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Blaise Pascal was a famous French physicist, writer, inventor, mathematician, and Catholic theologian of the 17th century. Although his earliest experiments and works were in applied and natural sciences, he presented powerful philosophies in the fields of religion and theology. Pascal’s wager remains one of the most famous arguments regarding people’s perception of religion or faith. This concept denotes that people will swear by their own lives that God does not exist or He does. The foundations of this religious viewpoint continue to dictate the way people pursue their religious goals. This paper gives a detailed analysis of Blaise Pascal’s life and his contributions to the field of philosophy.
Blaise Pascal: Life
Pascal remains a celebrated physicist, mathematician, and religious thinker whose ideas form the foundation of modern spiritual concepts and the famous theory of probabilities. This philosopher was born on June 19, 1963 in the French town of Clermont-Ferrand (Bartha and Pasternack 26). His mother died when he was only three years of age. Such an event forced his father, Étienne Pascal, to move to France in order to secure quality life for his children. He ensured that they received adequate education and financial support. At a young age, Pascal exhibited a unique aptitude for the sciences and mathematics.
He wrote an essay that would later be known as Essay on Conics when he was only sixteen years of age (Rota 29). His invention of a calculator that could subtract and add became a reality when he was barely 18. Within the next ten years, Pascal was able to improve his original calculator, design new tools, and invent more machines.
Pascal continued to present new ideas and concepts that continued to influence and transform the field of mathematics. A good example is Pascal’s triangle that is still in use today (Bartha and Pasternack 42). He came up with his philosophy of mathematics and presented immeasurable concepts and ideas into the world of physical sciences. His works on hydrostatics and hydrodynamics led to what is today known as hydraulic fluids. He invented the syringe and the hydraulic press that have found their applications in different fields today, including agriculture, physics, engineering, and medicine.
His works and analysis of gambling led to a famous concept known as probability theory. In 1646, he began to identify himself with a new religious movement called Jansenism (Rota 42). From 1654, he started composing his works in the fields of theology and philosophy. Some of the famous ones include the Pensées and Lettres Provincials (Rota 67). During the same period, he composed an important discourse on what would later be known as the arithmetical triangle. In 1659, he studied and wrote widely on the cycloid and its role in the calculation of the volume of both liquids and solids. Historians and researchers also reveal that Pascal was in frail health throughout his life. He died on August 19th, 1623, at the age of 39 years.
Many people remember Pascal for his timeless contributions and achievements in the fields of mathematics, natural sciences, and philosophy. Such concepts dictate the way human beings solve most of the problems they encounter in life today. His philosophy of religion describes and explains the way humans follow or develop their spiritual thoughts (Bartha and Pasternack 59). This ideology is what has become Pascal’s Wager and it is based on the notion that people should not be concerned with the question of whether God exists or not. Instead, it asserts that a person’s interest to believe in the existence of God is usually intrinsic (Bartha and Pasternack 72). This means that it is usually rational for people to believe in God and follow His commandments. Similarly, those who chose not to believe in Him tend to do so by betting by their lives.
Pascal’s wager indicates that individuals who decide to believe in the existence of God and continue to obey His teachings will eventually become part of His kingdom. This is a clear indication that they will reap the benefits of doing what is right according to their conscience. The philosophy goes further to argue that people who decide not to believe in Him will face infinite punishment and burn in hell if God really exists (Rota 45).
Those who decide to believe in Him will not lose much if they would eventually realize that He never existed at all. Pascal goes further to explain why it is appropriate to receive an infinite prize as part of God’s kingdom or losing nothing. Getting endless punishment or gaining nothing at the end is, therefore, less preferable (Bartha and Pasternack 85). The thinker concludes by stating that it is rational for human beings to believe in God even if the available information about His existence is not overwhelming.
Pascal is also known for his version of the scientific method that many people use to establish the validity and truth of hypotheses. According to him, the evidence of a hypothesis means that it does not occur that all phenomena have to emerge from it. This means a given statement that will present a contrary phenomenon will mean that it is unacceptable or false (Bartha and Pasternack 85). The combination of these two philosophies is something that encourages more people in life to pursue their goals diligently and consider issues that might affect their goals and experiences.
On top of the above philosophies, Pascal managed to present numerous ideas and arguments that continue to reshape human behaviors and thoughts. For instance, Pascalian theology is a powerful perspective that explains how people find it easier to view themselves as duplicitous subjects, thereby preferring to ignore or reject God’s teachings and His existence (Rota 69). The perspective goes further to explain why many people lead sinful lives without considering their positions in the natural world and the anticipated rewards. Scholars of morality, ethicists, and religion leaders focus on Pascal’s philosophies to encourage people to appreciate the existence of God and always do what is right if they are to become part of His kingdom.
The above discussion has revealed that Pascal was a great thinker whose ideas and notions became the original foundations of religious ethics and practices. His philosophy of theology, commonly known as Pascal’s wager, encourages human beings to formulate relevant spiritual aims and focus on heavenly rewards. He went further to present a new approach to the scientific method that many people consider whenever examining the validity of different hypotheses. In conclusion, Blaise Pascal remains a famous thinker and philosopher who attained eternity through his works despite having led a troubled life due to his frail health.
Bartha, Paul, and Lawrence Pasternack, editors. Pascal’s Wager. Cambridge University Press, 2018.
Rota, Michael. Taking Pascal’s Wager: Faith, Evidence and the Abundant Life. InterVarsity Press, 2016.