Pascalian sense of diversion
First, what does Pascalian diversion mean? This can be answered from Blaise Pascal's Pensée no. 139:
- Diversion.--When I have occasionally set myself to consider the different distractions of men, the pains and perils to which they expose themselves at court or in war, whence arise so many quarrels, passions, bold and often bad ventures, etc., I have discovered that all the unhappiness of men arises from one single fact, that they cannot stay quietly in their own chamber. A man who has enough to live on, if he knew how to stay with pleasure at home, would not leave it to go to sea or to besiege a town. A commission in the army would not be bought so dearly, but that it is found insufferable not to budge from the town; and men only seek conversation and entering games, because they cannot remain with pleasure at home.
Thus, Pascalian diversion is about how we leave the present situation when thought does carry us away, regardless of how pleasant it may be. It tends to take us away from the present pleasure and prevents all simple satisfaction.
Camus, on the other hand, says that (bodily) life eludes our thinking, which he describes as follows:
We get into the habit of living before acquiring the habit of thinking. In that race which daily hastens us toward death, the body maintains its irreparable lead.
In other words: Our bodily life is always one step ahead of our thinking and eludes it in the sense that even when thought tries to catch up, life has already carried on.
Relation between the two
Both concepts are about how thought and bodily life are related and how this relation may prevent happiness. But Camus has a completely different picture in mind here. The first major difference is that Camus inverts the relation of Pascalian diversion as he states life to be ahead of thought, not the other way around. Now, what does Camus mean when he writes that elusion is
both less and more than diversion in the Pascalian sense [?]
Well, it is "less" insofar Camus calls it an act, although it really is not even an active act as the thinking in Pascalian diversion is, ie. not an active going away from possible happiness or, put differently, being one with oneself (one's body). Instead, it is 'just happening' or
the invariable game
, ie. at the same time "more" insofar it is part of the human condition that the state of an equilibrium between body and thought is necessarily impossible since life eludes us (our minds/thought) - and with it so does happiness.
Pascal is relevant here because he provides the context in which Camus draws a picture of how bodily life and thought are related and - without explicitly mentioning it - allows Camus to draw the implicit conclusion that satisfaction in any given situation is impossible since life never stands still. Without the recourse to Pascal, the implications for happiness/satisfaction would not be clear.