Friday, August 21, 2009

Blaise Pascal

I titled this so blithely as if I could possibly write a blog entry that says anything about Blaise Pascal. But I learned that he is remembered today, though he died on August 19, in 1662.

He's best known for Pascal's wager, the logical proposition that if you don't know if there is a God, but act as if there is, then if there is a God, you're golden, and if there isn't, well, no harm done. (Boy, am I oversimplifying!) That's the coldly rational mathematician side of his faith.

But I am more drawn to his understanding that rationality doesn't explain everything. "The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing," he said in his Pensees. I am not even going to try to unpack that. I am so far out of my depth here, I don't want to presume to explain Pascal.

It did, however, remind me of the story from last Sunday's lectionary when Solomon asks God for wisdom. In my prep, I learned that when Solomon asks for an understanding mind is elsewhere translated "a hearing heart." I liked that a lot: that the heart's response not just a "this feels good to me" reaction to the world, but an interactive one, hearing as well as feeling. Something akin to reason, with both input and analysis, but in its own heartlike way.


Lorin said...

He looks so disapproving in that image! All "mm, hm, Just try to understand higher orders of mathematics, lady!" Hopefully that's just the artist and wasn't Pascal's real attitude, or else he would have been no fun to be around.

Laura Toepfer said...

He doesn't sound like a party animal, that's for sure.