Front Page Titles (by Subject) THE MISERY OF MAN WITHOUT GOD OR THAT NATURE IS NATURALLY CORRUPT. - The Thoughts of Blaise Pascal
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THE MISERY OF MAN WITHOUT GOD OR THAT NATURE IS NATURALLY CORRUPT. - Blaise Pascal, The Thoughts of Blaise Pascal 
The Thoughts of Blaise Pascal, translated from the text of M. Auguste Molinier by C. Kegan Paul (London: George Bell and Sons, 1901).
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THE MISERY OF MAN WITHOUT GOD OR THAT NATURE IS NATURALLY CORRUPT.
TO speak of those who have treated of the knowledge of self, of the divisions of Charron , which sadden and weary us, of the confusion of Montaigne; that he was aware he had no definite system, and tried to evade the difficulty by leaping from subject to subject; that he sought to be fashionable.
His foolish project of self-description, and this not casually and against his maxims, since everybody may make mistakes, but by his maxims themselves, and by his main and principal design. For to say foolish things by chance and weakness is an ordinary evil, but to say them designedly is unbearable, and to say such as that . . .
Montaigne.—Montaigne’s defects are great. Lewd expressions. This is bad, whatever Mademoiselle de Gournay may say. He is credulous, people without eyes; ignorant, squaring the circle,a greater world. His opinions on suicide and on death. He suggests a carelessness about salvation, without fear and without repentance. Since his book was not written with a religious intent, it was not his duty to speak of religion; but it is always a duty not to turn men from it. We may excuse his somewhat lax and licentious opinions on some relations of life, but not his thoroughly pagan opinions on death, for a man must give over piety altogether, if he does not at least wish to die like a Christian. Now through the whole of his book he looks forward to nothing but a soft and indolent death.
What good there is in Montaigne can only have been acquired with difficulty. What is evil in him, I mean apart from his morality, could have been corrected in a moment, if any one had told him he was too prolix and too egoistical.
Not in Montaigne, but in myself, I find all that I see in him.
Let no one say I have said nothing new, the disposition of my matter is new. In playing tennis, two men play with the same ball, but one places it better.
It might as truly be said that my words have been used before. And if the same thoughts in a different arrangement do not form a different discourse, so neither do the same words in a different arrangement form different thoughts.
THIS is where our intuitive knowledge leads us. If it be not true, there is no truth in man; and if it be, he finds therein a great reason for humiliation, because he must abase himself in one way or another. And since he cannot exist without such knowledge, I wish that before entering on deeper researches into nature he would consider her seriously and at leisure, that he would examine himself also, and knowing what proportion there is . . . Let man then contemplate the whole realm of nature in her full and exalted majesty, and turn his eyes from the low objects which hem him round; let him observe that brilliant light set like an eternal lamp to illumine the universe, let the earth appear to him a point in comparison with the vast circle described by the sun, and let him see with amazement that even this vast circle is itself but a fine point in regard to that described by the stars revolving in the firmament. If our view be arrested there, let imagination pass beyond, and it will sooner exhaust the power of thinking than nature that of giving scope for thought. The whole visible world is but an imperceptible speck in the ample bosom of nature. No idea approaches it. We may swell our conceptions beyond all imaginable space, yet bring forth only atoms in comparison with the reality of things. It is an infinite sphere, the centre of which is every where, the circumference no where. It is, in short, the greatest sensible mark of the almighty power of God, that imagination loses itself in that thought.
Then, returning to himself, let man consider his own being compared with all that is; let him regard himself as wandering in this remote province of nature; and from the little dungeon in which he finds himself lodged, I mean the universe, let him learn to set a true value on the earth, on its kingdoms, its cities, and on himself.
What is a man in the infinite? But to show him another prodigy no less astonishing, let him examine the most delicate things he knows. Let him take a mite which in its minute body presents him with parts incomparably more minute; limbs with their joints, veins in the limbs, blood in the veins, humours in the blood, drops in the humours, vapours in the drops; let him, again dividing these last, exhaust his power of thought; let the last point at which he arrives be that of which we speak, and he will perhaps think that here is the extremest diminutive in nature. Then I will open before him therein a new abyss. I will paint for him not only the the visible universe, but all that he can conceive of nature’s immensity in the enclosure of this diminished atom. Let him therein see an infinity of universes of which each has its firmament, its planets, its earth, in the same proportion as in the visible world; in each earth animals, and at the last the mites, in which he will come upon all that was in the first, and still find in these others the same without end and without cessation; let him lose himself in wonders as astonishing in their minuteness as the others in their immensity; for who will not be amazed at seeing that our body, which before was imperceptible in the universe, itself imperceptible in the bosom of the whole, is now a colossus, a world, a whole, in regard to the nothingness to which we cannot attain.
Whoso takes this survey of himself will be terrified at the thought that he is upheld in the material being, given him by nature, between these two abysses of the infinite and nothing, he will tremble at the sight of these marvels; and I think that as his curiosity changes into wonder, he will be more disposed to contemplate them in silence than to search into them with presumption.
For after all what is man in nature? A nothing in regard to the infinite, a whole in regard to nothing, a mean between nothing and the whole; infinitely removed from understanding either extreme. The end of things and their beginnings are invincibly hidden from him in impenetrable secrecy, he is equally incapable of seeing the nothing whence he was taken, and the infinite in which he is engulfed.
What shall he do then, but discern somewhat of the middle of things in an eternal despair of knowing either their beginning or their end? All things arise from nothing, and tend towards the infinite. Who can follow their marvellous course? The author of these wonders can understand them, and none but he.
Of these two infinites in nature, the infinitely great and the infinitely little, man can more easily conceive the great.
Because they have not considered these infinities, men have rashly plunged into the research of nature, as though they bore some proportion to her.
It is strange that they have wished to understand the origin of all that is, and thence to attain to the knowledge of the whole, with a presumption as infinite as their object. For there is no doubt that such a design cannot be formed without presumption or without a capacity as infinite as nature.
If we are well informed, we understand that nature having graven her own image and that of her author on all things, they are almost all partakers of her double infinity. Thus we see that all the sciences are infinite in the extent of their researches, for none can doubt that geometry, for instance, has an infinite infinity of problems to propose. They are also infinite in the number and in the nicety of their premisses, for it is evident that those which are finally proposed are not self-supporting, but are based on others, which again having others as their support have no finality.
But we make some apparently final to the reason, just as in regard to material things we call that an indivisible point beyond which our senses can no longer perceive any thing, though by its nature this also is infinitely divisible.
Of these two scientific infinities, that of greatness is the most obvious to the senses, and therefore a few persons have made pretensions to universal knowledge. “I will discourse of the all, ” said Democritus.
But beyond the fact that it is a small thing to speak of it simply, without proving and knowing, it is nevertheless impossible to do so, the infinite multitude of things being so hidden, that all we can express by word or thought is but an invisible trace of them. Hence it is plain how foolish, vain, and ignorant is that title of some books: De omni scibili.
But the infinitely little is far less evident. Philosophers have much more frequently asserted they have attained it, yet in that very point they have all stumbled. This has given occasion to such common titles as The Origin of Creation,The Principles of Philosophy, and the like, as presumptuous in fact, though not in appearance as that dazzling one, De omni scibili.
We naturally think that we can more easily reach the centre of things than embrace their circumference. The visible bulk of the world visibly exceeds us, but as we exceed little things, we think ourselves more capable of possessing them. Yet we need no less capacity to attain the nothing than the whole. Infinite capacity is needed for both, and it seems to me that whoever shall have understood the ultimate principles of existence might also attain to the knowledge of the infinite. The one depends on the other, and one leads to the other. Extremes meet and reunite by virtue of their distance, to find each other in God, and in God alone.
Let us then know our limits; we are something, but we are not all. What existence we have conceals from us the knowledge of first principles which spring from the nothing, while the pettiness of that existence hides from us the sight of the infinite.
In the order of intelligible things our intelligence holds the same position as our body holds in the vast extent of nature.
Restricted in every way, this middle state between two extremes is common to all our weaknesses.
Our senses can perceive no extreme. Too much noise deafens us, excess of light blinds us, too great distance or nearness equally interfere with our vision, prolixity or brevity equally obscure a discourse, too much truth overwhelms us. I know even those who cannot understand that if four be taken from nothing nothing remains. First principles are too plain for us, superfluous pleasure troubles us. Too many concords are unpleasing in music, and too many benefits annoy, we wish to have wherewithal to overpay our debt. Beneficia eo usque læta suntdum videntur exsolvi posse; ubi multum antevenere pro gratia odium redditur.
We feel neither extreme heat nor extreme cold. Qualities in excess are inimical to us and not apparent to the senses, we do not feel but are passive under them. The weakness of youth and age equally hinder the mind, as also too much and too little teaching. . .
In a word, all extremes are for us as though they were not; and we are not, in regard to them: they escape us, or we them.
This is our true state; this is what renders us incapable both of certain knowledge and of absolute ignorance. We sail on a vast expanse, ever uncertain, ever drifting, hurried from one to the other goal. If we think to attach ourselves firmly to any point, it totters and fails us; if we follow, it eludes our grasp, and flies us, vanishing for ever. Nothing stays for us. This is our natural condition, yet always the most contrary to our inclination; we burn with desire to find a steadfast place and an ultimate fixed basis whereon we may build a tower to reach the infinite. But our whole foundation breaks up, and earth opens to the abysses.
We may not then look for certainty or stability. Our reason is always deceived by changing shows, nothing can fix the finite between the two infinites, which at once enclose and fly from it.
If this be once well understood I think that we shall rest, each in the state wherein nature has placed him. This element which falls to us as our lot being always distant from either extreme, it matters not that a man should have a trifle more knowledge of the universe. If he has it, he but begins a little higher. He is always infinitely distant from the end, and the duration of our life is infinitely removed from eternity, even if it last ten years longer.
In regard to these infinites all finites are equal, and I see not why we should fix our imagination on one more than on another. The only comparison which we can make of ourselves to the finite troubles us.
Were man to begin with the study of himself, he would see how incapable he is of proceeding further. How can a part know the whole? But he may perhaps aspire to know at least the parts with which he has proportionate relation. But the parts of the world are so linked and related, that I think it impossible to know one without another, or without the whole.
Man, for instance, is related to all that he knows. He needs place wherein to abide, time through which to exist, motion in order to live; he needs constituent elements, warmth and food to nourish him, air to breathe. He sees light, he feels bodies, he contracts an alliance with all that is.
To know man then it is necessary to understand how it comes that he needs air to breathe, and to know the air we must understand how it has relation to the life of man, etc.
Flame cannot exist without air, therefore to know one, we must know the other.
All that exists then is both cause and effect, dependent and supporting, mediate and immediate, and all is held together by a natural though imperceptible bond, which unites things most distant and most different. I hold it impossible to know the parts without knowing the whole, or to know the whole without knowing the parts in detail.
I hold it impossible to know one alone without all the others, that is to say impossible purely and absolutely.
The eternity of things in themselves or in God must also confound our brief duration. The fixed and constant immobility of Nature in comparison with the continual changes which take place in us must have the same effect.
And what completes our inability to know things is that they are in their essence simple, whereas we are composed of two opposite natures differing in kind, soul and body. For it is impossible that our reasoning part should be other than spiritual; and should any allege that we are simply material, this would far more exclude us from the knowledge of things, since it is an inconceivable paradox to affirm that matter can know itself, and it is not possible for us to know how it should know itself.
So, were we simply material, we could know nothing whatever, and if we are composed of spirit and matter we cannot perfectly know what is simple, whether it be spiritual or material. For how should we know matter distinctly, since our being, which acts on this knowledge, is partly spiritual, and how should we know spiritual substances clearly since we have a body which weights us, and drags us down to earth.
Moreover what completes our inability is the simplicity of things compared with our double and complex nature. To dispute this point were an invincible absurdity, for it is as absurd as impious to deny that man is composed of two parts, differing in their nature, soul and body. This renders us unable to know all things; for if this complexity be denied, and it be asserted that we are entirely material, it is plain that matter is incapable of knowing matter. Nothing is more impossible than this.
Let us conceive then that this mixture of spirit and clay throws us out of proportion. . .
Hence it comes that almost all philosophers have confounded different ideas, and speak of material things in spiritual phrase, and of spiritual things in material phrase. For they say boldly that bodies have a tendency to fall, that they seek after their centre, that they fly from destruction, that they fear a void, that they have inclinations, sympathies, antipathies; and all of these are spiritual qualities. Again, in speaking of spirits, they conceive of them as in a given spot, or as moving from place to place; qualities which belong to matter alone.
Instead of receiving the ideas of these things simply, we colour them with our own qualities, and stamp with our complex being all the simple things which we contemplate.
Who would not think, when we declare that all that is consists of mind and matter, that we really understood this combination? Yet it is the one thing we least understand. Man is to himself the most marvellous object in Nature, for he cannot conceive what matter is, still less what is mind, and less than all how a material body should be united to a mind. This is the crown of all his difficulties, yet it is his very being: Modus quo corporibus adhæret spirituscomprehendi ab homine non potest et hoc tamen homo est.
These are some of the causes which render man so totally unable to know nature. For nature has a twofold infinity, he is finite and limited. Nature is permanent, and continues in one stay; he is fleeting and mortal. All things fail and change each instant, he sees them only as they pass, they have their beginning and end, he conceives neither the one nor the other. They are simple, he is composed of two different natures. And to complete the proof of our weakness, I will finish by this reflection on our natural condition. In a word, to complete the proof of our weakness, I will end with these two considerations. . .
The nature of man may be considered in two ways, one according to its end, and then it is great and incomparable; the other according to popular opinion, as we judge of the nature of a horse or a dog, by popular opinion which discerns in it the power of speed, et animum arcendi; and then man is abject and vile. These are the two ways which make us judge of it so differently and which cause such disputes among philosophers.
For one denies the supposition of the other; one says, He was not born for such an end, for all his actions are repugnant to it; the other says, He cannot gain his end when he commits base deeds.
Two things instruct man about his whole nature, instinct and experience.
Inconstancy.—We think we are playing on ordinary organs when we play upon man: Men are organs indeed, but fantastic, changeable, and various, with pipes not arranged in due succession. Those who understand only how to play upon ordinary organs make no harmonies on these. We should know where are the . . .
Nature.—Nature has placed us so truly in the centre, that if we alter one side of the balance we alter also the other. This makes me believe that there is a mechanism in our brain, so adjusted, that who touches one touches also the contrary spring.
Lustravit lampade terras. —The weather and my moods have little in common. I have my foggy and my fine days within me, whether my affairs go well or ill has little to do with the matter. I sometimes strive against my luck, the glory of subduing it makes me subdue it gaily, whereas I am sometimes wearied in the midst of my good luck.
It is difficult to submit anything to the judgment of a second person without prejudicing him by the way in which we submit it. If we say, “I think it beautiful, I think it obscure,” or the like, we either draw the imagination to that opinion, or irritate it to form the contrary. It is better to say nothing, so that the other may judge according to what really is, that is to say, as it then is, and according as the other circumstances which are not of our making have placed it. We at least shall have added nothing of our own, except that silence produces an effect, according to the turn and the interpretation which the other is inclined to give it, or as he may conjecture it, from gestures or countenance, or from the tone of voice, if he be a physiognomist; so difficult is it not to oust the judgment from its natural seat, or rather so rarely is it firm and stable!
The spirit of this sovereign judge of the world is not so independent but that it is liable to be troubled by the first disturbance about him. The noise of a cannon is not needed to break his train of thought, it need only be the creaking of a weathercock or a pulley. Do not be astonished if at this moment he argues incoherently, a fly is buzzing about his ears, and that is enough to render him incapable of sound judgment. Would you have him arrive at truth, drive away that creature which holds his reason in check, and troubles that powerful intellect which gives laws to towns and kingdoms. Here is a droll kind of god! O ridicolosissimo eroe!
The power of flies, which win battles, hinder our soul from action, devour our body.
When we are too young our judgment is at fault, so also when we are too old.
If we take not thought enough, or too much, on any matter, we are obstinate and infatuated.
He that considers his work so soon as it leaves his hands, is prejudiced in its favour, he that delays his survey too long, cannot regain the spirit of it.
So with pictures seen from too near or too far; there is but one precise point from which to look at them, all others are too near or too far, too high or too low. Perspective determines that precise point in the art of painting. But who shall determine it in truth or morals?
When I consider the short duration of my life, swallowed up in the eternity before and after, the small space which I fill, or even can see, engulfed in the infinite immensity of spaces whereof I know nothing, and which know nothing of me, I am terrified, and wonder that I am here rather than there, for there is no reason why here rather than there, or now rather than then. Who has set me here? By whose order and design have this place and time been destined for me?—Memoria hospitis unius diei prætereuntis.
It is not well to be too much at liberty. It is not well to have all we want
How many kingdoms know nothing of us!
The eternal silence of these infinite spaces alarms me.
Nothing more astonishes me than to see that men are not astonished at their own weakness. They act seriously, and every one follows his own mode of life, not because it is, as a fact, good to follow, being the custom, but as if each man knew certainly where are reason and justice. They find themselves constantly deceived, and by an amusing humility always imagine that the fault is in themselves, and not in the art which all profess to understand. But it is well there are so many of this kind of people in the world, who are not sceptics for the glory of scepticism, to show that man is thoroughly capable of the most extravagant opinions, because he is capable of believing that his weakness is not natural and inevitable, but that, on the contrary, his wisdom comes by nature.
Nothing fortifies scepticism more than that there are some who are not sceptics. If all were so, they would be wrong.
Two infinites, a mean. If we read too quickly or too slowly, we understand nothing.
Too much and too little wine. Give a man none, he cannot find truth, give him too much, the same.
Chance gives thoughts, and chance takes them away; there is no art for keeping or gaining them.
A thought has escaped me. I would write it down. I write instead, that it has escaped me.
In writing down my thought it now and then escapes me, but this reminds me of my weakness, which I constantly forget. This teaches me as much as my forgotten thought, for my whole study is to know my nothingness.
Are men so strong, as to be insensible to all which affects them? Let us try them in the loss of goods or honour. Ah! the charm is worked.
To fear death out of danger, and not in danger, for we must be men.
Sudden death is the only thing to fear, therefore confessors live in the houses of the great.
We know ourselves so little, that many think themselves near death when they are perfectly well, and many think themselves well when they are near death, since they do not feel the fever at hand, or the abscess about to form.
Why is my knowledge so restricted, or my height, or my life to a hundred years rather than to a thousand? What was nature’s reason for giving me such length of days, and for choosing this number rather than another, in that infinity where there is no reason to choose one more than another, since none is preferable to another?
The nature of man is not always to go forward, it has its advances and retreats.
Fever has its hot and cold fits, and the cold proves as well as the hot how great is the force of the fever.
The inventions of men from age to age follow the same plan. It is the same with the goodness and the wickedness of the world in general.
Plerumque gratæprincipibus vices.
The strength of a man’s virtue must not be measured by his occasional efforts, but by his ordinary life.
Those great spiritual efforts to which the soul sometimes attains are things on which it takes no permanent hold. It leaps to them, not as to a throne, for ever, but only for an instant.
I do not admire the excess of a virtue as of valour, unless I see at the same time the excess of the opposite virtue, as in Epaminondas, who had exceeding valour and exceeding humanity, for otherwise we do not rise, but fall. Grandeur is not shown by being at one extremity, but in touching both at once, and filling the whole space between. But perhaps this is only a sudden motion of the soul from one to the other extreme, and in fact it is always at one point only, as when a firebrand is whirled. Be it so, but at least this marks the agility if not the magnitude of the soul.
We do not remain virtuous by our own power, but by the counterpoise of two opposite vices, we remain standing as between two contrary winds; take away one of these vices, we fall into the other.
When we would pursue the virtues to their extremes on either side, vices present themselves, which insinuate themselves insensibly there, in their insensible course towards the infinitely great, so that we lose ourselves in vices, and no longer see virtues.
It is not shameful to man to yield to pain, and it is shameful to yield to pleasure. This is not because pain comes from without us, while we seek pleasure, for we may seek pain, and yield to it willingly without this kind of baseness. How comes it then that reason finds it glorious in us to yield under the assaults of pain, and shameful to yield under the assaults of pleasure? It is because pain does not tempt and attract us. We ourselves choose it voluntarily, and will that it have dominion over us. We are thus masters of the situation, and so far man yields to himself, but in pleasure man yields to pleasure. Now only mastery and empire bring glory, and only slavery causes shame.
All things may prove fatal to us, even those made to serve us, as in nature walls may kill us and stairs may kill us, if we walk not aright.
The slightest movement affects all nature, the whole sea changes because of a rock. Thus in grace, the most trifling action has effect on everything by its consequences; therefore everything is important.
Provided we know each man’s ruling passion we are sure of pleasing him; yet each man has his fancies, contrary to his real good, even in the very idea he forms of good; a strange fact which puts all out of tune.
When our passions lead us to any act we forget our duty. If we like a book we read it, when we should be doing something else. But as a reminder we ought to propose to ourselves to do something distasteful; we then excuse ourselves that we have something else to do, and thus remember our duty.
Sneezing absorbs all the faculties of the soul, as do certain bodily functions, but we do not draw therefrom the same conclusions against the greatness of man, because it is against his will. And if we make ourselves sneeze we do so against our will. It is not in view of the act itself, but for another end, and so it is not a mark of the weakness of man, and of his slavery to that act.
Scaramouch, who thinks of one thing only.
The doctor, who speaks for a quarter of an hour after he has said all he has to say, so full is he of the desire of talking.
The parrot’s beak, which he dries though it is clean already.
The sense of falseness in present pleasures, and our ignorance of the vanity of absent pleasures, are the causes of inconstancy.
He no longer loves the person he loved ten years ago. I can well believe it. She is no longer the same, nor is he. He was young, and so was she; she is quite different. He would perhaps love her still were she what she then was.
Reasons, seen from afar, appear to restrict our view, but not when we reach them; we begin to see beyond.
. . . We look at things not only from other sides, but with other eyes, and care not to find them alike.
Diversity is ample, as all tones of the voice, all modes of walking, coughing, blowing the nose, sneezing. We distinguish different kinds of vine by their fruit, and name them the Condrieu, the Desargues, and this stock. But is this all? Has a vine ever produced two bunches exactly alike, and has a bunch ever two grapes alike? etc.
I never can judge of the same thing exactly in the same way. I cannot judge of my work while engaged on it. I must do as the painters, stand at a distance, but not too far. How far, then? Guess.
Diversity.—Theology is a science; but at the same time how many sciences! Man is a whole, but if we dissect him, will man be the head, the heart, the stomach, the veins, each vein, each portion of a vein, the blood, each humour of the blood?
A town, a champaign, is from afar a town and a champaign; but as we approach there are houses, trees, tiles, leaves, grass, emmets, limbs of emmets, in infinite series. All this is comprised under the word champaign.
We like to see the error, the passion of Cleobuline, because she is not aware of it. She would be displeasing if she were not deceived.
What a confusion of judgment is that, by which every one puts himself above all the rest of the world, and loves his own advantage and the duration of his happiness or his life above those of all others.
DIVERSION.—When I have set myself now and then to consider the various distractions of men, the toils and dangers to which they expose themselves in the court or the camp, whence arise so many quarrels and passions, such daring and often such evil exploits, etc., I have discovered that all the misfortunes of men arise from one thing only, that they are unable to stay quietly in their own chamber. A man who has enough to live on, if he knew how to dwell with pleasure in his own home, would not leave it for sea-faring or to besiege a city. An office in the army would not be bought so dearly but that it seems insupportable not to stir from the town, and people only seek conversation and amusing games because they cannot remain with pleasure in their own homes.
But upon stricter examination, when, having found the cause of all our ills, I have sought to discover the reason of it, I have found one which is paramount, the natural evil of our weak and mortal condition, so miserable that nothing can console us when we think of it attentively.
Whatever condition we represent to ourselves, if we bring to our minds all the advantages it is possible to possess, Royalty is the finest position in the world. Yet, when we imagine a king surrounded with all the conditions which he can desire, if he be without diversion, and be allowed to consider and examine what he is, this feeble happiness will never sustain him; he will necessarily fall into a foreboding of maladies which threaten him, of revolutions which may arise, and lastly, of death and inevitable diseases; so that if he be without what is called diversion he is unhappy, and more unhappy than the humblest of his subjects who plays and diverts himself.
Hence it comes that play and the society of women, war, and offices of state, are so sought after. Not that there is in these any real happiness, or that any imagine true bliss to consist in the money won at play, or in the hare which is hunted; we would not have these as gifts. We do not seek an easy and peaceful lot which leaves us free to think of our unhappy condition, nor the dangers of war, nor the troubles of statecraft, but seek rather the distraction which amuses us, and diverts our mind from these thoughts.
Hence it comes that men so love noise and movement, hence it comes that a prison is so horrible a punishment, hence it comes that the pleasure of solitude is a thing incomprehensible. And it is the great subject of happiness in the condition of kings, that all about them try incessantly to divert them, and to procure for them all manner of pleasures.
The king is surrounded by persons who think only how to divert the king, and to prevent his thinking of self. For he is unhappy, king though he be, if he think of self.
That is all that human ingenuity can do for human happiness. And those who philosophise on the matter, and think men unreasonable that they pass a whole day in hunting a hare which they would not have bought, scarce know our nature. The hare itself would not free us from the view of death and our miseries, but the chase of the hare does free us. Thus, when we make it a reproach that what they seek with such eagerness cannot satisfy them, if they answered as on mature judgment they should do, that they sought in it only violent and impetuous occupation to turn their thoughts from self, and that therefore they made choice of an attractive object which charms and ardently attracts them, they would leave their adversaries without a reply. But they do not so answer because they do not know themselves; they do not know they seek the chase and not the quarry.
They fancy that were they to gain such and such an office they would then rest with pleasure, and are unaware of the insatiable nature of their desire. They believe they are honestly seeking repose, but they are only seeking agitation.
They have a secret instinct prompting them to look for diversion and occupation from without, which arises from the sense of their continual pain. They have another secret instinct, a relic of the greatness of our primitive nature, teaching them that happiness indeed consists in rest, and not in turmoil. And of these two contrary instincts a confused project is formed within them, concealing itself from their sight in the depths of their soul, leading them to aim at rest through agitation, and always to imagine that they will gain the satisfaction which as yet they have not, if by surmounting certain difficulties which now confront them, they may thereby open the door to rest.
Thus rolls all our life away. We seek repose by resistance to obstacles, and so soon as these are surmounted, repose becomes intolerable. For we think either on the miseries we feel or on those we fear. And even when we seem sheltered on all sides, weariness, of its own accord, will spring from the depths of the heart wherein are its natural roots, and fill the soul with its poison.
The counsel given to Pyrrhus to take the rest of which he was going in search through so many labours, was full of difficulties.
A gentleman sincerely believes that the chase is a great, and even a royal sport, but his whipper-in does not share his opinion.
Dancing.—We must think where to place our feet.
But can you say what object he has in all this? The pleasure of boasting to-morrow among his friends that he has played better than another. Thus others sweat in their closets to prove to the learned world that they have solved an algebraical problem hitherto insoluble, while many more expose themselves to the greatest perils, in my judgment as foolishly, for the glory of taking a town. Again, others kill themselves, by their very application to all these studies, not indeed that they may grow wiser, but simply to prove that they know them; these are the most foolish of the band, because they are so wittingly, whereas it is reasonable to suppose of the others, that were they but aware of it, they would give over their folly.
A man passes his life without weariness in playing every day for a small stake. Give him each morning, on condition he does not play, the money he might possibly win, and you make him miserable. It will be said, perhaps, that he seeks the amusement of play, and not the winnings. Make him then play for nothing, he will not be excited over it, and will soon be wearied. Mere diversion then is not his pursuit, a languid and passionless amusement will weary him. He must grow warm in it, and cheat himself by thinking that he is made happy by gaining what he would despise if it were given him not to play; and must frame for himself a subject of passion and excitement to employ his desire, his wrath, his fear, as children are frightened at a face themselves have daubed.
Whence comes it that a man who within a few months has lost his only son, or who this morning was overwhelmed with law suits and wrangling, now thinks of them no more? Be not surprised; he is altogether taken up with looking out for the boar which his hounds have been hunting so hotly for the last six hours. He needs no more. However full of sadness a man may be, he is happy for the time, if you can only get him to enter into some diversion. And however happy a man may be, he will soon become dispirited and miserable if he be not diverted and occupied by some passion or pursuit which hinders his being overcome by weariness. Without diversion no joy, with diversion no sadness. And this forms the happiness of persons in high position, that they have a number of people to divert them, and that they have the power to keep themselves in this state.
Take heed to this. What is it to be superintendent, chancellor, first president, but to be in a condition wherein from early morning a vast number of persons flock in from every side, so as not to leave them an hour in the day in which they can think of themselves? And if they are in disgrace and dismissed to their country houses, though they want neither wealth nor retinue at need, they yet are miserable and desolate because no one hinders them from thinking of themselves.
Thus man is so unhappy that he wearies himself without cause of weariness by the peculiar state of his temperament, and he is so frivolous that, being full of a thousand essential causes of weariness, the least thing, such as a cue and a ball to strike with it, is enough to divert him.
Diversions.—Men are charged from infancy with the care of their honour, their fortunes, and their friends, and more, with the care of the fortunes and honour of their friends. They are overwhelmed with business, with the study of languages and bodily exercises; they are given to understand that they cannot be happy unless their health, their honour, their fortune and that of their friends be in good condition, and that a single point wanting will render them unhappy. Thus we give them business and occupations which harass them incessantly from the very dawn of day. A strange mode, you will say, of making them happy. What more could be done to make them miserable? What could be done? We need only release them from all these cares, for then they would see themselves; they would think on what they are, whence they come, and whither they go, and therefore it is impossible to occupy and distract them too much. This is why, after having provided them with constant business, if there be any time to spare we urge them to employ it in diversion and in play, so as to be always fully occupied.
How comes it that this man, distressed at the death of his wife and his only son, or who has some great and embarrassing law suit, is not at this moment sad, and that he appears so free from all painful and distressing thoughts? We need not be astonished, for a ball has just been served to him, and he must return it to his opponent. His whole thoughts are fixed on taking it as it falls from the penthouse, to win a chase; and you cannot ask that he should think on his business, having this other affair in hand. Here is a care worthy of occupying this great soul, and taking away from him every other thought of the mind. This man, born to know the Universe, to judge of all things, to rule a State, is altogether occupied and filled with the business of catching a hare. And if he will not abase himself to this, and wishes always to be highly strung, he will only be more foolish still, because he wishes to raise himself above humanity; yet when all is said and done he is only a man, that is to say capable of little and of much, of all and of nothing. He is neither angel nor brute, but man.
One thought alone occupies us, we cannot think of two things at once; a good thing for us, from a worldly point of view, but not as regards God.
Diversion.—Death is easier to bear without the thought of it, than is the thought of death without danger.
Diversion.—Men, unable to remedy death, sorrow, and ignorance, determine, in order to make themselves happy, not to think on these things.
Notwithstanding these miseries, man wishes to be happy, and wishes for happiness only; unable to wish otherwise, he knows not how to gain happiness. For this he must needs make himself immortal; but unable to effect this, he sets himself to avoid the thought of death.
The miseries of human life are the cause of all this; having a perception of them men take to diversion.
Diversion.—If man were happy he would be the more so the less he was diverted, like the Saints and God.
Yes: but is not the power of being pleased with diversion in itself a happiness? No; for that comes from elsewhere and from without, so it is dependent, and therefore liable to be troubled by a thousand accidents, which make afflictions inevitable.
Misery.—The one thing which consoles us for our miseries is diversion, yet this itself is the greatest of our miseries. For this it is which mainly hinders us from thinking of ourselves, and which insensibly destroys us. Without this we should be weary, and weariness would drive us to seek a more abiding way out of it. But diversion beguiles us and leads us insensibly onward to death.
This is all they have been able to discover to console them in so many evils. But it is a miserable consolation, since it does not serve for the cure of the evil, but simply for the concealment of it for a short time, and its very concealment prevents the thought of any true cure. Thus by a strange inversion of man’s nature he finds that the weariness which is his most sensible evil, is in some measure his greatest good, because more than any thing else it contributes to make him seek his true healing, and that the diversion which he regards as his greatest good is in fact his greatest evil, because more than any thing else it prevents his seeking the remedy for his evils. Both of these are admirable proofs of man’s misery and corruption, and at the same time of his greatness, since man is only weary of all things, and only seeks this multitude of occupations because he has the idea of a lost happiness. And not finding this in himself, he seeks it vainly in external things, without being able to content himself, because it is neither in us, nor in the creature, but in God alone.
Thoughts.—In omnibus requiem quæsivi.
Were our condition truly happy we need not turn our minds from it in order to become happy.
A little matter consoles us, because a little matter afflicts us.
Strife alone pleases us and not the victory. We like to see beasts fighting, not the victor furious over the vanquished. We wish only to see the victorious end, and as soon as it comes, we are surfeited. It is the same in play, and in the search for truth. In all disputes we like to see the clash of opinions, but care not at all to contemplate truth when found. If we are to see truth with pleasure, we must see it arise out of conflict.
So in the passions, there is pleasure in seeing the shock of two contraries, but as soon as one gains the mastery it becomes mere brutality. We never seek things in themselves, but only the search for things. So on the stage, quiet scenes which raise no emotion are worthless, so is extreme and hopeless misery, so are brutal lust and excessive cruelty.
Continuous eloquence wearies.
Princes and kings sometimes unbend. They are not for ever on their thrones, where they grow weary. Grandeur to be felt must be abandoned, continuity in anything is displeasing. Cold is pleasant, that we may seek warmth.
Weariness.—Nothing is so insupportable to man as to be completely at rest, without passion, without business, without diversion, without study. He then feels his nothingness, his loneliness, his insufficiency, his dependence, his weakness, his emptiness.
At once, from the depth of his soul, will arise weariness, gloom, sadness, vexation, disappointment, despair.
Agitation.—When a soldier complains of his work, or a ploughman, etc., force them to be idle.
Diversion.—Is not the royal dignity itself so truly great as to make its possessor happy by the mere contemplation of what he is? Must he be diverted from this thought like ordinary people? I see well enough that a man may be made happy by diverting him from the thought of his domestic sorrows so that he apply all his care to excel in dancing. But will it be the same with a king, and will he be happier if he devote himself to these idle amusements rather than to the contemplation of his greatness? And what more satisfactory object can he offer to his mind? Might it not be to lessen his content that he occupy his soul in thinking how to suit his steps to the cadence of an air, or how to throw a bar skilfully, rather than allow it to enjoy peacefully the contemplation of the majesty which wraps him round? Let us make the experiment, let us leave a king all alone, without any gratifications of sense, or any occupation for the mind, without companions, reflecting on himself at leisure, and it will be seen that a king without diversion is a man full of miseries. This is therefore carefully avoided, and there are always about the persons of kings a great number of people who watch to see that diversion succeeds to business, and look after their every hour of leisure to furnish them with pleasures and games, so that no vacancy may be left in life; that is, they are surrounded with persons who take wonderful pains that the king is never alone and able to think of self, knowing well that he will be miserable, king though he is, if he think of self.
In all this I am not speaking of Christian kings as Christians, but simply as kings.
Men busy themselves in pursuing a ball or a hare, and this is the pleasure even of kings.
Cæsar, as it seems to me, was too old to set about amusing himself with the conquest of the world. Such a pastime was good for Augustus or Alexander, who were still young men, and these are difficult to restrain, but Cæsar should have been more mature.
The weariness we experience in leaving occupations to which we are attached. A man lives with pleasure in his home, but if he sees a woman who charms him, or if he take pleasure in play for five or six days, he is miserable if he return to his former mode of life. Nothing is more common than that.
Frivolity.—It is plain that the frivolity of the world is so little known, that it is a strange and surprising thing to say it is foolish to seek for greatness, and this is great cause for wonder.
Whoso does not see the frivolity of the world is himself most frivolous. And indeed all see it save young people, who are engaged in turmoil, diversion, and the thought of the future. But take away their diversion and you will see them consumed with weariness; then they feel their nothingness without knowing it. For it is indeed to be unhappy to be intolerably sad as soon as we are reduced to the thought of self, without any diversion.
GREATNESS, Littleness.—The more light we have, the more greatness and the more baseness we discover in man.
Ordinary men . . .
The more cultivated . . .
They astonish ordinary men.
Christians. They astonish Philosophers.
Who then will be surprised to see that Religion only makes us know deeply what we already known in proportion to our light.
For Port Royal.Greatness and Littleness.
Littleness being correlative to greatness, and greatness to littleness, some have inferred man’s littleness all the more because they have taken his greatness as a proof of it, and others have inferred his greatness with all the more force, because they have inferred it from his littleness; all that the one party was able to say for his greatness having served only as an argument of his littleness to others, because we are low in proportion to the height from which we have fallen, and the contrary is equally true. So that the one party returns on the other in an endless circle, for it is certain that in measure as men possess light the more they discern both the greatness and the littleness of man. In a word, man knows he is little. He is then little because he is so; but he is truly great because he knows it.
Man knows not in what rank to place himself. He has evidently gone astray and fallen from his true place, unable to find it again. Disquieted and unsuccessful he seeks it everywhere in impenetrable darkness.
Though we see all the miseries which close upon us and take us by the throat, we have an irrepressible instinct which raises us.
The Greatness of Man.—We have so great an idea of the human soul that we cannot bear to be despised, or to he under the disesteem of any soul, and all the happiness of men consists in that esteem.
The search after glory is the greatest vileness of man. Yet it is also the greatest mark of his excellence, for whatever riches he may have on earth, whatever health and advantage, he is not satisfied if he have not the esteem of men. He rates human reason so highly that whatever privileges he may have on earth, he is not content unless he stand well in the judgment of men. This is the finest position in the world, nothing can turn him from this desire, which is the most indelible quality of the human heart.
And those who most despise men, and place them on the level of the brutes, still wish to be admired and believed by men, and are in contradiction with themselves through their own feelings; their nature, which is stronger than all else, convincing them of the greatness of man more powerfully than reason convinces them of their vileness.
The vileness of man in that he submits himself to the brutes, and even worships them.
Instinct and reason, marks of two natures.
Description of man. Dependence, desire of independence, bodily needs.
Contradiction. To despise existence, to die for nothing, to hate our existence.
Man is neither angel nor brute, and the misfortune is that whoever would play the angel plays the brute.
If man is not made for God, why is he happy only in God?
If man is made for God, why is he so contrary to God?
Contraries. Man is naturally credulous and incredulous, timid and rash.
A corrupt nature.—Man does not act by reason, which constitutes his essence.
The nature of man is his whole nature, omne animal.
There is nothing we cannot make natural, nothing natural we cannot lose.
The true nature being lost, all becomes natural. As the true good being lost, all becomes truly good.
Misery.—Solomon and Job best knew, and have best spoken of human misery; the former the most fortunate, the latter the most unfortunate of men; the one knowing by experience the vanity of pleasure, the other the reality of evil.
It is dangerous to prove to man too plainly how nearly he is on a level with the brutes without showing him his greatness; it is also dangerous to show him his greatness too clearly apart from his vileness. It is still more dangerous to leave him in ignorance of both. But it is of great advantage to show him both.
How comes it that we have so much patience with those who are maimed in body, and so little with those who are defective in mind? Because a cripple recognises that we have the true use of our legs, but the fool maintains that we are they whose understanding halts; were it not so we should feel pity and not anger.
Epictetus puts it yet more strongly: “How comes it that we are not angry if a man says we have an headache, but are angry if told we use a weak argument or make a wrong choice?” The reason of this is that we are quite certain we have no headache, or are not lame, but we are not equally sure that our judgment is correct. So having no assurance but that we see with our whole powers of sight, we are startled and confounded when another with equal powers sees the exact opposite, especially when a thousand others laugh at our decision; for then we must prefer our light to that of so many others, a daring and difficult matter. There is never this contradiction in feeling as to a cripple.
Man is so framed that by dint of telling him he is a fool he believes it, and by dint of telling it to himself he makes himself believe it. For man holds a secret communing with himself, which it behoves him well to regulate: Corrumpunt mores bonos colloquia prava. We must keep silent as much as possible, and converse with ourselves only of God, whom we know to be true, and thus we persuade ourselves of truth.
I will not suffer him to rest on himself, nor on another, so that being without a resting place or repose . . .
If he exalt himself I humble him, if he humble himself I exalt him, and ever contradict him, till he comprehend that he is an incomprehensible monster.
The greatness of man consists in thought.
A thinking reed.—Not from space must I seek my dignity, but from the ruling of my thought. I should have no more if I possessed whole worlds. By space the Universe encompasses and swallows me as an atom, by thought I encompass it.
Man is but a reed, weakest in nature, but a reed which thinks. It needs not that the whole Universe should arm to crush him. A vapour, a drop of water is enough to kill him. But were the Universe to crush him, man would still be more noble than that which has slain him, because he knows that he dies, and that the Universe has the better of him. The Universe knows nothing of this.
All our dignity therefore consists in thought. By this must we raise ourselves, not by space or duration, which we cannot fill. Then let us make it our study to think well, for this is the starting-point of morals.
The greatness of man is great in that he knows he is miserable. A tree does not know that it is miserable.
It is therefore little to know ourselves little, and it is great to know ourselves little.
Thus his very infirmities prove man’s greatness. They are the infirmities of a great lord, of a discrowned king.
The greatness of man is so evident that it is even proved by his littleness. For what in animals is nature we call in man littleness, whereby we recognise that his nature being now like that of animals he is fallen from a better nature which once was his.
For what man ever was unhappy at not being a king, save a discrowned king? Was Paulus Emilius unhappy at being no longer consul? On the contrary, all men thought him happy in having filled that office, because it was involved in it that it should be but temporary. But Perseus was thought so unhappy in being no longer king, because the condition of royalty involved his being always king, that it was thought strange he could bear to live. No man thinks himself unhappy in having but one mouth, but any man is unhappy if he have but one eye. No man was ever grieved at not having three eyes, but any man is inconsolable if he have none.
Perseus, King of Macedon.—Paulus Emilius reproached Perseus for not killing himself.
There is no misery apart from sensation. A ruined house is not miserable. Man only is miserable. Ego vir videns.
It is then thought which makes man’s being, and without this we cannot conceive him. What is it in us which feels pleasure? The hand? The arm? The flesh? The blood? We see that it must be something immaterial.
I can easily conceive a man without hands, feet, head, for it is only experience which teaches us that the head is more necessary than the feet. But I cannot conceive a man without thought; he would be a stone or a brute.
Man is evidently made for thought, this is his whole dignity and his whole merit; his whole duty is to think as he ought. Now the order of thought is to begin with self, and with its author and its end.
Now of what thinks the world? Never of these things, but of dancing, playing the lute, singing, making verses, tilting at the ring, etc., of fighting, making ourselves kings, without thinking what it is to be a king, or what to be a man.
Thought.—The whole dignity of man lies in thought. But what is this thought? how foolish it is!
Thought is then in its nature admirable and incomparable. It must have strange defects to be despicable, but it has these, and so nothing is more ridiculous.
How great it is in essence, how vile in defects!
Contraries. After having shown the vileness and the greatness of man.—Let man now estimate his value. Let him love himself, because he has a nature capable of good, but let him not therefore love the vileness which exists in that nature. Let him despise himself, because this capacity is void, but let him not therefore despise his natural capacity. Let him hate himself, let him love himself: he has in himself the power of knowing the truth and being happy, and yet has found no truth either permanent or satisfactory.
I would then lead man to the desire of finding it; to be free from passions and ready to follow it where he may find it, knowing how his knowledge is obscured by the passions. I would that he should hate in himself the desires which bias his judgment, that they may neither blind him in making his choice, nor obstruct him when he has chosen.
I blame equally those who take on themselves to praise man, those who take on themselves to blame him, and those who merely amuse themselves; I can approve those only who seek with tears.
The stoics say, “Retire within yourselves, there will you find your rest;” which is not true. Others say, “Go out of yourselves, seek your happiness in diversion;” nor is that true, for sickness may come.
Happiness is neither without us nor within us; it is in God, both without us and within us.
OF the deceptive powers.—Man is only a subject full of natural error, which is indelible without grace. Nothing shows him the truth, everything deceives him. These two principles of truth, reason and the senses, in addition to the fact that they are both wanting in sincerity, reciprocally deceive each other. The senses trick the reason by false appearances, and gain from reason in their turn the same deception with which they deceive; reason avenges herself. The passions of the soul trouble the senses, and make on them false impressions. They lie and deceive, outvieing one another.
But beyond those errors which come by accident, and by a lack of intelligence, with these heterogeneous faculties . . . To begin thus the chapter on the deceptive powers.
Imagination. —This is that deceitful part of man, the mistress of error and falsity, the more knavish that she is not always so, for she would be an infallible rule of truth, if she were an infallible rule of lying. But being for the most part false, she gives no mark of her character, stamping the true and the false with the same die.
I speak not of fools, but of the wisest men, and it is among them that imagination has the great gift of persuasion. Reason protests in vain, for she can make no true estimate.
This proud potentate, who loves to rule and domineer over her enemy, reason, has established in man a second nature in order to show her wide-spread influence. She makes men happy and miserable, sound and sick, rich and poor; she obliges reason to believe, doubt, and deny; she dulls the senses, or sharpens them; she has her fools and wise; and nothing vexes us more than to see that she fills her votaries with a satisfaction far more full and entire than does reason. Those whose imagination is active feel greater complacency than the truly wise can reasonably allow themselves to feel. They look down on other men as from the height of empire, they argue with assurance and confidence, others with diffidence and fear, and this gaiety of countenance often gives the former an advantage in the minds of their hearers; such favour do the imaginary wise find from judges like-minded. Imagination cannot make fools wise, but it makes them content, and so triumphs over reason, which can only make its friends miserable; the one covers them with glory, the other with shame.
What but this faculty of imagination dispenses reputation, assigns respect and veneration to persons, works, laws, and the great? How valueless are all the treasures of earth without her consent!
You would say that this magistrate whose reverend age commands the respect of a whole people is swayed by pure and lofty reason, that he judges all causes according to their true nature, unmoved by those mere accidents which only affect the imagination of the weak. See him go to sermon with devout zeal, strengthening his firm and impartial reason by the ardour of his divine love. He is ready to listen with exemplary respect. The preacher appears; but if nature have given him a hoarse voice or a comic face, if his barber have shaven him ill, or if his clothes be splashed more than is wont, then however great the truths he announces, I wager that our statesman lose his gravity.
Set the greatest philosopher in the world on a plank really wider than he needs, but hanging over a precipice, and though reason convince him of his security, imagination will prevail. Many will scarce bear the thought without a cold sweat.
I will not name all its effects. Every one knows that the sight of cats, and rats, or the crushing of a coal, etc., may quite unhinge the reason. The tone of voice will affect the wisest and change the whole force of a speech or a poem.
Love or hate will change the aspect of justice, and an advocate retained with a large fee has an increased confidence in the right of the cause he pleads, while the assurance of his demeanour commends it to the judges, duped in their turn by appearances. How ridiculous is reason, swayed by a breath in every direction!
I should have to enumerate almost every action of men who seldom stagger but under her shocks. For reason has been forced to yield, and the wisest reason accepts as her own those principles which the imagination of men has everywhere casually introduced.
Our magistrates are well aware of this mystery. Their scarlet robes, the ermine in which they wrap themselves like furred cats, the halls in which they administer justice, the fleurs-de-lis, and all their august apparatus are most necessary; if the doctors had not their cassocks and their mules, if the lawyers had not their square caps, and their robes four times too wide, they would never have duped the world, which cannot resist so authoritative an appearance. Soldiers alone are not disguised after this fashion, because indeed their part is the more essential, they establish themselves by force, the others by fraud.
So our kings seek out no disguises. They do not mask themselves in strange garments to appear such, but they are accompanied by guards and halberdiers. Those armed puppets who have hands and power for them alone, those trumpets and drums which go before them, and those legions round about them, make the firmest tremble. They have not dress only, but power; we need an highly refined reason to regard as an ordinary man the Grand Turk, in his superb seraglio, surrounded with forty thousand janissaries.
We cannot even see an advocate in his long robe and with his cap on his head, without an enhanced opinion of his ability.
If magistrates had true justice, and if doctors had the true art of healing, they would have no need of square caps, the majesty of these sciences were of itself venerable enough. But having only imaginary knowledge, they must take these instruments, idle, but striking to the imagination with which they have to deal, and by that in fact they gain respect.
Imagination is the disposer of all things, it creates beauty, justice and happiness, and these are the world’s all. I should much like to see an Italian work, of which I know the title only, but such a title is worth many books: Della opinioneRegina del mondo. I accept the book without knowing it, save the evil in it, if there be any.
These are for the most part the effects of that deceptive faculty, which seems to have been given us expressly to lead us into necessary error. Of error however we have many other sources.
Not only are old impressions capable of deceiving us, the charms of novelty have the same power. Hence arise all the disputes of men, who charge each other either with following the false impressions of childhood or of running rashly after new. Who rightly keeps a middle way? Let him appear and make good his pretensions. There is no principle, however natural to us even from childhood, which may not be made to pass for a false impression either of education or of sense.
“Because,” say some, “you have believed from childhood that a box was empty when you saw nothing in it, you have therefore believed the possibility of a vacuum. This is an illusion of your senses, strengthened by custom, which science must correct.” “Because,” say others, “you were taught at school that there is no such thing as a vacuum, your common sense, which clearly comprehended the matter before, is corrupted, and you must correct this false impression by returning to your primitive nature.” Which has deceived you, your senses or your education?
Diseases are another source of error. They impair our judgment and our senses, and if the more violent produce a sensible change, I do not doubt that slighter ailments produce each its proportionate impression.
Our own interest is again a wonderful instrument for putting out our eyes in a pleasant way. The man of greatest probity can not be judge in his own cause; I know some who that they may not fall into this self love are, out of opposition, thoroughly unjust. The certain way of ruining a just cause has been to get it recommended to these men by their near relatives.
Justice and truth are two such subtle points, that our instruments are too blunt to touch them accurately. If they attain the point they cover it so completely that they rest more often on the wrong than the right.
There is internecine war in man between the reason and the passions.
If he had only reason without passions . . .
If he had only passions without reason . . .
But having both he must have continual strife, since he cannot be at peace with one unless he be at war with the other. Hence he is always divided against and contrary to himself.
The habit of seeing kings accompanied by guards, drums, officers and all those things which mechanically incline man to respect and terror, causes their countenance, when now and then seen alone, and without these accompaniments, to impress respect and terror on their subjects, because our thought cannot separate their personality from those surroundings with which it is ordinarily joined. And the world which does not know that the effect arises from habit, believes that it arises from natural force, and hence come such expressions as: “The character of Divinity is imprinted on his countenance,” etc.
The power of kings is based both on the reason and the folly of the people, and mainly on their folly. The greatest and most important matter in the world has weakness for its foundation, and this foundation is admirably sure, for there is nothing more sure than this, that the people will be weak. What is founded on sound reason is very ill founded, as the value of wisdom.
The chancellor is grave, and clothed with ornaments, for his position is unreal. Not so the king, he has power and nothing to do with imagination. Judges, doctors, etc., depend solely on imagination.
Empire founded on opinion and imagination lasts some time, the rule is gentle and willingly accepted; that founded on power lasts for ever. Thus opinion is, as it were, queen of the world, but power is its tyrant.
Power is the queen of the world, not opinion, but opinion makes use of power.
Power creates opinion. Gentleness is beautiful, as we think. Why? Because he who goes to extremes will be alone, and I will make a stronger cabal of people who will say it is inexpedient.
The cords attached by the respect of man for man, are for the most part, cords of necessity, for there must be different degrees, all men wishing to rule, but not all being able to do so, though some are able.
Let us suppose then we see men beginning to form a society. They will no doubt fight till the stronger party gets the better of the weaker, and a dominant party is constituted. But so soon as this is once settled, the masters not wishing that the strife should continue, declare that the power in their hands shall be transmitted as they please, some placing it in the choice of the people, others in the succession of birth, etc.
And here imagination begins to play her part. Till now power has constrained facts, now power is upheld by imagination in a certain party, in France that of the nobles, in Switzerland that of the burgesses, etc.
The cords therefore which bind the respect of men to any given man are the cords of imagination.
Our imagination so enlarges the present by dint of continually reflecting on it, and so contracts eternity, by never reflecting on it, that we make a nothing of eternity and an eternity of nothing; and all this has such living roots in us, that all our reason cannot suppress them, and that . . .
The imagination enlarges little objects so as to fill our soul with its fantastic estimate, and by a rash insolence belittles the great to its own measure, as when it speaks of God.
Things which have the greatest hold on us, as the concealing our small possessions, are often a mere nothing. It is a nothing which our imagination magnifies into a mountain, another turn of imagination would make us discover its nothingness without difficulty.
Two faces which resemble each other, neither of which alone causes our laughter, make us laugh, when together, by their resemblance.
Children who are frightened at the face they have daubed are mere children, but how shall one who is so weak when a child grow truly strong as he grows old? We only change our fancies.
All that is brought to perfection by progress perishes also by progress. All that has been weak can never be absolutely strong. It is in vain to say, “He has grown, he has changed.” He is also the same.
My fancy makes me hate a man who breathes hard when he is eating. Fancy has great weight. Will you profit by yielding to this weight because it is natural? No; but by resisting it.
Prejudice leading into error.—It is a deplorable thing to see all men deliberating on means alone, and not on the end. Every man thinks how he may acquit himself in his condition, but as for the choice of condition or of country, chance gives them to us.
It is a pitiable thing, to see so many Turks, heretics and infidels, follow the way of their fathers for the simple reason that each has been told it is the best. And that fixes for each man his condition, locksmith, soldier, etc.
Therefore savages would care nothing for Provence.
Ferox gens,nullam esse vitam sine armis rati. They love death rather than peace, other men love death rather than war.
Every opinion may be held in preference to life, of which the love seems so strong and so natural.
Thoughts.—All is one, all is diverse. How many natures in that of man, how many vocations! And by what a chance does each man take ordinarily what he has heard praised. A well turned heel.
The heel of a slipper.—How well this is turned, here is a clever workman, how brave is this soldier! Such is the source of our inclinations and of the choice of conditions. How much this man drinks, how little that man! That is what makes men sober or drunken, soldiers, cowards, etc.
Glory.—Admiration spoils everything from infancy. How well said, how well done, how clever he is! etc.
The children of Port Royal, who are not urged with this spur of envy and glory, become careless.
Glory.—The brutes have no admiration for each other. A horse does not admire his companion. Not but that they have their rivalries in a race, but that entails no consequences, for once in the stable the heaviest and most ill-formed does not yield his oats to another, as men would expect from others in their own case. Their virtue is satisfied with itself.
First degree: to be blamed for doing evil, and praised for doing good. Second degree: to be neither praised nor blamed.
Brave deeds are most estimable when hidden. When I see some of these in history they please me much. But after all they have not been wholly hidden, since they have become known. And though all has been done to hide them that could be done, the little whereby they have appeared has spoiled all, for what was finest in them was the desire to hide them.
We are not content with the life we have in ourselves and in our own being, we wish to live an imaginary life in the idea of others, and to this end we strive to make a show. We labour incessantly to embellish and preserve this imaginary being, and we neglect the true. And if we have either calmness, generosity, or fidelity, we hasten to let it be known, that we may attach these virtues to that imaginary being; we would even part with them for this end, and gladly become cowards for the reputation of valour. It is a great mark of the nothingness of our own being that we are not satisfied with the one without the other, and that we often renounce one for the other. For he would be infamous who would not die to preserve his honour.
Vocations.—The sweetness of glory is so great that join it to what we will, even to death, we love it.
Evil is easy, and its forms are infinite; good is almost unique. But a certain kind of evil is as difficult to find as what is called good; and often on this account this particular kind of evil gets passed off as good. There is even needed an extraordinary greatness of soul to attain to it as well as to good.
We are so presumptuous that we would fain be known by the whole world, even by those who shall come after, when we are no more. And we are such triflers that the esteem of five or six persons about us diverts and contents us.
Vanity is so anchored in the heart of man that a soldier, a camp-follower, a cook, a porter makes his boasts, and is for having his admirers; even philosophers wish for them. Those who write against it, yet desire the glory of having written well, those who read, desire the glory of having read; I who write this have, may be, this desire, and perhaps those who will read it. . . .
In towns through which we pass we care not whether men esteem us, but we do care if we have to live there any time. How long is needed? A time in proportion to our vain and fleeting life.
The condition of man; inconstancy, weariness, unrest.
Whoever will know fully the vanity of man has but to consider the causes and the effects of love. The cause is an unknown quantity, and the effects are terrible. This unknown quantity, so small a matter that we cannot recognise it, moves a whole country, princes, armies, and all the world.
Cleopatra’s nose: had it been shorter, the face of the world had been changed.
Nothing better shows the frivolity of man than to consider what are the causes and what the effects of love, for all the universe is changed by them. Cleopatra’s nose.
Frivolity.—The cause and the effects of love. Cleopatra.
Pride is a counterpoise, and turns the scale against all woes. Here is a strange monster, a very visible aberration. Behold him fallen from his place, and anxiously seeking it. That is what all men do. Let us see who has found it.
Contradiction.—Pride is a counterpoise to all miseries. Man either conceals them, or if he display them, glories in the knowledge of them.
Of the desire of being esteemed by those with whom we are.—Pride has a natural possession of us in the midst of our miseries, errors, etc. We can even lose our life with joy, if men will but talk of it.
Vanity, play, hunting, visiting, false pretences, a lasting name.
Pride.—Curiosity is mere frivolity. For the most part we want to know only for the sake of talking. People would not make voyages if they were never to speak of them, for the sole pleasure of seeing, without hope of ever communicating their impressions.
ON what shall man found the economy of the world which he would fain govern? If on the caprice of each man, all is confusion. If on justice, man is ignorant of it.
Certainly had he known it, he would not have established the maxim, most general of all current among men, that every one must conform to the manners of his own country; the splendour of true equity would have brought all nations into subjection, and legislators would not have taken as their model the fancies and caprice of Persians and Germans instead of stable justice. We should have seen it established in all the States of the world, in all times, whereas now we see neither justice nor injustice which does not change its quality upon changing its climate. Three degrees of latitude reverse all jurisprudence, a meridian decides what is truth, fundamental laws change after a few years of possession, right has its epochs, the entrance of Saturn into the Lion marks for us the origin of such and such a crime. That is droll justice which is bounded by a stream! Truth on this side of the Pyrenees, error on that.
It is admitted that justice is not in these customs, but that it resides in natural laws common to every country. This would no doubt be maintained with obstinacy if the rash chance which has disseminated human laws had lighted upon even one that is universal, but the singularity of the matter is that owing to the vagaries of human caprice there is not one.
Theft, incest, infanticide, parricide, all have found a place among virtuous actions. Can there be any thing more absurd than that a man should have the right to kill me because he lives across the water, and because his prince has a quarrel with mine, although I have none with him? There are no doubt natural laws, but fair reason once corrupted has corrupted all. Nihil ampliusnostrum est; quod nostrum dicimus, artis est. Ex senatus consultis, et plebiscitis crimina exercentur. Ut olim vitiis, sic nunc legibus laboramus.
From this confusion it results that one declares the essence of justice to be the authority of the legislator, another, the convenience of the sovereign, another, existing custom, and this is the most sure; nothing which follows reason alone is just in itself, all shifts and changes with time; custom creates equity, by the simple reason that this is received. It is the mystical foundation of its authority, whoever carries it back to first principles annihilates it. Nothing is so faulty as those laws which correct faults. Whoever obeys them because they are just, obeys an imaginary justice, not law in its essence; it is altogether self-contained, it is law and nothing more. Whoever will examine its motive will find it so feeble and so slight that if he be not used to contemplate the marvels of human imagination, he will wonder that a single century has gained for it so much pomp and reverence. It is the art of disturbance and of revolution to shake established customs, sounding them to their source, to mark their want of authority and justice. We must, it is said, return to the primitive and fundamental laws of the State, abolished by unjust custom. It is a game wherein we are sure to lose all; in this balance nothing would be true, yet the people easily lends an ear to such talk as this. They shake off the yoke as soon as they recognise it, and the great profit by its ruin, and by the ruin of those who have too curiously examined recognised customs. This is why the wisest of law givers said that it was often necessary to cheat men for their good, and another, a good politician, Quum veritatemqua liberetur ignoret, expedit quod fallatur. We ought not to feel the truth that law is but usurpation; it was once introduced without reason, and has become reasonable; it is necessary to cause it to be regarded as eternal and authoritative, and to conceal the beginning if we do not wish it should soon come to an end.
I have passed much of my life believing that justice existed, and in this I did not deceive myself, for there is justice according as God has willed to reveal it to us. But I did not take it so, and in that I deceived myself, for I believed that our justice was essentially just, and that I had that whereby I was able to know and judge of it. But I so often find that my right judgment was at fault, that at last I have begun to distrust myself, and then others. I saw in all countries that men change, and thus after many changes of judgment concerning true justice, I recognised that our nature was a continual change, and I have not changed since; were I to change I should but strengthen my opinion. The sceptic Archesilas became a dogmatist.
The most unreasonable things in the world become most reasonable, because of the unruly lives of men. What is less reasonable than to choose the eldest son of a queen to guide a state? for we do not choose as steersman of a ship that one of the passengers who is of the best family. Such a law would be ridiculous and unjust; but since they are so themselves, and ever will be, it becomes reasonable and just. For would they choose the most virtuous and able, we at once fall to blows, since each asserts that he is the most virtuous and able. Let us then affix this quality to something which cannot be disputed. This man is the king’s eldest son. That is clear, and there is no dispute. Reason can do no better, for civil war is the worst of evils.
Men of unruly lives assert that they alone follow nature, while those who are orderly stray from her paths; as passengers in a ship think that those move who stand upon the shore. Both sides say the same thing. There must be a fixed point to enable us to judge. The harbour decides the question for those who are in the vessel, but where can we find the harbour in morals?
When all moves equally, nothing seems to move, as in a ship. When all tend to vice, none appears to do so. Whoever stops draws attention to the onward movement of others, as does a fixed point.
Justice is what is established, and thus all our established laws are necessarily held to be just without being examined, because they are established.
Justice.—As fashion makes what is agreeable, so it makes what is just.
Our natural principles are but principles of custom. In children natural principles are those which they have received from the habits of their fathers, as hunting in animals.
A different custom will produce different natural principles. This experience testifies, and if there are some natural principles ineradicable by custom, so are there some customs opposed to nature ineradicable by nature, or by a second custom. This depends on constitution.
Fathers fear that the natural love of their children may be effaced. Now what sort of thing is that nature which is liable to be effaced. Custom is a second nature which destroys the former. But what is nature, for is not custom natural? I am greatly afraid that nature itself may be only our first custom, as custom is second nature.
Montaigne was wrong: custom should only be followed because it is custom, and not because it is reasonable or just; but most men follow it for the simple reason that they think it just. Otherwise they would not follow it though it were the custom, for our only wish is to be subjected to reason or to justice. Without this, custom would pass for tyranny, but the empire of reason and justice is no more tyrannical than that of desire. These are principles natural to man.
It is then good to obey laws and customs because they are laws, but we ought to know that there is neither truth nor justice to introduce into them, that we know nothing about these, and can therefore only follow what is recognised, and thus we should never transgress them. But most men cannot receive this doctrine, and since they believe that truth can be found, and that it resides in law and custom, they believe these laws, and take their antiquity as a proof of their truth, and not merely of their authority apart from truth. Thus they obey the laws, but are liable to revolt when these are shown to be of no value; and this may be proved of all of them, looked at from a certain point of view.
Injustice.—The authority of the judge is not given him for his sake, but for that of the judged. It is dangerous to say this to the people, but the people have too much faith in you; that will not harm them, and may serve you. You must then say it openly. Pasce oves meas, not tuas. You owe me pasturage.
Injustice.—It is dangerous to say to the people that the laws are not just, for men obey them only because they think them just. Therefore it is necessary to say at the same time that they must be obeyed because they are laws, as superiors must be obeyed, not because they are just, but because they are superiors. All sedition is averted, if this principle be established and it be understood what is rightly the definition of justice.
If God gave us masters direct from himself, how heartily ought we to obey them! Circumstances and necessity are infalliable masters.
Custom is our nature. Whoever is accustomed to the faith believes in it, can no longer even fear hell, and believes in nothing else. Whoever accustoms himself to believe that the king is terrible . . . etc. Who doubts then that our soul, being accustomed to see number, space, and motion, believes that and nothing else?
Veri juris; we have it no longer; had we it, we should not take the manners of our country as our rule of justice.
Here, not finding justice, we fall back on force, etc.
It is a ridiculous thing to consider that there are people in the world who, having renounced all the laws of God and nature, have yet made laws for themselves which they exactly obey, as, for instance, the soldiers of Mahomet, thieves, heretics, etc., and thus logicians . . .
It seems as though their licence must be without limit or barrier, since they have broken down so many that are just and holy.
Weakness.—The whole employment of men is to gain wealth; yet they have no title to show that they justly possess it but human caprice, nor have they power to hold it securely. It is the same with knowledge, of which disease deprives us. We are incapable both of truth and of goodness.
The Swiss are offended if they are called noble, and bring proof of their plebian race that they may be judged worthy of office.
When the question is of judging whether we ought to make war and kill so many men, condemning so many Spaniards to death, there is only one man who is the judge, and he an interested party; there ought to be a third, and he disinterested.
“Why do you kill me?—What! Do not you live on the other side of the stream, my friend? If you lived on this side I should be an assassin, and it were unjust to kill you in this fashion, but since you live on the other side, I am a brave soldier, and it is just.”
Justice, Power.—It is just that what is just should be obeyed, it is of necessity that what is strongest should be obeyed.
Justice without power is unavailing, power without justice is tyrannical. Justice without power is gainsaid, because the wicked always exist, power without justice is condemned. We must therefore combine justice and power, making what is just strong, and what is strong just.
Justice is subject to dispute, power is easily recognised and cannot be disputed. Thus we cannot give power to justice, because power has arraigned justice, saying that justice is unjust, and she herself truly just; so since we are unable to bring about that what is just should be strong, we have made the strong just.
The sole universal rules are the laws of the country in ordinary affairs, and the law of the majority in others. And this comes from the power which is in them.
Thus it comes that kings, whose power is of another kind, do not follow the majority of their ministers.
No doubt equality of goods is just, but since they are unable to bring about that power should obey justice, people have judged it right to obey power; not being able to add power to justice they have justified power, so that justice and power should coalesce, and peace, the sovereign good, result.
Do we follow the majority because they have more reason? No; but because they have more power.
Do we follow ancient laws and opinions because they are more sound? No; but because they stand alone and take from us the root of diversity.
The way of the majority is the best way, because it is plain, and has power to make itself obeyed; yet it is the opinion of the least able.
If men could have done so, they would have placed power in the hands of justice, since we cannot deal with power as we please, because it is a tangible quality, while justice is a spiritual quality of which we dispose as we please, they have placed justice in the hands of power, and thus that is called just which we are forced to obey.
Thence arises the right of the sword, for the sword gives a true right.
Otherwise we should see violence on one side and justice on the other. The end of the twelfth Provincial.
Thence the injustice of the Fronde, which raises its socalled justice against power.
It is not the same in the Church, for there is true justice and no violence.
Injustice.—That presumption should be joined to insignificance is extreme injustice.
Tyranny consists in the desire of universal rule outside its sphere.
There are different societies, in which are the strong, the fair, the judicious, the devout, in which each man rules at home, not elsewhere. Sometimes they meet, and the strong and the fair contend for the mastery, foolishly, for their mastery is each in a different kind. They do not agree, and their fault is that each aims at universal dominion. None can obtain this, not even power, which is of no avail in the realm of the wise; she is only mistress of our external actions.
Tyranny.—Thus the following expressions are false and tyrannical: “I am beautiful, therefore I should be feared; I am strong, therefore I should be loved. I am . . .”
Tyranny is the wishing to have in one way what can only be had in another. Divers duties are owing to divers merits, the duty of love to the pleasant, of fear to the strong, of belief to the wise.
These duties should be paid, it is unjust to refuse them, unjust also to require others. In the same way it is false and tyrannous to say, “He is not strong, therefore I will not esteem him; he is not clever, therefore I will not fear him.”
It is necessary that men should be unequal. True; but that being granted, the door is open, not only to the greatest domination, but to the greatest tyranny.
It is necessary to relax the mind a little, but that opens the door to extreme dissipation.
We must mark the limits.—There are no fixed boundaries in these matters, law wishes to impose them, but the mind will not bear them.
Mine, Thine.—“This is my dog,” said those poor children, “that is my place in the sunshine.” Here is the beginning and the image of the usurpation of the whole earth.
Good birth is a great advantage, for it gives a man a chance at the age of eighteen, making him known and respected as an ordinary man is on his merits at fifty. Here are thirty years gained at a stroke.
It is the result of power and not of custom. For those who are able to originate are few, the greater number will only follow, and refuse glory to those inventors who seek it by their inventions. And if they persist in wishing to gain glory, and in despising those who do not originate, the others will give them ridicule and would fain give them blows. Let no one then pride himself on this subtle capacity, or else let him keep his content to himself.
The reason of effects.—It is strange that men would not have me honour a man clothed in brocade, and followed by seven or eight footmen! Yet he will have them give me the strap if I do not salute him. This custom is a power. It is the same with a horse in fine trappings compared with another. It is odd that Montaigne does not see what difference there is, wonders that we find any, and asks the reason. “Indeed,” he says, “how comes it,” etc. . . .
When power attacks craft, when a mere soldier takes the square cap of a first president, and flings it out of the window.
Injustice.—Men have found no means to gratify their sensuality without wrong to others.
The greatness of man even in his sensuality, to have known how to extract from it an admirable code, and to have drawn from it a picture of love to others.
Greatness.—The reason of effects mark the greatness of man, in having formed so fair an order out of sensuality.
The reason of effects.—Sensuality and power are the source of all our actions; sensuality causes those which are voluntary, power the involuntary.
From sensuality men have found and drawn excellent rules of policy, of morals, and of justice.
But after all, this evil root of man, this figmentum malum, is only hidden, it is not removed.
All men by nature hate each other. They have used sensuality as best they could to make it serve the public weal, but this is only a feint, and a false image of charity, for at bottom it is but hate.
To pity the unfortunate is not contrary to sensuality, rather is it easy to render this evidence of friendship, and to gain the reputation of a tender heart, without giving.
The people have very sound opinions, for instance:
1. In having preferred diversion and hunting to poetry. The half educated deride this, and are triumphant over the folly of the world, but the people are right by a reason which the others do not understand.
2. In distinguishing men by outward marks, as birth or wealth. The world is again triumphant in showing how unreasonable this is, yet it is thoroughly reasonable. Savages laugh at an infant king.
3. In taking offence at a blow, or in desiring glory so strongly.
But it is very desirable, on account of the other essential goods which are joined to it, and a man who has received a blow without resenting it is overwhelmed with abuse and indignity.
4. In working for an uncertainty, in going on a sea voyage, in walking over a plank.
Sound opinions of the people.—Civil wars are the greatest of all evils. They are certain, if we try to reward desert, for all will say they deserve. The evil to fear from a fool who succeeds by right of birth, is neither so great nor so certain.
Sound opinions of the people.—To be well dressed is not altogether foolish, for it proves that a great number of people work for us. It shows by our hair, that we have a valet, a perfumer etc. by our band, our thread, our trimming, etc. Now it is not merely superficial nor simply outward show to have many arms at our disposal.
The more arms we have the stronger we are. To be well dressed is to show our power.
The reason of effects.—Continual alternation of pro and con.
We have then shown that man is frivolous, by the estimation he has of non-essentials. And all these opinions are destroyed. We have next shown that all these opinions were perfectly sound, and that thus all these frivolities being well founded, the people is not so frivolous as is said. And thus we have destroyed the opinion which destroyed that of the people.
But we must now destroy this last proposition, and show that it remains always true that the people is frivolous, though its opinions are sound, because it does not feel the truth where it is, and placing it where it is not, its opinions are always very false and very unsound.
The reason of effects.—It is, then, true to say that all men are under an illusion, for even though the opinions of the people be sound, they are not so as they hold them, for they think that truth is where it is not. Truth is indeed in their opinions, but not at the point where they imagine it.
Thus, it is true that we should honour men of birth, but not because good birth is in itself an advantage, etc.
The reason of effects.—Gradation. The people honours persons of high birth. The half-educated despise them, saying that birth is not a personal, but a chance advantage. The educated honour them, not from the motives of the people, but from another motive. Devout persons of more zeal than knowledge despise them, in spite of that consideration which makes them honoured by the educated, because they judge by a new light arising from their piety. But true Christians honour them by a still higher light. So there is a succession of opinions for and against, according to the measure of our light.
How rightly do men distinguish by exterior rather than by interior qualities! Which of us twain shall take the lead? Who will give place to the other? The least able? But I am as able as he is. We should have to fight about that. He has four footmen, and I have but one; that is something which can be seen; there is nothing to do but to count; it is my place to yield, and I am a fool if I contest it. So by this means we remain at peace, the greatest of all blessings.
Deference is shown by submitting to personal inconvenience. This is apparently foolish but really just, for it is to say, “I would certainly put myself to inconvenience did you need it, since I do so when it can be of no service to you.” Respect, moreover, is for the purpose of marking distinctions of rank. Now if it showed respect to be seated in an arm-chair, we should pay respect to every body, and thus no distinction would be made, but being put to inconvenience we distinguish very well.
The reason of effects.—We should keep our own secret thoughts, and judge of all by those, while speaking like every one else.
King and Tyrant.—I too will have my secret thoughts. I will take care on every journey.
The reason of effects.—Epictetus. Those who say “You have a headache,” this is not the same thing. We are assured of health, and not of justice, and indeed his own was folly.
Yet he believed it demonstrable when he said, “it is either in our power or it is not.”
But he did not see that it is not in our power to regulate the heart, and he was wrong to draw this conclusion from the fact that some were Christians.
The reason of effects.—It is owing to the weakness of man that so many things are esteemed beautiful, as to be well skilled in playing the lute.
It is only an evil because of our weakness.
THE Misery of Man.—We care nothing for the present. We anticipate the future as too slow in coming, as if we could make it move faster; or we call back the past, to stop its rapid flight. So imprudent are we that we wander through the times in which we have no part, unthinking of that which alone is ours; so frivolous are we that we dream of the days which are not, and pass by without reflection those which alone exist. For the present generally gives us pain; we conceal it from our sight because it afflicts us, and if it be pleasant we regret to see it vanish away. We endeavour to sustain the present by the future, and think of arranging things not in our power, for a time at which we have no certainty of arriving.
If we examine our thoughts, we shall find them always occupied with the past or the future. We scarcely think of the present, and if we do so, it is only that we may borrow light from it to direct the future. The present is never our end; the past and the present are our means, the future alone is our end. Thus we never live, but hope to live, and while we always lay ourselves out to be happy, it is inevitable that we can never be so.
We are so unhappy that we cannot take pleasure in a thing save on condition of being troubled if it turn out ill, as a thousand things may do, and do every hour. He who should find the secret of rejoicing in good without being troubled at its contrary evil, would have hit the mark. It is perpetual motion.
Our nature exists by motion; prefect rest is death.
When we are well we wonder how we should get on if we were sick, but when sickness comes we take our medicine cheerfully, into that the evil resolves itself. We have no longer those passions and that desire for amusement and gadding abroad, which were ours in health, but are now incompatible with the necessities of our disease. So then nature gives us passions and desires in accordance with the immediate situation. Nothing troubles us but fears, which we, and not nature, make for ourselves, because fear adds to the condition in which we are the passions of the condition in which we are not.
Since nature makes us always unhappy in every condition, our desires paint for us a happy condition, joining to that in which we are, the pleasures of the condition in which we are not, and were we to gain these pleasures we should not therefore be happy, because we should have other desires conformable to this new estate.
We must particularize this general proposition. . .
What difference in point of obedience is there between a soldier and a Carthusian? For both are alike under rule and dependent, both engaged in equally irksome labours. But the soldier always hopes to bear rule, and though he never does so, for even captains and princes are always slaves and dependents, he ever hopes and ever works to attain mastery, whereas the Carthusian makes a vow never to be aught else than dependent. Thus they do not differ in their perpetual servitude, which is the same always for both, but in the hope which one always has, the other never.
The example of Alexander’s chastity has not made so many continent as that of his drunkenness has made intemperate. It is not shameful to be less virtuous than he, and it seems excusable to be no more vicious. We do not think ourselves wholly partakers in the vices of ordinary men, when we see that we share those of the great, not considering that in such matters the great are but ordinary men. We hold on to them by the same end by which they hold on to the people, for at whatsoever height they be, they are yet united at some point to the lowest of mankind. They are not suspended in the air, abstracted from our society. No, doubly no; if they are greater than we, it is because their heads are higher; but their feet are as low as ours. There all are on the same level, resting on the same earth, and by the lower extremity are as low as we are, as the meanest men, as children, and the brutes.
Great men and little have the same accidents, the same tempers, the same passions, but one is on the felloe of the wheel, the other near the axle, and so less agitated by the same revolutions.
Would he who had enjoyed the friendship of the King of England, the King of Poland, and the Queen of Sweden have thought he should come to want, and need a retreat or shelter in the world?
Man is full of wants, and cares only for those who can satisfy them all. “Such an one is a good mathematician,” it is said. But I have nothing to do with mathematics, he would take me for a proposition. “This other is a good soldier.” He would treat me as a besieged city. I need then an honourable man who can lend himself generally to all my wants.
Men say that eclipses presage misfortune, because misfortunes are common, so that as evil often happens they often divine it; whereas to say that they presage happiness would often prove false. They attribute happiness only to rare planetary conjunctions, and thus they seldom fail in their divination.
We are fools if we rest content with the society of those like ourselves; miserable as we are, powerless as we are, they will not aid us, we shall die alone. We ought therefore to act as though we were alone, and should we in that case build superb mansions, etc.? We should search for truth unhesitatingly, and if we refuse it, we show that we value the esteem of men more than the search for truth.
The last act is tragic, how pleasantly soever the play may have run through the others. At the end a little earth is flung on our head, and all is over for ever.
I feel that I might not have been, for the ‘I’ consists in my thought; therefore I, who think, had not been had my mother been killed before I had life. So I am not a necessary being. Neither am I eternal nor infinite, but I see plainly there is in nature a necessary being, eternal and infinite.
As duchies, kingships, and magistracies are real and necessary, because power rules all, these exist every where and always. But since it is only caprice which makes one or another duke or king, the rule is not constant, and may vary, etc.
Cromwell was about to ravage the whole of Christendom, the royal family had been brought to nought, and his own dynasty for ever established, but for a little grain of sand in his bladder. Rome herself began to tremble under him, but this scrap of gravel having got there, he dies, his family falls from power, peace is established, and the king restored.
Scepticism.—Excessive or deficient mental powers are alike accused of madness. Nothing is good but mediocrity. The majority has settled that, and assails whoever escapes it, no matter by which extreme. I make no objection, would willingly consent to be in the mean, and I refuse to be placed at the lower end, not because it is low, but because it is an extreme, for I would equally refuse to be placed at the top. To leave the mean is to leave humanity. The greatness of the human soul consists in knowing how to keep the mean. So little is it the case that greatness consists in leaving it, that it lies in not leaving it.
Discourses on humility give occasion for pride to the boastful, and for humility to the humble. Those on scepticism give occasion for believers to affirm. Few men speak humbly of humility, chastely of chastity, few of scepticism doubtingly. We are but falsehood, duplicity and contradiction, using even to ourselves concealment and guile.
There are vices which only take hold of us by means of others, and these, like branches, fall with the removal of the trunk.
For we must not mistake ourselves, we have as much that is automatic in us as intellectual, and hence it comes that the instrument by which persuasion is brought about is not demonstration alone. How few things are demonstrated! Proofs can only convince the mind; custom makes our strongest proofs and those which we hold most firmly, it sways the automaton, which draws the unconscious intellect after it. Who has demonstrated that there will be a to-morrow, or that we shall die; yet what is more universally believed? It is then custom that convinces us of it, custom that makes so many men Christians, custom that makes them Turks, heathen, artisans, soldiers, etc. Lastly, we must resort to custom when once the mind has seen where truth is, in order to slake our thirst, and steep ourselves in that belief, which escapes us at every hour, for to have proofs always at hand were too onerous. We must acquire a more easy belief, that of custom, which without violence, without art, without argument, causes our assent and inclines all our powers to this belief, so that our soul naturally falls into it. It is not enough to believe only by force of conviction if the automaton is inclined to believe the contrary. Both parts of us then must be obliged to believe, the intellect by arguments which it is enough to have admitted once in our lives, the automaton by custom, and by not allowing it to incline in the contrary direction. Inclina cor meum, Deus.
The intellect believes naturally, and the will loves naturally, so that for lack of true objects, they must needs attach themselves to the false.
Eritis sicut dii,scientes bonum et malum.—Every one plays the god in judging whether anything be good or bad, and in being too much afflicted or rejoiced at circumstances.
Even if people have no interest in what they say, it must not therefore be certainly concluded they are not lying, for there are are those who lie simply for lying’s sake.
Men are of necessity so mad, that not to be mad were madness in another form.
We cannot think of Plato and Aristotle, save in pro fessorial robes. They were honest men like others, laughing with their friends, and when they amused themselves with writing the Laws or the Politics, they did it as a pastime. That part of their life was the least philosophic and the least serious; the most philosophic was to live simply and quietly. If they wrote on politics it was as though they were laying down rules for a madhouse, and if they made as though they were speaking of a great matter, it was because they knew that the madmen to whom they spoke fancied themselves kings and emperors. They entered into their views in order to make their folly as little harmful as possible.
The most important affair in life is the choice of a trade, yet chance decides it. Custom makes men masons, soldiers, tilers. “He is a good tiler,” says one, “and soldiers are fools.” But others: “There is nothing great but war, all but soldiers are rogues.” We choose our professions according as we hear this or that praised or despised in our childhood, for we naturally love truth and hate folly. These words move us, the only fault is in their application. So great is the force of custom that out of those who by nature are only men, are made all conditions of men. For some countries are full of masons, others of soldiers, etc. Nature is certainly not so uniform. Custom then produces this effect and gains ascendency over nature, yet sometimes nature gets the upper hand, and obliges man to act by instinct in spite of all custom, whether good or bad.
Men by nature are tilers and of all callings, except in their own closets.
We never teach men to be gentlemen, but we teach them everything else, and they never pique themselves so much on all the rest as on knowing how to be gentlemen. They pique themselves only on knowing the one thing they have not learnt.
People should not be able to say of a man, he is a mathematician, or a preacher, or eloquent, but he is a gentleman; that universal quality alone pleases me.—When you think of a man’s book as soon as you see himself, it is a bad sign. I would rather that none of his qualities should be recognised till you meet them, or have occasion to avail yourself of them. Ne quid nimis, for fear some one quality gain the mastery and stamp the man. Let not people think of him as an orator, unless oratory be in question, then let them think of it.
No man passes in the world as an expert in verse unless he hang out the sign of a poet, a mathematician, etc. But people who are generally accomplished need no sign and scarce recognise any difference between the trade of a poet and that of an embroiderer.
People of general accomplishment are not called poets or geometricians, etc., though they are so, and judges of all these. You do not guess what they are. When they enter a society they join in the general conversation. They do not exhibit one quality rather than another, except when they have to make use of it. Then we remember it, for it is natural to such characters that we do not say of them that they are fine speakers when it is not a question of oratory, and that we give them the praise of eloquence if occasion call for it.
It is false praise then to say of a man as soon as he enters a society that he is a clever poet, and it is a bad sign when a man is never called on to give his opinion on such a subject as verse.
Inconstancy.—Things have different qualities, and the soul different inclinations; for nothing is simple which presents itself to the soul, and the soul never presents itself simply to any subject. Hence it comes that men laugh and weep at the same thing.
Greatness of establishment, respect for establishment.
The pleasure of the great is to be able to make people happy.
The property of riches is to be given liberally.
The property of each thing should be sought out. The property of power is to protect.
Saint Augustine saw that we labour for an uncertainty, at sea, in a battle, etc.; he did not see the doctrine of chances, which demonstrates that we must do so. Montaigne saw that we are disgusted at a distorted mind, and that custom can do all things, but he did not see the reason of that effect.
All these men saw the effects, but did not see the causes; in relation to those who have discovered the causes they are as those who have only eyes are in regard to those who who have intellect. For the effects are as it were sensible, and the causes are visible only to the intellect. And though these effects too are apprehended through reason, yet is it in relation to the reason which apprehends causes, as the bodily senses are to the intellect.
Suppose a man puts himself at a window to see the passers by. If I pass I cannot say that he stood there to see me, for he does not think of me in particular. Nor does any one who loves another on account of beauty really love that person, for the small-pox, which kills beauty without killing the person, will cause the loss of love. Nor does one who loves me for my judgment, my memory, love me, myself, for I may lose those qualities without losing my identity. Where then is this ‘I’ if it reside not in the body nor in the soul, and how love the body or the soul, except for the qualities which do not make ‘me,’ since they are perishable? For it is not possible and it would be unjust to love the soul of a person in the abstract, and whatever qualities might be therein. So then we do not love a person, but only qualities. We should not then sneer at those who are honoured on account of rank and office, for we love no one save for borrowed qualities.
Time heals all pain and misunderstanding, because we change and are no longer the same persons. Neither the offender nor the offended are any more themselves. It is like a nation which we have angered and meet again after two generations. They are Frenchmen still, but not the same.
Inconstancy and singularity.—To live only by labour, and to reign over the most powerful state in the world, are very opposite things. They are united in the person of the grand Sultan of the Turks.
It pleases us to say ‘Prince’ to a king, because it lessens his quality.
Epigrams of Martial.—Men like malice, but not against one-eyed men, nor against the unfortunate, but against the fortunate and proud. Those who think otherwise make a mistake.
For sensuality is the source of all our movements, and humanity, etc.
We must please those whose feelings are humane and tender.
That epigram about the two one-eyed people is valueless, for it brings them no consolation, and only gives a point to the author’s glory. All that is merely for the sake of the author is valueless. Ambitiosa recidet ornamenta.
I put it down as a fact that if all men knew what each said of the other, there would not be four friends in the world. This is evident from the quarrels which arise from indiscreet reports made from time to time.
Those who are always hopeful in adversity, and rejoice in good luck, are suspected of being glad of failure should they not be correspondingly depressed under bad luck; they are delighted to find pretexts for hoping, in order to show that they are interested, and to hide by the joy they pretend to feel that which they really feel at the ill success of the affair.
Malignity when it has reason on its side becomes proud and displays reason in all its splendour.
If austerity or a rigid choice have not found the true good, and we must needs return to follow nature, it becomes proud by reason of this return.
A maker of epigrams,—a bad man.
Do you wish men to believe good of you? Then say none.
We ought to be much obliged to those who tell us of our faults, for they mortify us, they teach us we have been despised, they do not prevent our being so in the future, for we have many other faults which are despicable. They prepare for us the exercise of correction, and freedom from a fault.
If we would reprove with success, and show another his mistake, we must see from what side he views the matter, for on that side it is generally true, and admitting that truth, show him the side on which it is false. He will be satisfied, for he will see that he was not mistaken, only that he did not see all sides. Now, no one is vexed at not seeing every thing. But we do not like to be mistaken, and that perhaps arises from the fact that man by nature cannot see everything, and that by nature he cannot be mistaken in the side he looks at, since what we apprehend by our senses is always true.
I passed a long time in the study of the abstract sciences, and was much discouraged at finding how few were my fellow-students. When I began the study of man I saw that these abstract sciences were not fit for him, and that I was wandering more from my true state in investigating them, than others in ignoring them. I forgave their scanty knowledge. But I thought at least to find many fellow-students in the study of man, and that this was the real study which befits us. I was deceived, for there are still fewer than those who study mathematics. It is only for want of knowing how to pursue this study that we seek others. But is it not that even here is not the knowledge that man should have, and that it is better for him to be ignorant of himself in order to be happy?
The Vanity of Knowledge.—The knowledge of external things will not console me for my ignorance of ethics in time of affliction, but the science of morals will always console me for my ignorance of external knowledge.
There are plants on the earth, we see them, but they could not be seen from the moon. On these plants are hairs, and in these hairs tiny animals, but beyond that, nothing more. O, presumption! Compound bodies are made up of elements, but not the elementary bodies themselves. O presumption! Here is a fine distinction. We must not assert the existence of what we cannot see, we must then say what others say, but not think with them.
The world’s judgment is right, for it is in that condition of natural ignorance which is man’s best wisdom. The sciences have two extremes which meet. The first is that pure natural ignorance in which every man is born. The other extreme is that reached by great minds, who, having run through all that men can know, find that they know nothing, and again come round to the same ignorance from which they started; but this is a learned ignorance, conscious of itself. Those between the two, who have left their natural ignorance and not been able to reach the other, have some tincture of this vain knowledge, and assume to be wise. These trouble the world, and judge all things falsely. The people and the wise make up the world; these despise it, and are despised; they judge ill of all things and the world rightly judges of them.
Nature has made all her truths self-contained. Our art encloses them one within another, but that is not according to nature. Each holds its own place.
Spongia solis. —When we see the same effect invariably recur we conclude there is in it a natural necessity, as that there will be a to-morrow, etc. But nature often gives us the lie, and will not subject herself to her own rules.
Nature always begins the same things again, years, days, and hours, and in like manner spaces and numbers follow each other, end without end. So is made a sort of infinity and eternity, not that any thing of these is infinite and eternal, but these finite entities are infinitely multiplied.
Thus as it seems to me the number which multiplies them alone is infinite.
Nature imitates herself. A seed sown in good ground brings forth fruit. A principle cast into a good mind brings forth fruit.
Numbers imitate space, which is of an wholly different nature.
All is made and guided by one and the same master, root, branch and fruits; principles and consequences.
Nature works by progress, itus et reditus. It goes and returns, then it goes further, then twice as much backwards, then more forward than ever, etc.
So it is with the tide of the sea, and so apparently with the course of the sun.
Every one is all in all to himself, for he being dead, all is dead to him. Hence it comes that each man believes that he is all to all. We ought not to judge of nature by ourselves, but by it.
Self is hateful. You Miton, conceal self, but do not thereby destroy it, therefore you are still hateful.
—Not so, for in acting as we do, to oblige every body, we give no reason for hating us.—True, if we only hated in self the vexation which it causes us.
But if I hate it because it is unjust, and because it makes itself the centre of all, I shall always hate it.
In one word Self has two qualities, it is unjust in its essence because it makes itself the centre of all, it is inconvenient to others, in that it would bring them into subjection, for each ‘I’ is the enemy, and would fain be the tyrant of all others. You take away the inconvenience, but not the injustice, and thus you do not render it loveable to those who hate injustice; you render it loveable only to the unjust, who find in it an enemy no longer. Thus you remain unjust and can please none but the unjust.
Of Self-love.—The nature of self-love and of this human ‘I’ is to love self only, and consider self only. But what can it do? It cannot prevent the object it loves from being full of faults and miseries; man would fain be great and sees that he is little, would fain be happy, and sees that he is miserable, would fain be perfect, and sees that he is full of imperfections, would fain be the object of the love and esteem of men, and sees that his faults merit only their aversion and contempt. The embarrassment wherein he finds himself produces in him the most unjust and criminal passion imaginable, for he conceives a mortal hatred against that truth which blames him and convinces him of his faults. Desiring to annihilate it, yet unable to destroy it in its essence, he destroys it as much as he can in his own knowledge, and in that of others; that is to say, he devotes all his care to the concealment of his faults, both from others and from himself, and he can neither bear that others should show them to him, nor that they should see them.
It is no doubt an evil to be full of faults, but it is a greater evil to be full of them, yet unwilling to recognise them, because that is to add the further fault of a voluntary illusion. We do not like others to deceive us, we do not think it just in them to require more esteem from us than they deserve; it is therefore unjust that we should deceive them, desiring more esteem from them than we deserve.
Thus if they discover no more imperfections and vices in us than we really have, it is plain they do us no wrong, since it is not they who cause them; but rather they do us a service, since they help us to deliver ourselves from an evil, the ignorance of these imperfections. We ought not to be troubled that they know our faults and despise us, since it is but just they should know us as we are, and despise us if we are despicable.
Such are the sentiments which would arise in a heart full of equity and justice. What should we say then of our own heart, finding in it an wholly contrary disposition? For is it not true that we hate truth, and those who tell it us, and that we would wish them to have an erroneously favourable opinion of us, and to esteem us other than indeed we are?
One proof of this fills me with dismay. The Catholic religion does not oblige us to tell out our sins indiscriminately to all, it allows us to remain hidden from men in general, but she excepts one alone, to whom she commands us to open the very depths of our heart, and to show ourselves to him as we are. There is but this one man in the world whom she orders us to undeceive; she binds him to an inviolable secrecy, so that this knowledge is to him as though it were not. We can imagine nothing more charitable and more tender. Yet such is the corruption of man, that he finds even this law harsh, and it is one of the main reasons which has set a large portion of Europe in revolt against the Church.
How unjust and unreasonable is the human heart which finds it hard to be obliged to do in regard to one man what in some degree it were just to do to all men. For is it just that we should deceive them?
There are different degrees in this dislike to the truth, but it may be said that all have it in some degree, for it is inseparable from self-love. This false delicacy causes those who must needs reprove others to choose so many windings and modifications in order to avoid shocking them. They must needs lessen our faults, seem to excuse them, mix praises with their blame, give evidences of affection and esteem. Yet this medicine is always bitter to self-love, which takes as little as it can, always with disgust, often with a secret anger against those who administer it.
Hence it happens, that if any desire our love, they avoid doing us a service which they know to be disagreeable; they treat us as we would wish to be treated: we hate the truth, and they hide it from us; we wish to be flattered, they flatter us; we love to be deceived, they deceive us.
Thus each degree of good fortune which raises us in the world removes us further from truth, because we fear most to wound those whose affection is most useful, and whose dislike is most dangerous. A prince may be the by-word of all Europe, yet he alone know nothing of it. I am not surprised; to speak the truth is useful to whom it is spoken, but disadvantageous to those who speak it, since it makes them hated. Now those who live with princes love their own interests more than that of the prince they serve, and thus they take care not to benefit him so as to do themselves a disservice.
This misfortune is, no doubt, greater and more common in the higher classes, but lesser men are not exempt from it, since there is always an interest in making men love us. Thus human life is but a perpetual illusion, an interchange of deceit and flattery. No one speaks of us in our presence as in our absence. The society of men is founded on this universal deceit: few friendships would last if every man knew what his friend said of him behind his back, though he then spoke in sincerity and without passion.
Man is then only disguise, falsehood, and hypocrisy, both in himself and with regard to others. He will not be told the truth, he avoids telling it to others, and all these tendencies, so far removed from justice and reason, have their natural roots in his heart.
[P. 17.]Preface to the First Part. This is Pascal’s own title to the section.
[P. 17, l. 2.]Charron, Pierre, was born at Paris in 1541. He was a friend of Montaigne, whose philosophy he adopted. His Traité de la Sagesse, Bordeaux, 1601, is the work of whose elaborate divisions Pascal complains.
[P. 17. l. 13.]Montaigne’s defects. Mademoiselle de Gournay, Montaigne’s adopted daughter, defends the Essayist in regard to this matter, in the preface to her edition of the Essays, Paris, 1595.
[P. 17, l. 15.]people without eyes. Montaigne, Essais, l. ii. ch. xii.
[P. 17, l. 16.]squaring the circle. Ib., l. ii. ch. xiv.
[P. 17, l. 16.]a greater world. Montaigne, Essais. l. ii. ch. xii.
[P. 17, l. 16.]on suicide and on death. Ib., l. i. ch. iii.
[P. 17, l. 18.]without fear and without repentance. Ib., l. iii. ch. ii.
[P. 19.]Man’s disproportion. Pascal’s own title.
[P. 19, l. 24.]the centre of which is every where, the circumference no where. Voltaire attributed this famous saying to the pseudo-Timæus of Locris, an abridgement of Plato’s Timæus, but in neither work is the whole sentence to be found. The saying, however, is not originally Pascal’s. It is probably borrowed from Mlle. de Gournay’s preface to her edition of Montaigne, Paris, 1635, and was taken by her from Rabelais, bk. iii. ch. 13, where it is attributed to Hermes Trismegistus. M. Havet, who gives these, and many more details, finally traces it, on the authority of Vincent de Beauvais, 1200-1264, to Empedocles.
[P. 21, l. 39.]I will discourse of the all. This saying of Democritus is taken by Pascal from Montaigne, Essais, l. ii. ch. xii.
[P. 22, l. 6.]De omni scibili. The title given to nine hundred propositions, put forth at Rome by Pico della Mirandola, then aged twenty-three, in 1486.
[P. 22, l. 12.]The Principles of Philosophy. Descartes wrote a work with this title, Principia Philosophiæ.
[P. 22. l. 6.]Beneficia eo usque læta sunt. Tacitus, Ann. lib. iv. c. xviii. Taken by Pascal from Montaigne, Essais, l. iii. ch. viii.
[P. 24. l. 34.]And what completes our inability. Compare for the whole of the passage on matter and spirit, Descartes, Discours de la Méthode.
[P. 26, l. 2.]Modus quo corporibus adhæret spiritus. S. Aug. De Civitate Dei, xxi. 10. Taken by Pascal from Montaigne, Essais, l. ii. ch. xii.
[P. 27, l. 4.]Lustravit lampade terras. The full couplet is,
[P. 27. l. 31.]a fly is buzzing. Borrowed from Montaigne, Essais. l. iii. ch. xiii.
[P. 28, l. 1.]flies which win battles. Montaigne relates that the Portuguese besieging the town of Tamly were obliged to raise the siege on account of the clouds of flies. Essais, l. ii. ch. xii.
[P. 28, l. 23.]Memoria hospitis unius diei prætereuntis. Lib. Sap. v. 14.
[P. 30, l. 14.]Plerumque gratæ, altered from Hor. Carm. iii. 29, v. 13. plerumque gratæ divitibus vices.
[P. 30, l. 23.]Epaminondas. The example is taken from Montaigne, Essais, l. ii. ch. xxxvi.
[P. 32, l. 1.]Sneezing absorbs all the faculties. A paraphrase of a passage in Montaigne, Essais, l. iii. ch. v.
[P. 32, l. 8.]Scaramouch. One of the traditional parts in Italian Comedy, at that time played by the well-known actor Tiberio Fiorelli, whom Pascal had probably seen.
[P. 32, l. 9.]The doctor, also a common character in Italian farces. Molière has borrowed from the Italian stage his doctor, so often a pedant and a fool, of whom le docteur Pancrace, in Le Mariage Forcé, is perhaps the most notable example, though that comedy was produced after the death of Pascal.
[P. 32, l. 28.]the Condrieu, the Desargues. Gérard Desargues was a mathematician at Condrieu on the Rhone, who had been Pascal’s teacher. Among the Muscat grapes grown at Condrieu, Pascal distinguishes a special variety of Desargues, and among these a particular vine.
[P. 33, l. 10.]the Passion of Cleobuline. In Artamène, ou le Grand Cyrus, the celebrated romance of Mademoiselle de Scudery, Cleobuline, princess, afterwards queen of Corinth, is one of the principal characters. She is represented as in love with Myrinthe, one of her subjects, but “she loved him without thinking of love; and remained so long in her error, that when she became aware of it, her affection was no longer in a condition to be overcome.”
[P. 34.]Diversion. Under this heading Pascal comprises not only trivial occupations, and the distractions of idle society, but all which, save truth alone, can form the study or the research of man. The main idea of the chapter is borrowed from Montaigne, Essais, l. iii. chap. x.
[P. 36, l. 22.]The counsel given to Pyrrhus. Ib., l. i. ch. xliii.
[P. 37, l. 18.]as children are frightened at a face. Borrowed from Montaigne, Essais, l. ii. ch. xii., and Montaigne in his turn borrowed it from Seneca, Ep. 24.
[P. 37, l. 36.]superintendent. Of finances. The last who held this office was Fouquet, still in office when this was written. He was dismissed in disgrace in 1661.
[P. 37, l. 37.]first president. Of the Parliament of Paris.
[P. 38, l. 1.]dismissed to their country houses. At that date, and for a long time afterwards, a Minister of State rarely fell from Office without receiving a Lettre de cachet which banished him to the seclusion of his country estate.
[P. 40, l. 24.]In omnibus requiem quæsivi. Ecclus. xxiv. 7.
[P. 41, l. 17.]will arise weariness. Compare Montaigne, Essais, l. iii.
[P. 41, l. 7.]Cæsar was too old. See Montaigne, Essais, l. ii. ch. xxxiv.
[P. 44.]The Greatness and Littleness of Man. The title suggested by Pascal, in many passages of the autograph MS.
[P. 44, l. 12.]For Port Royal. The letters A. P. R. occur in several places in Pascal’s MS. It is generally thought that they mean à Port-Royal, and are intended to indicate subjects to be developed later in conférences or lectures at that house.
[P. 46, l. 1.]Man is neither angel nor brute. This is closely borrowed from Montaigne, Essais, l. iii. ch. xiii.
[P. 47, l. 16.]Corrumpunt mores bonos colloquia prava. 1 ad Cor. xv. 33, but the Vulgate reading has mala.
[P. 48, l. 19.]Paulus Emilius. The example is taken from Montaigne, Essais, l. i. ch. xix. See also Cic. Tuscul. v. 40.
[P. 48, l. 33.]Ego vir videns, Lament. iii. 1.
[P. 51.]Of the deceptive powers, etc. This is Pascal’s own title for this section.
[P. 51, l. 15.]Imagination. Pascal uses this word in an extended sense already given to it by Montaigne, and means that faculty by which we attribute a value to those things which in fact have none.
[P. 53, l. 16.]furred cats. Rabelais, bk. v. ch. 11.
[P. 54, l. 7.]Della Opinione. No work is known under this name. Pascal possibly means a work of Carlo Flosi, L’Opinione tiranna, moralmente considerata ne gli affari del mondo, Mondovi, 1690. But it is not certain that this edition is the reprint of a work extant before Pascal wrote.
[P. 54, l. 33.]Diseases are another source of error. Taken from Montaigne, Essais, l. ii. ch. xii.
[P. 56, l. 26.]in Switzerland that of the burgesses. This may be compared with p. 66, l. 16. In the majority of Swiss towns every candidate for municipal office must needs possess the freedom of the town, but the intention was not to set aside those of noble birth, as Pascal supposes, but foreigners, and those of other towns, each of which was considered as a separate state.
[P. 57, l. 31.]would care nothing for Provence. Compare Montaigne, Essais, l. i. ch. xxii. “C’est par l’entremise de la coustume que chacun est contant du lieu où nature l’a planté: et lessauvages d’Escosse n’ont que faire de la Touraine ny les Scythes de la Thessalie.”
[P. 57, l. 32.]Ferox gens. Livy, l. xxxiv. c. 17.
[P. 58, l. 26.]Brave deeds. Borrowed from Montaigne, Essais, l. i. ch. xl.
[P. 61.]Of Justice, etc. These fragments, now among the best known of Pascal’s Thoughts, but for the most part brought to notice in the edition of Bossut, 1779, have their present arrangement and title from Molinier.
[P. 62, l. 7.]Nihil amplius. These sentences, borrowed from Montaigne, are quoted, the first of them wrongly, from Cicero, De Finibus, v. 21; the second from Seneca, Ad Lucilium, Ep. 95; the third from Tacitus, Annales, iii. 25. Compare with the whole passage Montaigne, Essais, l. ii. ch. xii. and l. iii. ch. xiii.
[P. 62, l. 35.]the wisest of law givers. Socrates, in the Republic of Plato.
[P. 62, l. 37.]Quum veritatem. S. Aug., De Civit. Dei, iv. 31. From Montaigne, Essais, l. ii. ch. xii.
[P. 63, l. 16.]Archesilas. Born at Pitane in Æolis of a Scythian father, about 300 bc He was founder of the School known as the Second Academy. See Montaigne, Essais, l. ii. ch. xii.
[P. 64, l. 25.]For all that is here said on Custom, see Montaigne, Essais, l. i. ch. xxii.
[P. 65, l. 15.]Pasce oves meas. Joh. xxi. 17. The words are those taken as the foundation of papal authority. You owe me pasturage, i.e. you owe me justice.
[P. 66, l. 5.]the soldiers of Mahomet, thieves, heretics. Pascal boldly joins heretics and thieves, for those who did not hold his creed appeared to him as men sans foi ni loi, faithless and lawless. In his eyes a Turk was scarce a man. See the Provincial Letters, let. xiv. “Sont-ce des religieux et des prêtres qui parlent de cette sorte? Sont-ce des Chrétiens? Sont-ce des Turcs? Sont-ce des démons?” And Thoughts, p. 211, l. 30. “Do we not see beasts live and die like men, and Turks like Christians?”
[P. 66, l. 16.]The Swiss. See note on p. 56, l. 26.
[P. 66, l. 20.]condemning so many Spaniards to death. Possibly an allusion to the battle of the Dunes, 1659, which led to the Peace of the Pyrenees, so long desired by all but Spain, then obliged to consent.
[P. 67, l. 25.]Summum jus, summa injuria. Charron, Traité de la Sagesse, etc. ch. xxvii. art. 8.
[P. 68, l. 2.]The end of the Twelfth Provincial. The following is the passage to which Pascal alludes. “C’est une etrange et longue guerre que celle où la violence essaye d’opprimer la vérité.Tous les efforts de la violence ne peuvent affaiblir la vérite, et ne servent qu’à la relever davantage. Toutes les lumières de la vérité ne peuvent rien pour arrêter la violence et ne font que l’irriter encore plus . . . la violence et la vérité ne peuvent rien l’une sur l’autre.”
[P. 68, l. 3.]The Fronde. This was the name given to the party which rose against Mazarin and the Court during the minority of Louis XIV., and plunged France into civil war.
[P. 69, l. 20.]give me the strap. This is no exaggeration, since, fifty years after Pascal wrote, Voltaire was beaten by the servants of the Duc de Rohan.
[P. 69, l. 23.]It is odd that Montaigne. Essais, l. i. ch. xlii.
[P. 69, l. 26.]When power attacks craft. Satyre Menippée, Harangue du Sire de Rieux: “il n’y a ny bonnet quarré, ny bourlet, que je ne face voler.”
[P. 70, l. 8.]figmentum malum. Ps. ciii. 13.
[P. 70, l. 24.]Savages laugh at an infant king. Pascal is alluding to the story in Montaigne, Essais, l. i. ch. xxx., of the savages presented to Charles IX. at Rouen, who were astonished to see bearded men obey a child.
[P. 72, l. 31.]Epictetus. See p. 46, l. 32, in order to understand this somewhat enigmatic fragment. In the next paragraph is an allusion to the passage in which Epictetus says, l. iv. ch. 7, that the philosopher may well be constant and detached from life by wisdom, as were the Galilæans by their fanaticism.
[P. 74.]Weakness, unrest, and defects of man. The arrangement of these fragments under this title is Molinier’s.
[P. 74, l. 2.]We anticipate the future. Compare Montaigne, Essais, l. i. ch. iii.
[P. 75, l. 30.]Alexander’s chastity. To attribute this virtue to Alexander is strange, but no doubt the circumstance in Pascal’s thought was his generous conduct to the family of Darius, after the battle of Issus.
[P. 76, l. 13.]the king of England. Probably Charles II., then living in exile, rather than Charles I. The King of Poland was Jean Casimir, driven from his throne by Charles X. of Sweden, after the battle of Warsaw in 1656. The Queen of Sweden was Christina, daughter of Gustavus Adolphus, who abdicated in favour of her cousin, Charles X., in 1654.
[P. 76, l. 32.]we shall die alone, “on mourra seul.” It is a curious instance of the fact how little Pascal is known in England, that Keble having quoted this sentence wrongly, probably from memory, in the first edition of the Christian Year, as “Je mourrai seul,” it has remained uncorrected and apparently unnoticed to this day.
[P. 77, l. 17.]Cromwell. As Charles II. was restored in 1660, this fragment was written about that date, two years before Pascal’s death. Cromwell’s death did not arise from the cause stated in the text.
[P. 78, l. 17.]the automaton. The expression of Descartes and his school for the animal body.
[P. 78, l. 36.]Inclina cor meum, Deus. Ps. cxix. 36. “Inclina cor meum in testimonia tua, et non in avaritiam.”
[P. 79, l. 3.]Eritis sicut dii. Gen. iii. 5.
[P. 81, l. 8.]men laugh and weep at the same thing. The thought is from Charron, Traité de la Sagesse, l. i. ch. xxxviii.
[P. 82, l. 19.]the grand Sultan. None of Pascal’s editors have discovered whence he drew this purely fictitious description of the Sultan.
[P. 82, l. 30.]That epigram about the two one-eyed people. This is not Martial’s. It is found in Epigrammatum Delectus, published by Port Royal in 1659.
[P. 82, l. 33.]Ambitiosa recidet ornamenta. Horace, De Arte Poetica, v. 447.
[P. 85, l. 8.]Spongia solis. The spots on the sun. Du Cange explains spongia by macula. Pascal seems to mean that the spots on the sun prepare us for its total extinction; that the sun will eventually expire, so that, contrary as it seems to the course of nature, there will come a day when there will be no sun.