Front Page Titles (by Subject) PREFACE TO THE FIRST PART. - The Thoughts of Blaise Pascal
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
PREFACE TO THE FIRST PART. - 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).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
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.
[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.