith. Unfortunately, he died (of tuberculosis, stomach cancer, or both) before its completion.

Blaise Pascal quotes:

A trifle consoles us because a trifle upsets us.

Blaise Pascal

Pensées (1670)
All men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone.

Blaise Pascal
All our reasoning boils down to yielding to sentiment.

Blaise Pascal

Pensées (1670)
An advocate who has been well paid in advance will find the cause he is pleading all the more just.

Blaise Pascal

Pensées (1670)
Anyone who found the secret of rejoicing when things go well without being annoyed when they go badly would have found the point.

Blaise Pascal

Pensées (1670)
Atheism shows strength of mind, but only to a certain degree.

Blaise Pascal
Belief is a wise wager. Granted that faith cannot be proved, what harm will come to you if you gamble on its truth and it proves false? If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation, that He exists.

Blaise Pascal
Between us and heaven or hell there is only life, which is the frailest thing in the world.

Blaise Pascal
Bless yourself with holy water, have Masses said, and so on; by a simple and natural process this will make you believe, and will dull you — will quiet your proudly critical intellect.

Blaise Pascal

Pensées (1670)
Caesar was too old, it seems to me, to go off and amuse himself conquering the world. Such a pastime was all right for Augustus and Alexander; they were young men, not easily held in check, but Caesar ought to have been more mature.

Blaise Pascal

Pensées (1670)
Can anything be stupider than that a man has the right to kill me because he lives on the other side of a river and his ruler has a quarrel with mine, though I have not quarrelled with him?

Blaise Pascal
Chance gives rise to thoughts, and chance removes them; no art can keep or acquire them.

Blaise Pascal
Clarity of mind means clarity of passion, too; this is why the great and clear mind loves ardently and sees distinctly what it loves.

Blaise Pascal
Concupiscence and force are the source of all our actions; concupiscence causes voluntary actions, force involuntary ones.

Blaise Pascal
Continuous eloquence wearies. Grandeur must be abandoned to be appreciated. Continuity in everything is unpleasant. Cold is agreeable, that we may get warm.

Blaise Pascal

Contradiction is not a sign of falsity, nor the lack of contradiction a sign of truth.

Blaise Pascal
Curiosity is nothing more than vanity. More often than not we only seek knowledge to show it off.

Blaise Pascal

Pensées (1670)
Custom is our nature. What are our natural principles but principles of custom?

Blaise Pascal
Desire and force between them are responsible for all our actions; desire causes our voluntary acts, force our involuntary.

Blaise Pascal
Despite the sight of all the miseries which affect us and hold us by the throat we have an irrepressible instinct which bears us up.

Blaise Pascal
Discourses on humility are a source of pride in the vain and of humility in the humble.

Blaise Pascal

Pensées (1670)
Do you wish people to believe good of you? Don’t speak.

Blaise Pascal

Pensées (1670)
Earnestness is enthusiasm tempered by reason.

Blaise Pascal
Eloquence is a painting of the thoughts.

Blaise Pascal

Pensées (1670)
Epictetus goes much further when he asks: Why do we not lose our temper if someone tells us that we have a headache, while we do lose it if someone says there is anything wrong with our arguments or our choice?

Blaise Pascal

Pensées (1670)
Equality of possessions is no doubt right, but, as men could not make might obey right, they have made right obey might.

Blaise Pascal

Pensées (1670)
Even those who write against fame wish for the fame of having written well, and those who read their works desire the fame of having read them.

Blaise Pascal
Experience makes us see an enormous difference between piety and goodness.

Blaise Pascal
Faith embraces many truths which seem to contradict each other.

Blaise Pascal
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.

Blaise Pascal

Faith is different from proof; the latter is human, the former is a Gift from God.

Blaise Pascal
Few friendships would remain, if each knew what his friend said of him when he wasn’t there.

Blaise Pascal

Pensées (1670)
Few men speak humbly of humility, chastely of chastity, skeptically of skepticism.

Blaise Pascal
For after all what is man in nature? A nothing in relation to infinity, all in relation to nothing, a central point between nothing and all and infinitely far from understanding either. The ends of things and their beginnings are impregnably concealed from him in an impenetrable secret. He is equally incapable of seeing the nothingness out of which he was drawn and the infinite in which he is engulfed.

Blaise Pascal

Pensées (1670)
For as old age is that period of life most remote from infancy, who does not see that old age in this universal man ought not to be sought in the times nearest his birth, but in those most remote from it?

Blaise Pascal

Preface to the Treatise on Vacuum
For the truth is always older than all the opinions men have held regarding it; and one should be ignoring the nature of truth if we imagined that the truth began at the time it came to be known.

Blaise Pascal
God is an infinite sphere whose center is everywhere and circumference is nowhere.

Blaise Pascal

Pensées (1670)
Great and small suffer the same mishaps.

Blaise Pascal
Having been unable to strengthen justice, we have justified strength.

Blaise Pascal
He that takes truth for his guide, and duty for his end, may safely trust to God’s providence to lead him aright.

Blaise Pascal
How hollow is the heart of man, and how full of excrement!

Blaise Pascal

Pensées (1670)
I can well conceive a man without hands, feet, head. But I cannot conceive man without thought; he would be a stone or a brute.

Blaise Pascal
I cannot imagine a man without thought; he would be a stone or an animal.

Blaise Pascal

Pensées (1670)
I have discovered that all man’s unhappiness derives from only one source — not being able to sit quietly in a room.

Blaise Pascal

Pensées (1670)
I made this [letter] very long, because I did not have the leisure to make it shorter.

Blaise Pascal

If God does not exist, one will lose nothing by believing in him, while if he does exist, one will lose everything by not believing.
    Blaise Pascal

If our condition were truly happy we should not need to divert ourselves from thinking about it.
    Blaise Pascal – Pensées (1670)

If we examine our thoughts, we shall find them always occupied with the past and the future.
    Blaise Pascal

If we must not act save on a certainty, we ought not to act on religion, for it is not certain. But how many things we do on an uncertainty, sea voyages, battles!
    Blaise Pascal

If we submit everything to reason our religion will be left with nothing mysterious or supernatural. If we offend the principles of reason our religion will be absurd and ridiculous…. There are two equally dangerous extremes: to exclude reason, to admit nothing but reason.
    Blaise Pascal – Pensées (1670)

If you want people to think well of you, do not speak well of yourself.
    Blaise Pascal

Imagination cannot make fools wise, but it makes them happy, as against reason, which only makes its friends wretched: one covers them with glory, the other with shame.
    Blaise Pascal – Pensées (1670)

Imagination decides everything.
    Blaise Pascal

In faith there is enough light for those who want to believe and enough shadows to blind those who don’t.
    Blaise Pascal

Is it not obvious that, just as it is a crime to disturb the peace when truth reigns, it is also a crime to remain at peace when the truth is being destroyed?
    Blaise Pascal

It is a funny sort of justice whose limits are marked by a river; true on this side of the Pyrenees, false on the other.
    Blaise Pascal – Pensées (1670)

It is incomprehensible that God should exist, and it is incomprehensible that he should not exist.
    Blaise Pascal

It is man’s natural sickness to believe that he possesses the Truth.
    Blaise Pascal

It is not certain that everything is uncertain.
    Blaise Pascal – Pensées (1670)

It is not good to be too free. It is not good to have everything one wants.
    Blaise Pascal

It is not in space that I must seek my human dignity, but in the ordering of my thought. It will do me no good to own land. Through space the universe grasps me and swallows me up like a speck; through thought I grasp it.
    Blaise Pascal – Pensées (1670)

It is not only old and early impressions that deceive us; the charms of novelty have the same power.
    Blaise Pascal

It is not permitted to the most equitable of men to be a judge in his own cause.
    Blaise Pascal – Pensées (1670)

It is not shameful for a man to succumb to pain and it is shameful to succumb to pleasure.
    Blaise Pascal – Pensées (1670)

It is the fight alone that pleases us, not the victory.
    Blaise Pascal

Jurisdiction is given not for the sake of the judge, but for that of the litigant.
    Blaise Pascal

Justice and power must be brought together, so that whatever is just may be powerful, and whatever is powerful may be just.
    Blaise Pascal

Justice and truth are such subtle points that our tools are too blunt to touch them accurately.
    Blaise Pascal

Justice is as much a matter of fashion as charm is.
    Blaise Pascal – Pensées (1670)

Justice without force is powerless; force without justice is tyrannical.
    Blaise Pascal

Kind words do not cost much. Yet they accomplish much.
    Blaise Pascal

Knowledge of physical science will not console me for ignorance of morality in time of affliction, but knowledge of morality will always console me for ignorance of physical science.
    Blaise Pascal – Pensées (1670)

Little things console us, because little things afflict us.
    Blaise Pascal

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

Love is a debt which inclination always pays, obligation never.
    Blaise Pascal

Man finds nothing so intolerable as to be in a state of complete rest, without passions, without occupation, without diversion, without effort. Then he feels his nullity, loneliness, inadequacy, dependence, helplessness, emptiness.
    Blaise Pascal

Man governs himself more by impulse than reason
    Blaise Pascal

Man is but a reed, the most feeble thing in nature; but he is a thinking reed. The entire universe need not arm itself to crush him. A vapour, a drop of water suffices to kill him. But, if the universe were to crush him, man would still be more noble than that which killed him, because he knows that he dies and the advantage which the universe has over him; the universe knows nothing of this. All our dignity consists, then, in thought.
    Blaise Pascal – Pensées (1670)

Man is so made that by continually telling him he is a fool he believes it, and by continually telling it to himself he makes himself believe it. For man holds an inward talk with himself, which it pays him to regulate.
    Blaise Pascal – Pensées (1670)

Man is so made that if he is told often enough that he is a fool he believes it.
    Blaise Pascal – Pensées (1670)

Man is to himself the most wonderful object in nature; for he cannot conceive what the body is, still less what the mind is, and least of all how a body should be united to a mind. This is the consummation of his difficulties, and yet it is his very being.
    Blaise Pascal

Man’s sensitivity to the little things and insensitivity to the greatest are the signs of a strange disorder.
    Blaise Pascal

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

Men spend their time chasing a ball or a hare; it is the very sport of kings.
    Blaise Pascal – Pensées (1670)

Nature has perfection, in order to show that she is the image of God; and defects, to show that she is only his image.
    Blaise Pascal

Nature imitates herself. A grain thrown into good ground brings forth fruit; a principle thrown into a good mind brings forth fruit. Everything is created and conducted by the same Master – the root, the branch, the fruits – the principles, the consequences.
    Blaise Pascal

Nature is an infinite sphere whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.
    Blaise Pascal

Not being able to fortify justice, they justified force.
    Blaise Pascal

Nothing is surer than that the people will be weak.
    Blaise Pascal – Pensées (1670)

One must have deeper motives and judge everything accordingly, but go on talking like an ordinary person.
    Blaise Pascal – Pensées (1670)

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.
    Blaise Pascal – Pensées (1670)

Our nature consists in motion; complete rest is death.
    Blaise Pascal

Our nature lies in movement; complete calm is death.
    Blaise Pascal

Our reason is always disappointed by the inconsistency of appearances.
    Blaise Pascal – Pensées (1670)

People almost invariably arrive at their beliefs not on the basis of proof but on the basis of what they find attractive.
    Blaise Pascal – On the Art of Persuasion

People are usually more convinced by reasons they discovered themselves than by those found by others.
    Blaise Pascal

Put the world’s greatest philosopher on a plank that is wider than need be; if there is a precipe below, although his reason may convince him that he is safe, his imagination will prevail.
    Blaise Pascal – Pensées (1670)

Silence is the greatest persecution; never do the saints keep themselves silent.
    Blaise Pascal – Pensées (1670)

Since one cannot be universal by knowing everything that can be known about everything, it is necessary to know a little about everything.
    Blaise Pascal

That which makes us go so far for love is that we never think that we might have need of anything besides that which we love.
    Blaise Pascal

The Christian religion teaches me two points; that there is a God whom men can know, and that their nature is so corrupt that they are unworthy of Him.
    Blaise Pascal

The eternal silence of these infinite spaces frightens me.
    Blaise Pascal – Pensées (1670)

The grandeur of man is great in that he knows himself to be miserable.
    Blaise Pascal – Pensées (1670)

The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing: we know this in countless ways.
    Blaise Pascal

The heart has its reasons that reason cannot know.
    Blaise Pascal

The heart has its reasons which reason knows not. We feel it in a thousand things. It is the heart which experiences God, and not the reason. This, then, is faith: God felt by the heart, not by the reason.
    Blaise Pascal – Pensées (1670)

The imagination enlarges little objects so as to fill our souls with a fantastic estimate; and, with rash insolence, it belittles the great to its own measure, as when talking of God.
    Blaise Pascal

The last thing one knows in constructing a work is what to put first.
    Blaise Pascal

The multitude which is not brought to act as a unity, is confusion. That unity which has not its origin in the multitude is tyranny.
    Blaise Pascal

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

The whole visible world is only an imperceptible atom in the ample bosom of nature. No idea approaches it.
    Blaise Pascal

The world is a good judge of things, for it is in natural ignorance, which is man’s true state. The sciences have two extremes which meet. The first is the pure natural ignorance in which all men find themselves at birth. The other extreme is that reached by great intellects, who, having run through all that men can know, find they know nothing, and come back again to that same ignorance from which they set out.
    Blaise Pascal – Pensées (1670)

There are only three types of people; those who have found God and serve him; those who have not found God and seek him, and those who live not seeking, or finding him. The first are rational and happy; the second unhappy and rational, and the third foolish and unhappy.
    Blaise Pascal

There no doubt exist natural laws, but once this fine reason of ours was corrupted, it corrupted everything.
    Blaise Pascal – Pensées (1670)

Things are always at their best in the beginning.
    Blaise Pascal

Thinking too little about things or thinking too much both make us obstinate and fanatical.
    Blaise Pascal – Pensées (1670)

This is what I see, and what troubles me. I look on all sides, and everywhere I see nothing but obscurity. Nature offers me nothing that is not a matter of doubt and disquiet.
    Blaise Pascal – Pensées (1670)

Those who are clever in imagination are far more pleased with themselves than prudent men could reasonably be.
    Blaise Pascal – Pensées (1670)

Thought constitutes the greatness of man.
    Blaise Pascal – Pensées (1670)

To make light of philosophy is to be a true philosopher.
    Blaise Pascal – Pensées (1670)

True morality makes fun of morality.
    Blaise Pascal – Pensées (1670)

Truth is so obscure in these times, and falsehood so established, that, unless we love the truth, we cannot know it.
    Blaise Pascal

Vanity is so secure in the heart of man that everyone wants to be admired: even I who write this, and you who read this.
    Blaise Pascal

We are generally the better persuaded by the reasons we discover ourselves than by those given to us by others.
    Blaise Pascal – Pensées (1670)

We are only falsehood, duplicity, contradiction; we both conceal and disguise ourselves from ourselves.
    Blaise Pascal

We can only know God well when we know our own sin. And those who have known God without knowing their wretchedness have not glorified Him but have glorified themselves.
    Blaise Pascal

We like security: We like the pope to be infallible in matters of faith, and grave doctors to be so in moral questions so that we can feel reassured.
    Blaise Pascal

We must keep our thought secret, and judge everything by it, while talking like the people.
    Blaise Pascal – Pensées (1670)

We must learn our limits. We are all something, but none of us are everything.
    Blaise Pascal

What a Chimera is man! What a novelty, a monster, a chaos, a contradiction, a prodigy! Judge of all things, an imbecile worm of the earth; depository of truth, and sewer of error and doubt; the glory and refuse of the universe.
    Blaise Pascal – Pensées (1670)

What amazes me the most is to see that everyone is not amazed at his own weakness.
    Blaise Pascal – Pensées (1670)

What part of us feels pleasure? Is it our hand, our arm, our flesh, or our blood? It must obviously be something immaterial.
    Blaise Pascal – Pensées (1670)

When we read too fast or too slowly, we understand nothing.
    Blaise Pascal

Who dispenses reputation? Who makes us respect and revere persons, works, laws, the great? Who but this faculty of imagination? All the riches of the earth are inadequate without its approval.
    Blaise Pascal – Pensées (1670)

Who knows if this other half of life where we think we’re awake is not another sleep a little different from the first.
    Blaise Pascal – Pensées (1670)

Wisdom leads us back to childhood.
    Blaise Pascal – Pensées (1670)

You always admire what you really don’t understand.
    Blaise Pascal

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