“Le coeur a ses raisons…”

Le coeur a ses raisons que la raison ne connaît pas.

luh kuh rah say ray-zaw klah ray-zawn kuh-nay PAH. Click below to hear this.*  

The heart has its reasons, which reason doesn’t recognize.

Pop quiz, answer number 2!

And here’s where you get lucky: I originally wrote about this quotation in French, and you can read it here. Or you can just keep reading on this page, for the same story in English.

This is one of the most famous quotations, by one of the most famous philosophers in the world: Blaise Pascal, who lived from 1623 to 1662. A genius, he was not only a philosopher but also a theologian, a mathematician, and a brilliant inventor. Did you know that he invented the first mechanical calculator, as early as 1642? Here it is:

He ended up calling it the pascaline. It was capable of performing addition and subtraction tasks directly, and of multiplying and dividing by replication, that is, performing a repetitive task.

But that’s not what I wanted to talk about today. The quotation I offer you above was, for Pascal, part of his argument for the existence of God. He lived in a time (not so different from our own, perhaps!) in which there was no end of discussion about whether there is a God or not, and if there is, what is the nature of this entity.

Pascal placed himself squarely on the side of believers. For him, there were rational arguments proving the existence of God, but beyond those arguments, there was emotion, feeling, passion, which proved in and of themselves that God exists. Faith transcended reason, and that is the meaning of this quotation.

Certainly, this statement has been put to work in an attempt to prove all sorts of things that did not concern Pascal: the power of romantic love, for example. Did you see the 2011 film The Adjustment Bureau? It contains echoes of these “reasons beyond reason”. But Pascal would have found that line of thought bizarre.

*Some mobile phones, such as Blackberries, won’t display the audio player. If no player appears, here’s an alternative link to the audio file:


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