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Pascal's Wager: The Man Who Played Dice with God Hardcover – Bargain Price, October 17, 2006


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Hardcover, Bargain Price, October 17, 2006
$10.73 $2.46

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne (October 17, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0871874083
  • ISBN-13: 978-0852072066
  • ASIN: B000YFYPUW
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,907,998 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Is there a God? Are you willing to bet your eternal soul on your answer? This essentially is what has become known as Pascal's Wager, a bare-bones approach to challenging the folly of unbelief. Blaise Pascal (1623–1662) is widely regarded as a brilliant mathematician, but he is less well-known as a deep student of religion and the Bible. He and his father were devoted Jansenists, schismatic Roman Catholics seeking to revive Augustine's stern views of judgment, predestination and radical orthodoxy. Connor, professor of English at Kean University in New Jersey and author of Kepler's Witch and Silent Fire, believes that this passion, along with Pascal's insatiable curiosity and his father's deep love for learning, produced the prodigy who would change the way we view both God and the sciences. Driven by the tumultuous events of 17th-century France (vividly recreated by Connor), and meeting resistance not only from fellow mathematicians like René Descartes but from such powerhouses as the Jesuits, young Pascal repeatedly proved himself more than just a "spoiled son of a controlling father," rising above the challenges of his youth and diminutive stature. Written for a general audience, this biography is a compelling and readable study of one of the most influential thinkers in religious history. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Following his biography of astronomer Johannes Kepler (Kepler's Witch, 2004), which dwelt on the religious side of Kepler's life, Connor takes up a near contemporary also beset by problems of faith and reason. Mathematician and mystic Blaise Pascal, Connor notes, matured during a revival of Catholicism in mid-seventeenth-century France. He was an adherent of Jansenism, whose theological parameters are explained amid Connor's narrative of Pascal's illness-plagued life (he died at 39). The account fixes Pascal amid his immediate family and their participation in Jansenism. Recounting the attraction of the Pascal family to the movement, Connor shows the conflict between domestic life and faith. His sister Jacqueline was prevented from entering a Jansenist convent, as she desired, because father and brother Blaise needed her help at home. Meanwhile, Blaise thought about probability and the existence of God, and devised the wager to which Connor's title refers. Well written and well informed (Connor is a former Catholic priest), this biography should interest readers drawn to the crossroads of religion and science. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

A very well written, concise introduction to Pascal.
miriam1025
The last chapter is a musing by the author that uses the probabilistic view of modern life that Pascal originated by his seminal work in probability theory.
Mark Maisonneuve
The story did not need the dramatic flourishes which tend to put the author too much in the picture.
Daniel Putman

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Mark Maisonneuve on January 15, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This fairly short (216 pages) book centers around the central dilemma of Blaise Pascal's, the 17th century math prodigy's, life philosophy: How to reconcile his austere view of life as should be lived by a creation of God with his obvious love of math, science, and worldly ideas. Another hundred pages could have been used to flesh out Pascal's writings and scientific ideas so that the reader could make more of his own decision about him. Instead the author has chosen to present his own thesis for acceptance or rejection. There is considerable interesting background provided on the France of Pascal's time and on Jansenism, the ascetic (Augustinian) form of deterministic (Calvinistic) Catholicism that Pascal ultimately accepted.

There are several descriptions of the discoveries of Pascal and his peers but nothing that requires a math or science background. The last chapter is a musing by the author that uses the probabilistic view of modern life that Pascal originated by his seminal work in probability theory. The author's dividing of people into climbers and sprawlers is insightful especially if you're inunudated with amazing coincidence \ God's providence spam e-mails as I seem to be. Recommended if you're Roman Catholic, definitely recommended if you're a fan of the Jesuits (the author is a former Jesuit). The book reads fast and is divided into short chapters; useful if, as I do, you like to finish a chapter before getting off the mass transit. Well recommended.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By William E. Warner on October 5, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As an engineer I had studied all about Pascal's products, the conic sections, the vacuum, and the probability studies. However, until I read this book never could have imagined the sad and inspirational story behind the genius, Blaise Pascal. It is written in short readable chapters that give you a vivid picture on the 17th century in which he lived. The book gives a spectacular vision of the beginning of science as we know it in the 21st century. It also examines the conflict of one man between his faith and his passion for science. I won't tell you how it comes out that for you to read. The only thing I will tell you is that it is not the usual science is good and religion is bad that you find in many book today. Read this book, and if you have children interested in science have them read it too, or better read it to them.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Jesse L. Maghan on April 30, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
PASCAL'S WAGER: The Man Who Played Dice With God.
By James A. Connor, Harper Collins Publishers, 2006]

James Connor has given us the opportunity to enter the physical space and place of 1588-1670 France. He brings classic and substantive insight into the provincial and fomenting social mores of these times: the militancy and corruption of the papacy; the intrusive and diminishing ideology of Aristotelian philosophy; and, the deepening schism in the Catholic Church and monarchies of Pascal's times. Through the lens of Blaise Pascal's tightly-knit family, we enter the inordinate emotional sibling reliance (addiction) of children who have been raised in the isolated, dominating, and cloistered world of a widowed father suddenly thrust into self-survival and the salt of erudition. Through his infancy and childhood years Blaise Pascal was afflicted with an abnormality which forced him to shift into a shrieking knot of psychic pain whenever he was with more than one parent at a time. From the beginning of his days Pascal was labeled a dark angel. Caught in the polemic of the adamancy of original sin and simultaneously possessed with the fomenting dreams of a scientist, Pascal's heart and mind joined the tight rope of his life-long pain stricken body in total accommodation. The essential terror of this dilemma necessitated a sort of "doubling phenomenon" as a protective shield against the continuous threats to his spiritual identity and intelligence.

"When I think about the shortness of my life," Pascal said, "melted into the eternity that came before me, and into the eternity that will come after...
Read more ›
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jan Alkire on January 25, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I knew about "Pascal's wager" before reading this book: the calculated risk of believing in God---or not believing. What I hadn't known was that this arose from Pascal's experiences with gambling, science, and God. He wrestled to bring math and God together in a lucid way, and yet he embraced Jansenism (a Calvinistic branch of Catholicism that ultimately was condemned as heretical). He was sick and in pain much of the time, and yet he loved life.

I can't imagine a more qualified author for "Pascal's Wager". Connor is a former Jesuit priest who also holds degrees in science, philosphy, and literature. I highly recommend this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Philip Tadros on March 16, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
The author does not actually take Pascal at face value. He does not seriously wrestle with his views and beliefs but is content with critiquing him with a superior kind of snob, suggesting that his biblical theology killed him and suppressed his genius. Having said that, the biography is informative and is detailed and the biographer is a good writer too. But he speculates too much, and tells us more about himself than Pascal! This was an engaging biography; I enjoyed the writing and the peculiar story of Pascal despite my disagreement with the author's worldview.
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