Quotations by Blaise Pascal


We are usually convinced more easily by reasons we have found ourselves than by those which have occurred to others.
Pensées (1670)

It is the heart which perceives God and not the reason.
Pensées (1670)

Man is equally incapable of seeing the nothingness from which he emerges and the infinity in which he is engulfed.
Pensées (1670)

Our nature consists in movement; absolute rest is death.
Pensées (1670)

Man is full of desires: he loves only those who can satisfy them all. "This man is a good mathematician," someone will say. But I have no concern for mathematics; he would take me for a proposition. "That one is a good soldier." He would take me for a besieged town. I need, that is to say, a decent man who can accommodate himself to all my desires in a general sort of way.
Quoted in W H Auden and L Kronenberger, The Viking Book of Aphorisms (New York 1966).

We run carelessly to the precipice, after we have put something before us to prevent us from seeing it.
Quoted in W H Auden and L Kronenberger, The Viking Book of Aphorisms (New York 1966).

We do not worry about being respected in towns through which we pass. But if we are going to remain in one for a certain time, we do worry. How long does this time have to be?
Quoted in W H Auden and L Kronenberger, The Viking Book of Aphorisms (New York 1966).

Few men speak humbly of humility, chastely of chastity, skeptically of skepticism.
Quoted in W H Auden and L Kronenberger, The Viking Book of Aphorisms (New York 1966).

Those who write against vanity want the glory of having written well, and their readers the glory of reading well, and I who write this have the same desire, as perhaps those who read this have also.
Quoted in W H Auden and L Kronenberger, The Viking Book of Aphorisms (New York 1966).

Our notion of symmetry is derived form the human face. Hence, we demand symmetry horizontally and in breadth only, not vertically nor in depth.
Quoted in W H Auden and L Kronenberger, The Viking Book of Aphorisms (New York 1966).

When we encounter a natural style we are always surprised and delighted, for we thought to see an author and found a man.
Quoted in W H Auden and L Kronenberger, The Viking Book of Aphorisms (New York 1966).

Everything that is written merely to please the author is worthless.
Quoted in W H Auden and L Kronenberger, The Viking Book of Aphorisms (New York 1966).

I cannot judge my work while I am doing it. I have to do as painters do, stand back and view it from a distance, but not too great a distance. How great? Guess.
Quoted in W H Auden and L Kronenberger, The Viking Book of Aphorisms (New York 1966).

Contradiction is not a sign of falsity, nor the lack of contradiction a sign of truth.
Quoted in W H Auden and L Kronenberger, The Viking Book of Aphorisms (New York 1966).

All err the more dangerously because each follows a truth. Their mistake lies not in following a falsehood but in not following another truth.
Quoted in W H Auden and L Kronenberger, The Viking Book of Aphorisms (New York 1966).

Perfect clarity would profit the intellect but damage the will.
Quoted in W H Auden and L Kronenberger, The Viking Book of Aphorisms (New York 1966).

Those who are accustomed to judge by feeling do not understand the process of reasoning, because they want to comprehend at a glance and are not used to seeking for first principles. Those, on the other hand, who are accustomed to reason from first principles do not understand matters of feeling at all, because they look for first principles and are unable to comprehend at a glance.
Quoted in W H Auden and L Kronenberger, The Viking Book of Aphorisms (New York 1966).

To deny, to believe, and to doubt well are to a man as the race is to a horse.
Quoted in W H Auden and L Kronenberger, The Viking Book of Aphorisms (New York 1966).

Words differently arranged have a different meaning and meanings differently arranged have a different effect.
Quoted in W H Auden and L Kronenberger, The Viking Book of Aphorisms (New York 1966).

Nature is an infinite sphere of which the center is everywhere and the circumference nowhere.
Pensées (1670)

We arrive at truth, not by reason only, but also by the heart.
Pensées (1670)

When the passions become masters, they are vices.
Pensées (1670)

Men despise religion; they hate it, and they fear it is true.
Pensées (1670)

Religion is so great a thing that it is right that those who will not take the trouble to seek it if it be obscure, should be deprived of it.
Pensées (1670)

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

We are so presumptuous that we should like to be known all over the world, even by people who will only come when we are no more. Such is our vanity that the good opinion of half a dozen of the people around us gives us pleasure and satisfaction.
Pensées (1670)

The sole cause of man's unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room.
Pensées (1670)

Reason's last step is the recognition that there are an infinite number of things which are beyond it.
Pensées (1670)

Through space the universe grasps me and swallows me up like a speck; through thought I grasp it.
Pensées (1670)

Let no one say that I have said nothing new... the arrangement of the subject is new. When we play tennis, we both play with the same ball, but one of us places it better.
Pensées (1670)

The excitement that a gambler feels when making a bet is equal to the amount he might win times the probability of winning it.
N Rose Mathematical Maxims and Minims (Raleigh N C 1988).

Reason is the slow and tortuous method by which these who do not know the truth discover it. The heart has its own reason which reason does not know.
Pensées (1670)

Reverend Fathers, my letters did not usually follow each other at such close intervals, nor were they so long.... This one would not be so long had I but the leisure to make it shorter.
Lettres provinciales.

The last thing one knows when writing a book is what to put first.
Pensées (1670)

What is man in nature? Nothing in relation to the infinite, all in relation to nothing, a mean between nothing and everything.
Pensées (1670)

[I feel] engulfed in the infinite immensity of spaces whereof I know nothing, and which know nothing of me, I am terrified The eternal silence of these infinite spaces alarms me.
Pensées (1670)

There is almost nothing right or wrong which does not alter with a change in clime. A shift of three degrees of latitude is enough to overthrow jurisprudence. One's location on the meridin decides the truth, that or a change in territorial possession. Fundamental laws alter. What is right changes with the times. Strange jutice that is bounded by a river or mountain! The truth on this side of the Pyrenees, error on the other.
Pensées (1670)

Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us consider the two possibilities. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Hesitate not, then, to wager that He is.
Pensees (1670)

Look somewhere else for someone who can follow you in your researches about numbers. For my part, I confess that they are far beyond me, and I am competent only to admire them.
[Written to Fermat]
G Simmons Calculus Gems (New York 1992).

The more I see of men, the better I like my dog.
H Eves Return to Mathematical Circles (Boston 1988).

The more intelligent one is, the more men of originality one finds. Ordinary people find no difference between men.
Pensées (1670)

However vast a man's spiritual resources, he is capable of but one great passion.
Discours sur les passions de l'amour. 1653.

There are two types of mind ... the mathematical, and what might be called the intuitive. The former arrives at its views slowly, but they are firm and rigid; the latter is endowed with greater flexibility and applies itself simultaneously to the diverse lovable parts of that which it loves.
Discours sur les passions de l'amour. 1653.

Nature is an infinite sphere, whose centre is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.
Quoted in E Maor, To infinity and beyond (Princeton 1991)

I have made this letter longer than usual, because I lack the time to make it short.

All man's troubles come from not knowing how to sit still in one room.
Quoted in Des MacHale, Wisdom (London, 2002).

God either exists or He doesn't. Either I believe in God or I don't. Of the four possibilities, only one is to my disadvantage. To avoid that possibility, I believe in God.
Quoted in Des MacHale, Wisdom (London, 2002).


JOC/EFR February 2006

The URL of this page is:
http://www-history.mcs.st-andrews.ac.uk/Quotations/Pascal.html