Not unlike humankind, my computer is fallible. If I erase a line, it erases the paragraph in which the line is embedded. So my computer erased a few sentences, almost a complete paragraph, from my blog on Pascal and the Human Condition.
Putting the paragraph back into the blog seemed injudicious. I therefore decided
to paraphrase, at some length, my missing and rather short paragraph.
Here we go:
Pascal was not the first, nor would he be the last, to muse on humankind’s duality. That duality was Montaigne’s (1533-1592) and Descartes’ (1596-1650) “humaine condition.” It would also be central to Milton’s (1608-1674), a contemporary of Pascal, Paradise Lost, 1667.
In fact, according to Pascal, we were both “angels” and “beasts,” (Pensées, 141-418). As mortals, we were fallen (déchus) angels, hence our ability to think and know that we combine misère and grandeur. This would be the source of what was later called “metaphysical Angst,” an acute sense of the meaninglessness of life, misère, which, according to Pascal, humans attempt to silence through diversion (le divertissement).
Pascal does not mention metaphysical Angst or angoisse, a nineteenth-century twist on misère and grandeur. Pascal wrote that “[i]t is dangerous to show human beings to what extent they are on the same level as beasts without showing them their grandeur. And it is also dangerous to let human beings see their grandeur without showing them their bassesse (lowliness, misère).” (Pensées, 121-418, my translation) His thinking shows symmetry or symmetricality. Besides, Pascal was a believer. Spirituality was his refuge.
On behalf on my computer, I apologize. With respect to these machines, I resemble Pascal. I find computers both great and abominably capricious.