Thursday, July 31, 2008

Blaise Pascal: Still Relevant

I'm slowly making my way through Pascal's Pensees -- see sidebar at right. In between beaches, looking for houses, and other summer activities reading has been slow. Anyway... I came across this -- among other tidbits and it speaks volumes about post-modern culture; political, Hollywood, academic, et al. From Pensees # 78:
Imagination. That is the part of the human being which dominates, this mistress of error and falsehood, and all the more treacherous because it is not consistently treacherous. For it would be an infallible rule of truth if it were an infallible one of lies. But while it is more often false, it gives no indication of its quality, indicating in the same way both truth and falsehood. ....
This proud, powerful enemy of reason, which enjoys believing that it controls and dominates it to show how much it can achieve in every realm, has established a second nature in man. Imagination has those it makes happy and unhappy, its healthy and sick, its rich and poor. It makes reason believe, doubt, deny. It abrogates the senses, it brings them to life. It has its fools and its wise men, and nothing upsets us more than to see it satisfy its guests more fully and completely than reason. Those skillful in imagination are more pleased with themselves than the prudent can ever reasonably be pleased with themselves. They look imperiously on others, they argue boldly and confidently; the others only timidly and warily. Their vivacious expression often wins over the opinion of their listeners, such is the esteem those wise by imagination have with their like-minded judges.
Does that not perfectly describe many in our cultural, educational and governmental intelligentsia today? They make emotional and clever arguments that sound great and silence those who are afraid to be labeled racist, sexist -- against Change. The populace -- done a disservice by our compulsory educational scheme don't know any better and tend to buy the excess of imagination (as Pascal uses that term) as opposed to the reasonable (or rather "reasoned") one. This is neither a liberal or conservative problem though liberals tend to suffer (or benefit in the short run) from it. It has also eaten through the Church.

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