Copleston, S.J., quotes, on p. 164 of A History of Philosophy (vol. 4): Descartes to Leibniz, the following from Pascal's Pensées, S142/L110:

Nous connaissons la vérité non seulement par la raison mais encore par le cœur. C'est de cette dernière sorte que nous connaissons les premiers principes…

We know truth not only by the reason but also by the heart. It is in this second way that we know the first principles.

Pascal's cœur thus seems akin to Aristotle's νόος or the Scholastics' intellectus:

Magna Moralia I, c. 34, 1197a20-23:

Intelligence [intellectus, νοῦς] deals with the principles [ἀρχὰς] of intelligibles and of beings. For science [scientia, ἐπιστήμη] deals with beings that have proof [ἀποδείξεως], but the principles are without proof [ἀναπόδεικτοι], so that science would not deal with principles; rather intelligence would.

cf. Posterior Analytics 72b5-24

Is this true?

  • 2
    You can see Pascal's Theory of Knowledge with ref to P's De l'esprit géométrique. May 4, 2018 at 8:03
  • 2
    The context of Pascal reflections is clearly Cartesianism, but the basic problem of scientific knowledge: rigorous demonstration by logical means (reason) of the explanantion of facts known by experience from first principles assumed as hypothesis or known by intuition is exactly that defined by Aristotle in PriorAn. May 4, 2018 at 8:06
  • 1
    I do not know whether this may prove helpful, but Max Scheler argued in an Aristotelean way and put emphasis on an essentially emotional knowledge prevalent in ethics and virtue (i.e. not effable, perhaps linked to nous), linking it to Pascal's heart. Mentioned in the second preface of Plessner's Levels of the Organic (translation forthcoming) and some German sources, but it is diffuse and I could not find available English sources with a short search.
    – Philip Klöcking
    May 5, 2018 at 10:23

1 Answer 1


Not necessarily. Nous, intellectus and coeur are terms standing for a faculty while episteme and scientia are seen more like objects. Raison, which is the latin ratio, can be either a faculty 'reason' or a 'ground' (cause) ; the second sense appears to match the series here but the first one is used in the quote above. Pascal's most famous quote ("the heart has its reasons that Reason does not know") actually exploits the ambiguity to promote coeur as a kind of double to Reason. The more usual way to introduce a dichotomy however remains a distinction betweeen reason and entendement (understanding); it is seen in Leibniz and further in German idealism where Kant famously exploited the pair Vernunft/Verstand.

Pascal sided with the Jansenistes who had taken Augustine as an intellectual authority. There is aparallel of Augustine arguing for religion against pagan philosophers and Pascal - against the Jesuits and the Cartesians. But in modern times it was no more possible to return to a double truth theory so a 'double reason' was reinvented. The idea can be traced back to Plato who in his Divided line distinguished nous from dianoia ( and, next, pistis, eikasia).

  • 1
    ratio can also mean "nature", too
    – Geremia
    May 5, 2018 at 5:04

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .