August 10, 2010

Pascal notes. (For the happy few)

This is in response to some recent comments, mentioning Pascal's famous line: "The heart has its reasons, of which the reason knows nothing."

Peter Kreeft writes...
..."Reason" meant something broader to pre-moderns than it has since Descartes narrowed it to scientific analysis and calculation. (Discourse on Method I, I, I). Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas, for example, all meant by "reason" intellectual intuition as well as calculation, and moral intuition as well—that is, intuitive knowledge of moral first principles. Pascal uses "reason" in the new, modern, narrower way, to refer to what medieval Scholastic-Aristotelian logic calls "the third act of the mind" only: discursive reasoning, not the understanding of the meaning of an essence (= "the second act of the mind") or the affirmation of the truth of a proposition (= "the second act of the mind"), but the process by which we discover or prove one truth (the conclusion) form another (the premise).

When Pascal demeans the power of reason in relation to our knowledge of God, he means this narrow, modern "reason," not the broad ancient reason. The difference between Pascal and Aquinas is mainly a verbal rather than a real contradiction...

Emotionalism, the tendency to substitute emotions for reason, is a grievous error, but not one Pascal is guilty of, as far as I can see.

Posted by John Weidner at August 10, 2010 10:21 PM
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