Blaise Pascal: Miracles and Reason (Renaissance Lives ) (Hardcover)

Blaise Pascal: Miracles and Reason (Renaissance Lives ) By Mary Ann Caws, Tom Conley (Preface by) Cover Image
By Mary Ann Caws, Tom Conley (Preface by)
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Few people have had as many influences on as many different fields as true Renaissance man Blaise Pascal. At once a mathematician, philosopher, theologian, physicist, and engineer, Pascal’s discoveries, experiments, and theories helped usher in a modern world of scientific thought and methodology. In this singular book on this singular genius, distinguished scholar Mary Ann Caws explores the rich contributions of this extraordinary thinker, interweaving his writings and discoveries with an account of his life and career and the wider intellectual world of his time.
            Caws takes us back to Pascal’s youth, when he was a child prodigy first engaging mathematics through the works of mathematicians such as Father Mersenne. She describes his early scientific experiments and his construction of mechanical calculating machines; she looks at his correspondence with important thinkers such as René Descartes and Pierre de Fermat; she surveys his many inventions, such as the first means of public transportation in Paris; and she considers his later religious exaltations in works such as the “Memorial.” Along the way, Caws examines Pascal’s various modes of writing—whether he is arguing with the strict puritanical modes of church politics, assuming the personality of a naïve provincial trying to understand the Jesuitical approach, offering pithy aphorisms in the Pensées, or meditating on thinking about thinking itself.
            Altogether, this book lays side by side many aspects of Pascal’s life and work that are seldom found in a single volume: his religious motivations and faith, his scientific passions, and his practical savvy. The result is a comprehensive but easily approachable account of a fascinating and influential figure.

About the Author

Mary Ann Caws is distinguished professor of English, French, and comparative literature at the Graduate School at the City University of New York. She is the author of several books, including, most recently, The Modern Art Cookbook, also published by Reaktion Books. Tom Conley is Lowell Professor of Environmental Studies and Romance Languages at Harvard University. He is the author of several books, including, most recently, The Errant Eye.

Praise For…

"A brief and lively essayistic introduction to Pascal’s life and major writings. . . . Caws offers no doubt the best biographically organized introduction that can be read easily in one sitting. . . . Blaise Pascal: Miracles and Reason is a book well worth the attention of anyone coming newly to the work of this multifaceted French author."
— H-France

"Well worth the attention of history of science enthusiasts."
— The Well-Read Naturalist

“Caws, one of the world authorities on the international avant-garde, both in poetry and in the visual arts, here turns her attention to the life and work of a seemingly very different writer, the great seventeenth-century thinker Blaise Pascal. As she shows brilliantly, Pascal’s Pensées and other writings, which she has in fact been reading and ruminating on all her life, pave the way for the avant-garde of our own century, and they anticipate in uncanny ways Wittgenstein’s similarly informal ways of doing philosophy.  It is the quality of Pascal’s writing—his abrupt, abbreviated, aphoristic, gnomic utterance—so mysterious and yet so authoritative—that fascinates Caws, and her book is eloquent testimony to Pascal’s continuing relevance today. We need Pascal—the precise logician as well as the philosopher and religious thinker—more than ever. Mary Ann Caws here gives us another beautiful book.”
— Marjorie Perloff, Stanford University

“Mary Ann Caw’s delightful commentary on the life and influence of Pascal provides a compelling, short account of the brilliant and provocative inventor, mathematician, theologian, and essayist. Caws makes each of the main events of Pascal’s life and work into parables filled with awe for his protean intellect, literary style, and unshakable faith tempered by palpable empathy for his oddness, physical frailty, and piety.”

— Charles Bernstein, University of Pennsylvania

Product Details
ISBN: 9781780237213
ISBN-10: 1780237219
Publisher: Reaktion Books
Publication Date: May 15th, 2017
Pages: 240
Language: English
Series: Renaissance Lives