We know that Blaise Pascal died young and was unable to develop many of his theses that are embryonically present in his Pensées, his treatise on Grace, or his reflections on the spirit of geometry. Since I have not been able to read all his writings, this question arises: Did Pascal leave any written record indicating that he wanted to develop a system, maybe 'against' Descartes? Did he mention that he had a more or less systematic philosophical proposal pending?

Thank you in advance for the guidance!

  • An answer says that he 'refused' to develop a system. Perhaps for good reasons?
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented May 25 at 21:34

1 Answer 1


Very good question, and welcome to our site!

As the abstract of this book makes clear, Pascal was not a systematic philosopher:

As a philosopher, he was most convinced by the long tradition of scepticism, and so refused – like Kierkegaard – to build a philosophical or theological system.

In other words: the Pensées are not necessarily fragmentary and in the form of aphorisms because he died too early to develop a philosophical system out of these thoughts, they are erratic and to a point exploratory by design, ie. they try different ways to express and shape a thought, very much like Hölderlin will write (probably together with Hegel and Schelling) in The Oldest System Program of German Idealism:

The philosopher must possess just as much aesthetic power as the poet. The people without aesthetic sense are our philosophers of the letter. The philosophy of the spirit is an aesthetic philosophy. One cannot be clever in anything, one cannot even reason cleverly in history — without aesthetic sense. It should now be revealed here what those people who do not understand ideas are actually lacking — and candidly enough admit that everything is obscure to them as soon as one goes beyond charts and indices.

Poetry thereby obtains a higher dignity; it becomes again in the end what it was in the beginning — teacher of the human race; for there is no longer any philosophy, any history; poetic art alone will outlive all the rest of the sciences and arts.

It's not a coincidence that Nietzsche, another existentialist like Kierkegaard, wrote in aphorisms as well.

  • There has been a lot of history in the past 350 years, more than usual I think. But it's true, we don't need anesthetic Philosophy. It is soporific enough.
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented May 25 at 20:27
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    @ScottRowe To say that aesthetics are unnecessary in philosophy in the way you do is, at the very least, an aesthetic judgment. You would need to justify that truth and beauty are entirely separate components that have nothing to do with each other; something that, by the way, is a rather modern idea, one that has been thought this way for the last three centuries. For the rest of the history of philosophy, truth and beauty, seen as transcendentals, were related.
    – Ian
    Commented May 25 at 20:49
  • @ScottRowe But even more serious: to say that philosophy is unequivocally identified with a type of literary genre is an assertion that does not align with the facts, because the very beginning and genesis of philosophy show that it made use of various literary genres. So, in your assertion, there are two unwarranted premises.
    – Ian
    Commented May 25 at 20:50
  • @Ian I don't think I positively asserted anything. What are you thinking I said?
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented May 25 at 20:58
  • @philip-klöcking Thank you for your comment and your welcome. You are absolutely right that Pascal did not leave behind a system. However, there are two points in the abstract and your reflection that I do not share. It does not follow that because there is no system, there is no systematic nature in the ideas. Ideas can be coherently intertwined without being explicitly presented in a system.
    – Ian
    Commented May 25 at 21:11

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