Pascal on Justice, Evil, Truth

Here is number 699 of Pascal’s Pensees.

“When everything is moving at once, nothing appears to be moving, as on board ship.  When everyone is moving towards depravity, no one seems to be moving, but if someone stops he shows up the others who are rushing on, by acting as a fixed point.”

And here is Peter Kreeft’s commentary on it.

“Since ‘everything flows,’ everything is relative.  This is Einsteinianly true of all physical things.  Relative to the sun, the earth moves, but relative to the earth, the sun rises and sets.  This is not a problem but a principle in physics; but it is a problem in ethics.  Clearly Pascal’s description of the whole ship sailing down into depravity describes our society; but it also describes history as a whole.  Only a fixed point above the flow of time and history can judge the flow.  Concretely, these fixed points are the saints, who navigate not by the waves of history and the winds of fortune but the fixed stars of Heaven.  Therefore we windswept, sinking relativist call them ‘religious fanatics,’ all because of the principle of relativity Pascal describes here: to a cold-blooded reptile, 98.6 degrees is a high fever.”

As I said earlier, this book is great.  Even though I don’t always agree with every point, it is brilliant and thought-provoking.  Highly recommended: Peter Kreeft, Christianity for Modern Pagans: Pascal’s Pensees, Edited, Outlined, and Explained (San Fransisco: Ignatius Press, 1993).

shane lems