Selected "Pensees" and Provincial Letters/Pensees et Provinciales choisies: A Dual-Language Book [NOOK Book]

Overview

Intended to convert religiously indifferent readers to Christianity, Pens?es were published posthumously, to wide and ongoing acclaim. This selection of highlights focuses on their secular aspects. Written in support of the Jansenist movement, Provincial Letters captivated a large audience with their satirical wit, righteous indignation, and effervescent style. This is the only dual-language edition available.
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Overview

Intended to convert religiously indifferent readers to Christianity, Pensées were published posthumously, to wide and ongoing acclaim. This selection of highlights focuses on their secular aspects. Written in support of the Jansenist movement, Provincial Letters captivated a large audience with their satirical wit, righteous indignation, and effervescent style. This is the only dual-language edition available.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780486120706
  • Publisher: Dover Publications
  • Publication date: 5/5/2014
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 224
  • File size: 2 MB

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Selected "Pensées" and Provincial Letters/Pensées et Provinciales choisies

A Dual-Language Book


By Blaise Pascal, STANLEY APPELBAUM

Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 2004 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-12070-6



CHAPTER 1

LES PROVINCIALES

Première lettre

À un provincial


De Paris, ce 23 janvier 1656.

Monsieur,

Nous étions bien abusés. Je ne suis détrompé que d'hier; jusque-là j'ai pensé que le sujet des disputes de Sorbonne était bien important, et d'une extrême conséquence pour la religion. Tant d'assemblées d'une compagnie aussi célèbre qu'est la Faculté de théologie de Paris, et où il s'est passé tant de choses si extraordinaires et si hors d'exemple, en font concevoir une si haute idée, qu'on ne peut croire qu'il n'y en ait un sujet bien extraordinaire.

Cependant vous serez bien surpris quand vous apprendrez, par ce récit, à quoi se termine un si grand éclat; et c'est ce que je vous dirai en peu de mots, après m'en être parfaitement instruit.

On examine deux questions: l'une de fait, l'autre de droit.

Celle de fait consiste à savoir si M. Arnauld est téméraire pour avoir dit dans sa Seconde Lettre: Qu'il a lu exactement le livre de Jansénius, et qu'il n'y a point trouvé les propositions condamnées par le feu Pape; et néanmoins que, comme il condamne ces propositions en quelque lieu qu'elles se rencontrent, il les condamne dans Jansénius, si elles y sont.

La question sur cela est de savoir s'il a pu, sans témérité, témoigner par là qu'il doute que ces propositions soient de Jansénius, après que Messieurs les évêques ont déclaré qu'elles y sont.

On propose l'affaire en Sorbonne. Soixante et onze docteurs entreprennent sa défense et soutiennent qu'il n'a pu répondre autre chose à ceux qui, par tant d'écrits, lui demandaient s'il tenait que ces propositions fussent dans ce livre, sinon qu'il ne les y a pas vues, et que néanmoins il les y condamne, si elles y sont.

Quelques-uns même, passant plus avant, ont déclaré que, quelque recherche qu'ils en aient faite, ils ne les y ont jamais trouvées, et que même ils y en ont trouvé de toutes contraires. Ils ont demandé ensuite avec instance que, s'il y avait quelque docteur qui les y eût vues, il voulût les montrer; que c'était une chose si facile qu'elle ne pouvait être refusée, puisque c'était un moyen sûr de les réduire tous, et M. Arnauld même; mais on le leur a toujours refusé. Voilà ce qui s'est passé de ce côté-là.

De l'autre part se sont trouvés quatre-vingts docteurs séculiers, et quelque quarante religieux mendiants, qui ont condamné la proposition de M. Arnauld sans vouloir examiner si ce qu'il avait dit était vrai ou faux, et ayant même déclaré qu'il ne s'agissait pas de la vérité, mais seulement de la témérité de sa proposition.

Il s'en est de plus trouvé quinze qui n'ont point été pour la censure, et qu'on appelle indifférents.

Voilà comment s'est terminée la question de fait, dont je ne me mets guère en peine; car, que M. Arnauld soit téméraire ou non, ma conscience n'y est pas intéressée. Et si la curiosité me prenait de savoir si ces propositions sont dans Jansénius, son livre n'est pas si rare ni si gros que je ne le pusse lire tout entier pour m'en éclaircir, sans en consulter la Sorbonne.

Mais, si je ne craignais aussi d'être téméraire, je crois que je suivrais l'avis de la plupart des gens que je vois, qui, ayant cru jusqu'ici, sur la foi publique, que ces propositions sont dans Jansénius, commencent à se défier du contraire, par le refus bizarre qu'on fait de les montrer, qui est tel, que je n'ai encore vu personne qui m'ait dit les y avoir vues. De sorte que je crains que cette censure ne fasse plus de mal que de bien, et qu'elle ne donne à ceux qui en sauront l'histoire une impression tout opposée à la conclusion. Car, en vérité, le monde devient méfiant et ne croit les choses que quand il les voit. Mais, comme j'ai déjà dit, ce point-là est peu important, puisqu'il ne s'y agit point de la foi.

Pour la question de droit, elle semble bien plus considérable, en ce qu'elle touche la foi. Aussi j'ai pris un soin particulier de m'en informer. Mais vous serez bien satisfait de voir que c'est une chose aussi peu importante que la première.

Il s'agit d'examiner ce que M. Arnauld a dit dans la même Lettre: Que la grâce, sans laquelle on ne peut rien, a manqué à saint Pierre dans sa chute. Sur quoi nous pensions, vous et moi, qu'il était question d'examiner les plus grands principes de la grâce, comme si elle n'est pas donnée à tous les hommes, ou bien si elle est efficace; mais nous étions bien trompés. Je suis devenu grand théologien en peu de temps, et vous en allez voir des marques.

Pour savoir la chose au vrai, je vis Monsieur N., docteur de Navarre, qui demeure près de chez moi, qui est, comme vous le savez, des plus zélés contre les Jansénistes; et comme ma curiosité me rendait presque aussi ardent que lui, je lui demandai s'ils ne décideraient pas formellement que la grâce est donnée à tous, afin qu'on n'agitât plus ce doute. Mais il me rebuta rudement et me dit que ce n'était pas là le point; qu'il y en avait de ceux de son côté qui tenaient que la grâce n'est pas donnée à tous, que les examinateurs mêmes avaient dit en pleine Sorbonne que cette opinion est problématique, et qu'il était lui-même dans ce sentiment: ce qu'il me confirma par ce passage, qu'il dit être célèbre, de saint Augustin: Nous savons que la grâce n'est pas donnée à tous les hommes.

Je lui fis excuse d'avoir mal pris son sentiment, et le priai de me dire s'ils ne condamneraient donc pas au moins cette autre opinion des Jansénistes qui fait tant de bruit, que la grâce est efficace, et qu'elle détermine notre volonté à faire le bien. Mais je ne fus pas plus heureux en cette seconde question. Vous n'y entendez rien, me ditil, ce n'est pas là une hérésie; c'est une opinion orthodoxe: tous les Thomistes la tiennent, et moi-même je l'ai soutenue dans ma Sorbonique.

Je n'osai plus lui proposer mes doutes; et même je ne savais plus où était la difficulté, quand, pour m'en éclaircir, je le suppliai de me dire en quoi consistait donc l'hérésie de la proposition de M. Arnauld. C'est, ce me dit-il, en ce qu'il ne reconnaît pas que les justes aient le pouvoir d'accomplir les commandements de Dieu en la manière que nous l'entendons.

Je le quittai après cette instruction; et, bien glorieux de savoir le nœud de l'affaire, je fus trouver Monsieur N., qui se porte de mieux en mieux, et qui eut assez de santé pour me conduire chez son beaufrère, qui est janséniste s'il y en eut jamais, et pourtant fort bon homme. Pour en être mieux reçu, je feignis d'être fort des siens, et lui dis: Serait-il bien possible que la Sorbonne introduisît dans l'Église cette erreur, que tous les justes ont toujours le pouvoir d'accomplir les commandements? Comment parlez-vous? me dit mon docteur. Appelez-vous erreur un sentiment si catholique, et que les seuls Luthériens et Calvinistes combattent? Eh quoi! lui dis-je, n'est-ce pas votre opinion? Non, me dit-il; nous l'anathématisons comme hérétique et impie. Surpris de cette réponse, je connus bien que j'avais trop fait le janséniste, comme j'avais l'autre fois été trop moliniste; mais ne pouvant m'assurer de sa réponse, je le priai de me dire confidemment s'il tenait que les justes eussent toujours un pouvoir véri-table d'observer les préceptes. Mon homme s'échauffa là-dessus, mais d'un zèle dévot, et dit qu'il ne déguiserait jamais ses sentiments pour quoi que ce fût, que c'était sa créance et que lui et tous les siens la défendraient jusqu'à la mort, comme étant la pure doctrine de saint Thomas et de saint Augustin, leur maître.

Il m'en parla si sérieusement, que je n'en pus douter; et sur cette assurance, je retournai chez mon premier docteur, et lui dis, bien satisfait, que j'étais sûr que la paix serait bientôt en Sorbonne: que les jansénistes étaient d'accord du pouvoir qu'ont les justes d'accomplir les préceptes; que j'en étais garant, et que je le leur ferais signer de leur sang. Tout beau! me dit-il; il faut être théologien pour en voir le fin. La différence qui est entre nous est si subtile, qu'à peine pouvons-nous la marquer nous-mêmes; vous auriez trop de difficulté à l'entendre. Contentez-vous donc de savoir que les Jansénistes vous diront bien que tous les justes ont toujours le pouvoir d'accomplir les commandements: ce n'est pas de quoi nous disputons; mais ils ne vous diront pas que ce pouvoir soit prochain; c'est là le point.


PROVINCIAL LETTERS

First Letter

To a Man in the Provinces

Paris, January 23, 1656

Sir:

We were badly misled. My eyes were opened only yesterday; until then I had thought that the subject under dispute at the Sorbonne was really a major one, with serious consequences for our religion. So many sessions of a body as famous as the Parisian faculty of theology, whose meetings have given rise to so many extraordinary and unexampled events, give you such an elevated idea of the proceedings that you can only believe that they are dealing with a truly extraordinary topic.

Nevertheless you will be quite surprised to learn, from this narrative, the end result of all this notoriety; I will relate it to you succinctly, now that I am fully informed.

Two questions are being examined: one of fact, the other of right. The question of fact consists in determining whether Monsieur Arnauld made a doctrinally excessive statement when saying, in his Second Letter, that he had read Jansenius' book carefully, without finding in it the propositions condemned by the late Pope, but nevertheless, since he condemns those propositions wherever they may occur, the condemns them in Jansenius, if they are there.

The question in this area is to determine whether he did not make a rash statement by thus testifying as to his doubt that Jansenius uttered those propositions, after the bishops had declared that they are in his book.

The matter was introduced at the Sorbonne. Seventy-one doctors of divinity have undertaken his defense, maintaining that he could have made no other reply to those who were asking him, in so many writings, whether he considered that those propositions were in the book, than that he failed to find them there, but nevertheless condemns them if they are there.

In fact, some of these professors have gone even further and have declared that, search as they might, they have never found them there, whereas they have found statements quite to the contrary. They then requested with urgency that any professor who had seen them there should be good enough to indicate them, because this was such an easy matter that it could not be refused, since it would be a surefire way of subduing them all, and even Monsieur Arnauld. But their request has been constantly refused. That is what has occurred on their side.

On the other side, there have been eighty doctors of the secular clergy and about forty friars of mendicant orders who have condemned Monsieur Arnauld's proposition without trying to examine whether what he had said was true or false; they have even declared that what was in question was not the truth of his proposition, merely whether it was dogmatically rash.

In addition there were fifteen men who were against censuring him; they are being called neutrals.

That is the outcome of the question of fact, about which I am scarcely grieved, because, whether Monsieur Arnauld is rash or not, my own conscience is not concerned. And, should I become curious as to whether those propositions are in Jansenius, his book is neither so rare nor so thick that I couldn't read all through it to enlighten myself, without consulting the Sorbonne on the matter.

But, if I were not afraid of being rash myself, I think I would follow the opinion of most people I see: having believed until now, because of the public statements, that those propositions are in Jansenius, they are beginning to suspect the opposite, because of the odd refusal to indicate them; this refusal is so universal that I have not yet met anybody who told me he had seen them there. Therefore I fear that this censure will do more harm than good, and will give those who know its story an impression just the opposite of the decision. Because, in truth, the world is becoming distrustful and believes things only when it sees them. But, as I have already said, that point is not very important, since religious tenets are not in question.

As for the question of right, it seems much more considerable, because it does concern our religion. And so I took particular pains to inform myself about it. But you will be very pleased to learn that it is just as unimportant a matter as the first question.

The issue is to examine Monsieur Arnauld's statement, in the same Letter, that when Saint Peter fell, he was refused grace, without which no one can act. On this subject, you and I formerly thought that it involved an examination of the loftiest teachings about grace, for example whether it was or was not given to all men, or whether it was efficacious; but we were badly mistaken. I have become a great theologian in a brief space of time, and you are going to see the results.

In order to learn the truth of the matter, I visited Monsieur N., a doctor of divinity at the Collège de Navarre, who lives near me; as you know, he is one of the most zealous opponents of the Jansenists; since my curiosity made me almost as ardent as he is, I asked him whether they would not decide formally that grace is given to all, in order to put an end to doubts on the matter. But he rebuffed me harshly, saying that that was not the point, that there were some among those on his side who maintained that grace is not given to all, that the examiners themselves had stated before the entire Sorbonne that that opinion is still a matter of controversy, and he himself shared that viewpoint; he confirmed this for me by quoting what he called a famous passage from Saint Augustine: "We know that grace is not given to all men."

I apologized to him for having misunderstood his views, and I asked him to tell me whether they would not at least condemn that other opinion of the Jansenists which is causing so much hubbub: that grace is efficacious and determines our will to do good actions. But I was just as unlucky with my second question. "You understand nothing about it," he said; "that is not a heresy; it is an orthodox opinion, which all the Thomists share, and which I myself defended in my bachelor's thesis at the Sorbonne."

I did not dare to express any more of my doubts to him; I myself no longer knew where the difficulty lay, when, in order to receive enlightenment, I implored him to tell me wherein the heresy of Monsieur Arnauld's proposition did actually consist. He said: "It is because he does not recognize that the just have the power to accomplish God's commandments in the way that we conceive that power."

I left him after that lesson, and feeling very vain because I now knew the heart of the matter, I went to see Monsieur N., whose health is improving all the time, and who was feeling well enough to take me to his brother-in-law, a Jansenist if there ever was one, and yet an extremely good man. In order to receive a better welcome, I pretended to be a staunch supporter, and I said: "It is really possible that the Sorbonne might introduce into the Church the error that all just men always have the power to accomplish the commandments?" "What are you saying?" this doctor of divinity said. "Do you call an error an opinion that is so Catholic, and which only the Lutherans and Calvinists challenge?" "What?!" I said; "isn't it your opinion that just men don't always have that power?" "No," he said; "we anathematize it as being heretical and impious." Surprised at that answer, I realized that I had gone too far in my Jansenism, just as, on that earlier visit, I had been too Molinist; but unable to trust implicitly in his reply, I asked him to tell me in confidence whether he believed that the just always possessed a real power to observe the precepts. My interlocutor became heated at that, but with pious zeal, saying that he would never disguise his feelings for any consideration, that such was his belief and that he and his people would defend it to the death as being the unadulterated teaching of Saint Thomas and of Saint Augustine, their master.

He spoke to me so seriously that I could not doubt him; and, being so assured, I returned to my first theologian and told him very contentedly that I was sure peace would soon be established in the Sorbonne, that the Jansenists were in agreement about the power possessed by the just to accomplish the precepts, that I could vouch for it and could make them sign such a statement in their blood. "Easy now!" he said. "You've got to be a theologian to see the fine points. The difference between us is so subtle that we can barely put our finger on it ourselves; it would be too hard for you to understand it. And so, be satisfied with the knowledge that the Jansenists will surely tell you that every just man always possesses the power to accomplish the commandments—that's not what our dispute is about—but they won't tell you that that power is proximate; that's the point."


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Selected "Pensées" and Provincial Letters/Pensées et Provinciales choisies by Blaise Pascal, STANLEY APPELBAUM. Copyright © 2004 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Contents

Les Provinciales / Provincial Letters,
Première lettre / First Letter,
Septième lettre / Seventh Letter,
Neuvième lettre / Ninth Letter,
Onzième lettre / Eleventh Letter,
Pensées,

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