Human Happiness (Penguin Great Ideas) Mass Market Paperback – 7 Aug 2008
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About the Author
Blaise Pascal (1623 - 62) left his mark on mathematics, physics, religious controversy and literature. A convert to Jansenism, he engaged in passionate debate with the Jesuits the results of which are the Lettres Provincales, on which, with Pensées, his fame now rests. He is regarded by many as the greatest of French prose stylists.
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Then I ran across this book--Blaise Pascal, Human Happiness. Kreeft's book is a chunky 341-page (5 x 8 x 1) paperback. Blaise Pascal, Human Happiness is a 106-page selection (about 208 of 993 thoughts) from the original Pensees (also from the Penguin/Krailsheimer translation). The selections are well-chosen, capturing key sections of the Pensees (including 7 of the 9 long passages, which are really essays on topics like "44 Imagination. . . . the dominant faculty in man, the master of error and falsehood"; 199 the "Disproportion of Man" in nature--the limits of "unaided knowledge"; or "418 Infinity - Nothing," where Pascal makes his famous "wager." The book is nicely put together, with an attractive cover in a true "pocket book" format (4 x 6 x 1/4 and very light). It can literally be slipped into a jacket pocket. The book even has eight blank pages at the end. I'm guessing they're for jotting down notes as you read and think about the thoughts. Nice touch.
But I liked it so much that I purchased the Kindle edition so I could have it on my iPhone, iPad, or Kindle. I can so highlight selections, make annotations, and have the highlighted text and my notes in the "My Clippings" file on my Kindle.
Only one criticism: As the other reviewer noted--there is no introductory material. If you want to read a good rationale for extracting and reorganizing the Pensees, try the introduction in Peter Kreeft's book. And since the Pensees in this collection are NOT reorganized, if you are not familiar with Pascal, you are really going to need some explanation of why the thoughts were thrown together in this fashion.
This translation seems clearer and fresher than one s I've read in the past. The insights into human nature and the working of the mind seen spot on. He doesn't bother to speculate or delve into the _why_ always but when he does he gets that right as well. For example it is not always the power of an individual that impresses as much as the trappings of power. Or, that a trifle upsets us as easily as it consoles or delights us-the deciding factor being our complex if fractious minds.
I wonder at what kind of mind and character could have produced such a work!
If one reads and reflects on this shorter collection, one will likely want to read the entire Pensees, despite the difficulty in understanding where some of the fragments would have fit into the larger apologetic work that Pascal was never able to finish, given his poor health. One may also be interested in reading my book, On Pascal (Wadsworth, 2003), for more on Pascal's achievements as a scientist and philosopher.
My only complaint is that the book lacks any introductory material, which would have helped the neophyte understand Pascal's life and thought.
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