All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.
I have only made this letter longer because I have not had the time to make it shorter.
― The Provincial Letters, Letter 16, 1657
Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.
I would prefer an intelligent hell to a stupid paradise.
People almost invariably arrive at their beliefs not on the basis of proof but on the basis of what they find attractive.
― De l'art de persuader
To make light of philosophy is to be a true philosopher.
Kind words don't cost much. Yet they accomplish much.
You always admire what you really don't understand.
Curiosity is only vanity. We usually only want to know something so that we can talk about it.
Truth is so obscure in these times, and falsehood so established, that, unless we love the truth, we cannot know it.
I lay it down as a fact that if all men knew what others say of them, there would not be four friends in the world.
The last thing one discovers in composing a work is what to put first.
We are generally the better persuaded by the reasons we discover ourselves than by those given to us by others.
It is man's natural sickness to believe that he possesses the truth.
Do you wish people to think well of you? Don't speak well of yourself.
Man's sensitivity to the little things and insensitivity to the greatest are the signs of a strange disorder.
Little things comfort us because little things distress us.
― Pensées and Other Writings
The greater intellect one has, the more originality one finds in men. Ordinary persons find no difference between men.
Man is equally incapable of seeing the nothingness from which he emerges and the infinity in which he is engulfed.
Clarity of mind means clarity of passion, too; this is why a great and clear mind loves ardently and sees distinctly what it loves.
If we submit everything to reason our religion will be left with nothing mysterious or supernatural. If we offend the principles of reason our religion will be absurd and ridiculous . . . There are two equally dangerous extremes: to exclude reason, to admit nothing but reason.
Few men speak humbly of humility, chastely of chastity, skeptically of skepticism.
Love knows no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope; it can outlast anything. Love still stands when all else has fallen.
Can anything be stupider than that a man has the right to kill me because he lives on the other side of a river and his ruler has a quarrel with mine, though I have not quarrelled with him?
Belief is a wise wager. Granted that faith cannot be proved, what harm will come to you if you gamble on its truth and it proves false? If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation, that He exists.
There are only two kinds of men: the righteous who think they are sinners and the sinners who think they are righteous.
People are generally better persuaded by the reasons which they have themselves discovered than by those which have come into the mind of others.
Let each of us examine his thoughts; he will find them wholly concerned with the past or the future. We almost never think of the present, and if we do think of it, it is only to see what light is throws on our plans for the future. The present is never our end. The past and the present are our means, the future alone our end. Thus we never actually live, but hope to live, and since we are always planning how to be happy, it is inevitable that we should never be so.
Justice without force is powerless; force without justice is tyrannical.
When I see the blind and wretched state of men, when I survey the whole universe in its deadness, and man left to himself with no light, as though lost in this corner of the universe without knowing who put him there, what he has to do, or what will become of him when he dies, incapable of knowing anything, I am moved to terror, like a man transported in his sleep to some terrifying desert island, who wakes up quite lost, with no means of escape. Then I marvel that so wretched a state does not drive people to despair.
Distraction is the only thing that consoles us for miseries and yet it is itself the greatest of our miseries.
I ask you neither for health nor for sickness, for life nor for death; but that you may dispose of my health and my sickness, my life and my death, for your glory ... You alone know what is expedient for me; you are the sovereign master, do with me according to your will. Give to me, or take away from me, only conform my will to yours. I know but one thing, Lord, that it is good to follow you, and bad to offend you. Apart from that, I know not what is good or bad in anything. I know not which is most profitable to me, health or sickness, wealth or poverty, nor anything else in the world. That discernment is beyond the power of men or angels, and is hidden among the secrets of your providence, which I adore, but do not seek to fathom.
Contradiction is not a sign of falsity, nor the lack of contradiction a sign of truth.
When I consider the brief span of my life absorbed into the eternity which precedes and will succeed it—memoria hospitis unius diei praetereuntis (remembrance of a guest who tarried but a day)—the small space I occupy and which I see swallowed up in the infinite immensity of spaces of which I know nothing and which know nothing of me, I take fright and am amazed to see myself here rather than there: there is no reason for me to be here rather than there, now rather than then. Who put me here? By whose command and act were this place and time allotted to me?
And is it not obvious that, just as it is a crime to disturb the peace when truth reigns, it is also a crime to remain at peace when the truth is being destroyed?
Nature is an infinite sphere whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.
The last function of reason is to recognize that there are an infinity of things which surpass it.
Lust is the source of all our actions, and humanity.
The eternal silence of these infinite spaces terrifies me.
Reason's last step is the recognition that there are an infinite number of things which are beyond it.
The manner in which Epictetus, Montaigne, and Salomon de Tultie wrote, is the most usual, the most suggestive, the most remembered, and the oftener quoted; because it is entirely composed of thoughts born from the common talk of life.
And if one loves me for my judgement, memory, he does not love me, for I can lose these qualities without losing myself. Where, then, is this Ego, if it be neither in the body nor in the soul? And how love the body or the soul, except for these qualities which do not constitute me, since they are perishable? For it is impossible and would be unjust to love the soul of a person in the abstract and whatever qualities might be therein. We never, then, love a person, but only qualities.
Let us, then, jeer no more at those who are honoured on account of rank and office; for we love a person only on account of borrowed qualities.
Even those who write against fame wish for the fame of having written well, and those who read their works desire the fame of having read them.
The heart has reasons that reason cannot know.
― The Mind on Fire: A Faith for the Skeptical and Indifferent
Men seek rest in a struggle against difficulties; and when they have conquered these, rest becomes insufferable.
Anyone who does not see the vanity of the world is very vain himself. So who does not see it, apart from young people whose lives are all noise, diversions, and thoughts for the future?
But take away their diversion and you will see them bored to extinction. Then they feel their nullity without recognizing it, for nothing could be more wretched than to be intolerably depressed as soon as one is reduced to introspection with no means of diversion.
If God exists, not seeking God must be the gravest error imaginable. If one decides to sincerely seek for God and doesn't find God, the lost effort is negligible in comparison to what is at risk in not seeking God in the first place.
Since we cannot know all there is to be known about anything, we ought to know a little about everything.
Our nature lies in movement; complete calm is death.
There is enough light for those who only desire to see, and enough obscurity for those who have a contrary disposition.
What a Chimera is man! What a novelty, a monster, a chaos, a contradiction, a prodigy! Judge of all things, an imbecile worm; depository of truth, and sewer of error and doubt; the glory and refuse of the universe.
Kind words do not cost much. Yet they accomplish much.
The power of a man's virtue should not be measured by his special efforts, but by his ordinary doing.
In faith there is enough light for those who want to believe and enough shadows to blind those who don't.
Nothing is so intolerable to man as being fully at rest, without a passion, without business, without entertainment, without care.
And if they pretended to treat it as something really important it was because they knew that the madmen they were talking to believed themselves to be kings and emperors. They humored these beliefs in order to calm down their madness with as little harm as possible.
When we read too fast or too slowly, we understand nothing.
When a soldier complains of his hard life (or a labourer, etc.) try giving him nothing to do.
Just as I do not know where I came from, so I do not know where I am going. All I know is that when I leave this world I shall fall forever into oblivion, or into the hands of an angry God, without knowing which of the two will be my lot for eternity. Such is my state of mind, full of weakness and uncertainty. The only conclusion I can draw from all this is that I must pass my days without a thought of trying to find out what is going to happen to me.
We never keep to the present. We recall the past; we anticipate the future as if we found it too slow in coming and were trying to hurry it up, or we recall the past as if to stay its too rapid flight. We are so unwise that we wander about in times that do not belong to us, and do not think of the only one that does; so vain that we dream of times that are not and blindly flee the only one that is. The fact is the present usually hurts.
What is the self?
A man goes to the window to see the people passing by; if I pass by, can I say he went there to see me? No, for he is not thinking of me in particular. But what about a person who loves someone for the sake of her beauty; does he love her? No, for smallpox, which will destroy beauty without destroying the person, will put an end to his love for her.
And if someone loves me for my judgement or my memory, do they love me? me, myself? No, for I could lose these qualities without losing my self. Where then is this self, if it is neither in the body nor the soul? And how can one love the body or the soul except for the sake of such qualities, which are not what makes up the self, since they are perishable? Would we love the substance of a person's soul, in the abstract, whatever qualities might be in it? That is not possible, and it would be wrong. Therefore we never love anyone, but only qualities.
Let us then stop scoffing at those who win honour through their appointments and offices, for we never love anyone except for borrowed qualities.
When I consider the short duration of my life, swallowed up in the eternity before and after, the little space which I fill, and even can see, engulfed in the infinite immensity of spaces of which I am ignorant, and which know me not, I am frightened, and am astonished at being here rather than there; for there is no reason why here rather than there, why now rather than then. Who has put me here? By whose order and direction have this place and time been allotted to me? Memoria hospitis unius diei prætereuntis.
Eloquence is a painting of the thoughts.
The only thing that consoles us for our miseries is diversion. And yet it is the greatest of our miseries. For it is that above all which prevents us thinking about ourselves and leads is imperceptibly to destruction. But for that we should be bored, and boredom would drive us to seek some more solid means of escape, but diversion passes our time and brings us imperceptibly to our death.
Cleopatra's nose, had it been shorter, the whole face of the world would have been changed.
All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. The will never takes the least step but to this object. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves.
And yet after such a great number of years, no one without faith has reached the point to which all continually look. All complain, princes and subjects, noblemen and commoners, old and young, strong and weak, learned and ignorant, healthy and sick, of all countries, all time, all ages, and all conditions.
A trial so long, so continuous, and so uniform should certainly convince us of our inability to reach the good by our own efforts.... What is it then that this desire and this inability proclaim to us, but that there was once in man a true happiness of which there now remains to him only; the mark and empty trace, which he in vain tries to fill from all his surroundings, seeking from things absent the help he does not obtain in things present? But these are all inadequate, because the infinite abyss can only be filled by an infinite and immutable Object, that is to say, only by God Himself.
When I consider the small span of my life absorbed in the eternity of all time, or the small part of space which I can touch or see engulfed by the infinite immensity of spaces that I know not and that know me not, I am frightened and astonished to see myself here instead of there … now instead of then.
Each man is everything to himself, for with his death everything is dead for him. That is why each of us thinks he is everything to everyone. We must not judge nature by ourselves, but by its own standards.
Everything that is written merely to please the author is worthless.
Happiness can be found neither in ourselves nor in external things, but in God and in ourselves as united to him.
God wishes to move the will rather than the mind. Perfect clarity would help the mind and harm the will.
They do not know that they seek only the chase and not the quarry.
At the far end of this infinite distance a coin is being spun which will come down heads or tails. How will you wager? Reason cannot make you choose either, reason cannot prove either wrong.
Vanity is so firmly anchored in man's heart that a soldier, a camp follower, a cook or a porter will boast and expect admirers, and even philosophers want them; those who write against them want to enjoy the prestige of having written well, those who read them want the prestige of having read them, and perhaps I who write this want the same thing.
It is better to know something about everything then everything about something.
As we cannot be universal by knowing everything there is to know about everything, we must know a little about everything, because it is much better to know something about everything than everything about something. Such universality is the finest. It would be still better if we could have both together, but, if a choice must be made, this is the one to choose. The world knows this and does so, for the world is often a good judge.
We naturally believe we are more capable of reaching the centre of things than of embracing their circumference, and the visible extent of the world is visibly greater than we. But since we in our turn are greater than small things, we think we are more capable of mastering them, and yet it takes no less capacity to reach nothingness than the whole. In either case it takes an infinite capacity, and it seems to me that anyone who had understood the ultimate principles of things might also succeed in knowing infinity. One depends on the other, and one leads to the other. These extremes touch and join by going in opposite directions, and they meet in God and God alone.
Small minds are concerned with the extraordinary, great minds with the ordinary.
Know then, proud man, what a paradox you are to yourself. Be humble, impotent reason! Be silent, feeble nature! Learn that man infinitely transcends man, hear from your master your true condition, which is unknown to you.
There is nothing we can now call our own, for what we call so is the effect of art; crimes are made by decrees of the senate, or by the votes of the people; and as here-to-fore we are burdened by vices, so now we are oppressed by laws.
Being unable to cure death, wretchedness and ignorance, men have decided, in order to be happy, not to think about such things.
If man made himself the first object of study, he would see how incapable he is of going further. How can a part know the whole? But he may perhaps aspire to know at least the parts to which he bears some proportion. But the parts of the world are all so related and linked to one another, that I believe it impossible to know one without the other and without the whole.
Man, for instance, is related to all he knows. He needs a place wherein to abide, time through which to live, motion in order to live, elements to compose him, warmth and food to nourish him, air to breathe. He sees light; he feels bodies; in short, he is in a dependant alliance with everything. To know man, then, it is necessary to know how it happens that he needs air to live, and, to know the air, we must know how it is thus related to the life of man, etc. Flame cannot exist without air; therefore to understand the one, we must understand the other.
Since everything then is cause and effect, dependant and supporting, mediate and immediate, and all is held together by a natural though imperceptible chain, which binds together things most distant and most different, I hold it equally impossible to know the parts without knowing the whole, and to know the whole without knowing the parts in detail.
― Blaise Pascal
It is superstitious to put one's hope in formalities, but arrogant to refuse to submit to them.
If we examine our thoughts, we shall find them always occupied with the past and the future.
We never keep to the present. We recall the past; we anticipate the future as if were found it too slow in coming and were trying to hurry it up, or we recall the past as if to stay it's too rapid flight. We are so unwise that we wander about in times that do not belong to us, and do not think of the only one that does; so vain that we dream of times that are not and blindly flee the only one that is. The fact is the present usually hurts. We thrust it out of sight because it distresses us, and if we find it enjoyable, we are sorry to see it slip away. We try to give it the support of the future, and think how we are going to arrange things over which we have no control for a time we can never be sure of reaching.
― Human Happiness
Power rules the world, not opinion, but it is opinion that exploits power.
It is power that makes opinion. To be easygoing can be a fine thing according to our opinion. Why? Because anyone who wants to dance the tightrope will be alone, and I can get together a stronger body of people to say there is nothing fine about it.
All our reasoning comes down to surrendering to feeling.
We seek rest in a struggle against some obstacles. And when we have overcome these, rest proves unbearable because of the boredom it produces...