David Marks Staff asked 4 years ago

What is the wretchedness of the human state

What is the wretchedness of the human state, and in what way does Pascal perceive this understand to be rooted in our condition?

I’d like to understand how that condition reveals the necessity of faith.

2 Answers
David Marks Staff answered 4 years ago

Blaise Pascal held that any viable philosophy that claimed to be a credible worldview had, first and foremost, to explain the paradox of the human condition. This paradox is the human potential for greatness that exists alongside wretchedness. Man is unpredictable, inconsistent, inherently self involved, and, simultaneously, in the very way that he survives, shows an inherent potential to greatness. One useful approach would be to look at the matter through the lens of New Age spiritual systems like humanism, which repeatedly emphasize the inherent limitlessness and greatness of man. Pascal, the empiricist scientist, would, obviously, not dismiss so easily the reality of the dark side of human kind. “The more enlightened we are the more greatness and vileness we discover in man”, he says, in Pensees[i]. Pascal, writing as a Christian apologetic, posits that most systems of thought either exalt the greatness, or the wretchedness, at the expense of the other.
In making no mistake to put them both together, and to make them both possible simultaneously, Christianity, for Pascal, has uncovered an obvious, however incredible truth. In offering an explanation for the greatness, Pascal leans on the creation story given in the Bible, wherein man was made in the image of God- man, therefore, is inherently a being that harbors greatness. On the other hand, the experience of original sin has introduced an element of wretchedness in our existence.
 
[i] Blaise Pascal,Pensées, trans. A.J.Krailsheimer (New York: Penguin, 1995), frag. 206.

David Marks Staff answered 4 years ago

Blaise Pascal held that any viable philosophy that claimed to be a credible worldview had, first and foremost, to explain the paradox of the human condition. This paradox is the human potential for greatness that exists alongside wretchedness. Man is unpredictable, inconsistent, inherently self involved, and, simultaneously, in the very way that he survives, shows an inherent potential to greatness. One useful approach would be to look at the matter through the lens of New Age spiritual systems like humanism, which repeatedly emphasize the inherent limitlessness and greatness of man. Pascal, the empiricist scientist, would, obviously, not dismiss so easily the reality of the dark side of human kind. “The more enlightened we are the more greatness and vileness we discover in man”, he says, in Pensees[i]. Pascal, writing as a Christian apologetic, posits that most systems of thought either exalt the greatness, or the wretchedness, at the expense of the other.
In making no mistake to put them both together, and to make them both possible simultaneously, Christianity, for Pascal, has uncovered an obvious, however incredible truth. In offering an explanation for the greatness, Pascal leans on the creation story given in the Bible, wherein man was made in the image of God- man, therefore, is inherently a being that harbors greatness. On the other hand, the experience of original sin has introduced an element of wretchedness in our existence.
 
[i] Blaise Pascal,Pensées, trans. A.J.Krailsheimer (New York: Penguin, 1995), frag. 206.