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on December 2, 2003
This Oxford's version of the Pensees is in some ways superior to the Penguin Classics version. The introduction, by Anthony Levi, gives a much better insight into the history behind the development of Pascal's 'thoughts'. As far as the biography is concerned, Oxford's version gives a much broader span of time concerning Blaise's life.
A lot of people blame Pascal for not being like Montaigne, but that is just foolish. I enjoy Pascal's style because of its originality, and there also seems to me to be a similiar style between both men--espcially in how they both change ideas in a brief span of time. I believe Montainge originally meant to make his 'essays' a collection of expanded sayings and maxims but it took another form, and Pascal maybe wanted his 'pensees' to be his magnum opus by turning it into a large book that would be something like Montaign's Essays. Both men, I guess, envisioned something different from their final product and both of them left a legacy that was fruitful and informative, and their works shouldn't be compared as two competing styles since they are so different from one another in both format and intention.
And after reading Pascal's 'Discussion with Monsieur de Sacy', I was struck by Pascal's shear brilliance. He is a giant of a writer and is one of the cleanest writers I have ever read.
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on April 20, 2005
Pascal's Pensees are among the more interesting and enlightened of Christian writings. Pascal was a brilliant 17th century mathematician and scientist who tabulated binomial coefficients, provided groundwork in the field of hydrodynamics and also invented the syringe. But for some reason he seems to be known best for his "Pensees" (thoughts). These Pensees are deeply religious but like Pascal's Wager (the argument that it makes sense to believe in god even if it can't be proven scientifically) they are also extraordinarily logical. And this is the crux of the enigma that is Blaise Pascal: how could a man of such brilliant reason also have such unshakeable faith? The answer is to some degree in the Pensees but at the same it is also something so sublime that it touches the realm of existentialism. Regardless, the Pensees are really thoughtful writings not all of which confront the existence of God. The also provide interesting insight into the intellect of the early age of reason.

Many compare Pascal to Montaigne and though I agree that they came from the same stock they certainly fall into different camps. Montaigne was an intellectual bon vivant and if one reads his "Essays" it is easy to see that his value in reason and science is not nearly as complete as that of Pascal. I really enjoy Montaigne and find myself thinking more like he did than Pascal. My belief is that their style of straightforward easy eloquence is similar due to the fact that they were both French intellectuals but the comparison should end there. The Pensees are great and I don't think they were meant to be read with any speed. Buying a copy is a great investment because it provides a series of aphorisms and thoughts for a lifetime of contemplation.

- Ted Murena
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HALL OF FAMEon October 18, 2004
This is one of the great works of Western religious thought. It is written in fragments, but these fragments are often brilliant poetic thoughts . Many of them have become part of the everyday vocabulary of the Western mind. " Man is a reed, but he is a thinking reed" " The silence of these infinite spaces cast me into dread"

Among the major suggestions of Pascal's thought is the Pascalian wager which William James picked upon. Roughly speaking betting on the non- existence of G-d gives nothing. But betting on the existence of G-d give the possibility of eternity. Therefore says Pascal we should be wise and bet on the existence of God. And this though it is not certain that God wants us as gamblers.

Pascal's insights also extend into his reading of the Bible and his special insight into the destiny of Israel. His God after all is not " the god of the philosophers but the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob " Pascal saw the continued survival the miraculous survival of the people of Israel through generations of persecution and suffering as a proof of the existence of G-d. And for that alone I have tremendously warm feelings for him.And this aside from the gratitude of his overwhelmingly powerful and beautiful insights.

This is one of the great books for probing the heart of Man and the Universe. And we should never stop rereading it.
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on October 12, 2006
Seldom does a week go by that one of Pascal's musings doesn't come to my mind. Most often, I think, his comment that he believes that all man's misery is due to either laziness or impatience ("....not being able to sit quietly in a room alone"). I've seen that played out so many times, and it's my favorite lecture to my grandchildren.

As another reviewer has said, Pascal's most provocative reflections are on the miraculous survival of the nation of Israel and what that tells us about the divine authorship of the Bible. This was especially surprising and gratifying to me in light of his times and religious affiliation.

Most amusing is his fascination with the male fixation on games involving balls. He turns that one over and over and never quite figures it out.

I always find it restful to pick up this tiny, sweet-tempered book--so huge in its enduring wisdom--and read a few pages. It always gives me something more worthwhile and just plain fun to think about than politics and my irritating next-door neighbor.
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on February 16, 2015
This is a review of the Oxford World's Classics edition of the Pensées, translated by Honor Levi.

First of all, this is a translation of a selection of the Pensées, not all of them. This could be either a pro or a con, depending on what you want. The selection, and the attractive presentation, definitely makes for an easier read, but it also obscures somewhat the chaotic nature of the original. The numbering is according to the Sellier edition only, and there is no concordance provided for other numbering systems.

I personally found the introduction verbose, with too much about the ins-and-outs of Jansenist disputes and a tendency to make pompous and debatable/wrong claims en passant (e.g. Montaigne's Essays "remain committedly Catholic but conservative and defensive, with a relativist core that has been mistaken for scepticism").

Besides the Pensées, there are extracts from the Discussion with M. de Sacy (only the things that Pascal himself says – why could the entirety of this short and strange text not have been included?), the Art of Persuasion, and some of Pascal's writings on grace (some not previously translated into English, I think).

The translation is OK, in places a little free ("esprit de géométrie" vs. "esprit de finesse" becomes "mathematical mind" vs. "intuitive mind").

One really bizarre downside of this edition is that all of the translations of Pascal's Latin biblical quotations are taken from the rather non-literal English Jerusalem Bible. Thus "fascinatio nugacitatis" (Wis. 4:12) becomes "the fascination of evil," which misses the point, while the crucial half-verse "vere tu es deus absconditus" (Isaiah 45:15) is rendered as "truly God is hidden within you," a New-Agey non-translation that makes nonsense of Pascal's idea.
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on July 27, 2013
BLAISE PASCAL INTENDED TO WRITE A BOOK FILLED WITH WISDOM; INSTEAD DEATH INTERVENED. WHAT WAS LEFT IS THESE 'PENSEES', OR 'THOUGHTS.' PASCAL HAD OUTLINED HIS INTENTIONS FOR THE BOOK BY SHORT, PITHY COMMENTS ON EACH SUBJECT HE INTENDED TO GO INTO AT GREATER LENGTH. THESE 'THOUGHTS' HAVE BEEN PUBLISHED FOR GENERATIONS AND HAVE BECOME HIS MOST FAMOUS 'BOOK'! WHY? BECAUSE THE "SHORT, PITHY" SAYINGS WERE FOUND TO BE OFTEN SO GOOD, SO ACCURATE OR TELLING THAT THEY WERE PROBABLY BETTER THAN THE INTENDED BOOK!
BEING INTERESTED IN THE CONTROVERSY, HE GOES INTO THE QUESTIONS SURROUNDING PREDESTINATION AND JANSENISM AT MORE LENGTH; BUT THERE IS PLENTY HERE FOR ALL! EVEN AS IT STANDS, IT IS AN UNFINISHED MASTERPIECE! RQ
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on July 26, 2015
I disagree with the 5 star review now at the top of the list. The Peguin version not only gives the pensees in order - which is all this book does- but also groups them by subject, so if you're interested in P's thoughts about a specific item (like Distraction, say) you can find it in the table of contents and then read all of his thoughts on it in one place. This version only gives the original text, and if you're intersted in a specific subject, you have to look it up in the index, only to find that the index is extremely innacurate and sends you lines that dont even mention what you're interested in. The Penguin classics version is less attractive visually than this one, but at least it was produced by a helpful intellegence, unlike this one.
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on December 17, 2011
This is philosophy, Christian mysticism and theology at their best. This is the man who, after recognizing the God of Christianity, completely abandoned his career as a celebrated and brilliant physicist and devoted his entire life to Christ. He was persecuted by the Jesuits and the great part of the entire Catholic Church, but he persevered and remained in faith - not as a dreaming and hallucinating "spiritualist", as it is the habit today, but as a true Christian who could not find the true church in his nation - much like John Brown or Henry David Thoreau did this centuries later.
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on October 3, 2009
I had checked this book out from the local library having read some excerpts included in a college magazine. I have not been disappointed. Pascal has amazing insight and perspective into humanity. This book is for the "thinker."
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on March 20, 2015
All my adult life I have seen references to Pascal, and read little quotations from Pensees. But somehow I had never read them myself. Big mistake! Now corrected.
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