Read The Provincial Letters by Blaise Pascal Online


These Letters, written in defense of his Jansenist friends, exposes and ridicules the doctrines of the Jesuits. Pascal does a wonderful job of being humorous while still making a valid point. Please Note: This book is easy to read in true text, not scanned images that can sometimes be difficult to decipher....

Title : The Provincial Letters
Author :
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ISBN : 9781595479921
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 232 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Provincial Letters Reviews

  • Jim
    2019-03-23 21:39

    We are typically loath to read any work from four or five hundred years ago that is heavily immersed in theological argument, firstly because there are few who could follow a close argument, and secondly, because there are few who would care. The Jesuits, or Society of Jesus, was founded in 1540 as a result of the efforts of St Ignatius of Loyola. Its history has been checkered, with frequent accusations of "casuistry" (i.e., bending the laws of God to make things easier for the powerful). Many of these arguments are summarized by Blaise Pascal in his The Provincial Letters. Pascal's sister was a nun at Port-Royal, which was under fire by the Jesuits were acceding to the "heresies" of Jansenius, Bishop of Ypres. Pascal felt, and rightly so, that the Jesuits had no case: Rather, they felt threatened by the puritanical strain of the Jansenists, because it confused men and women of power and wealth who had been following the softer road to Salvation delineated by such Spanish Jesuits as Antonio Escobar y Mendoza and his numerous followers.The first half of The Provincial Letters is brilliant journalism, consisting of interviews with unnamed Jesuits on various subjects relating to faith and morals. At times it verges on satire, to such an extent that even Voltaire felt it was brilliant. If you read only the first half, it would probably be sufficient. (There I go, sounding like one of Pascal's Jesuits.) The second half, on the other hand, is a bit of a trudge and adds nothing more to what contemporary readers can get out of the book.There is a brilliant scene in Luis Bunuel's film The Milky Way, in which a Jesuit literally crosses swords with a Jansenist. I don't think Pascal would have approved, because one of his arguments against the Jesuits was that they condoned dueling and even murder for certain reasons.

  • David Bennatan
    2019-04-02 21:01

    As someone for whom the disputes in the book were irrelevant, I have to say that I found Pascal's methods of argument very impressive. It's just hard to believe that the Jesuits could have been as malevolent as portrayed by the author. Even if one has no interest in religious doctrines this book is important as a historical record of what was going on in the Catholic church after the Reformation. The religious issues had religious and political importance. It was a life and death matter if a certain party was condemned as heretical. I don't know if Pascal could have been in danger from the Jesuits but things could have gone bad for him in a big hurry. It doesn't seem to have mattered to the Jesuits that his arguments were stronger than theirs. If they could have pulled the right political levers he might have been condemned by the secular authorities as well. I'll have to look up Jansenism and see if there was a price to pay because they held different views than the established Church. It's Pascal's point that the views of theirs that he presents were orthodox but I think they did differ on some doctrine.In any case it's interesting to read the arguments of someone who argues so well.It was impressive to see that he explicitly defends Galileo against the condemnation of the Church, though I don't know if the Church had reversed its stand on a stationary earth by the time of this work. Pascal was both a man who understood theology very thoroughly and a man of science. I think that is a good combination.

  • Maurice
    2019-04-12 21:49

    A good read. Found the style of writing a challenge.

  • Jim
    2019-04-03 00:31

    Pascal goes after the Jesuits, and it ain't pretty. In the end, he makes a strong case for humility and Christian unity. Thanx, Blaise!

  • Nemo
    2019-04-01 00:59

    Do not answer a fool according to his folly,Lest you also be like him.Answer a fool according to his folly,Lest he be wise in his own eyes.Proverbs 26:4,5Blaise Pascal, a Catholic theologian, scientist and brilliant thinker, wrote these letters to defend his Jansenist friends against charges of heresy by the Jesuits.I tend to think that Pascal is a kindred spirit of Kierkegaard. First, they both strongly object to the academics of their time who substitute abstraction and speculation for the concrete and specific moral demands of Christianity on the individual. Second, they both employ irony to great effect, following the tradition of Church Fathers such as Tertullian and Augustine. One cannot help but feel their passion when they laugh at the folly of their opponents, and weep over their blindness at the same time.Pascal criticizes the Society of Jesus for holding many contradictory doctrines. It doesn't surprise me, since minds as diametrically opposed as Voltaire and Descartes both came from their midst. As Aristotle put it, "It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it."The Jesuits' moral reasoning, casuistry, seems to be an attempt to reconcile the Christian doctrine of Charity with secular social norms, such as the concept of honour as demonstrated in the practice of dueling and honour killing, and the concept of reciprocal justice known as "an eye for an eye".Pascal sharply criticizes the Jesuits for condoning calumny and murder on plausible pretences. For example, some Jesuits write, “Honour is more than life; it is allowable to kill in defence of life; therefore it is allowable to kill in defence of honour." One might replace "honour" with "liberty" or "property", or anything else he deems valuable, to justify murder, as Locke justifies killing in defence of private property in his treatise on government.(Read full review at Books On Trial)

  • cole
    2019-04-07 19:56

    Counted as one of the greatest works in the French language, Pascal's letters are a brilliant mix of acumen, well constructed argument, and withering wit. He launched an assault on the moral theology of the Jesuits during the height of the Jansenist controversy and left a rather amusing and enlightening work what is beautiful in its turn of both phrase and thought. The first half of the letters is Pascal's attempt to relate the opposing views in the controversy and to illuminate the Jesuit views in all their folly. The second half (which is, unfortunately, a bit more functional and less engaging) is a mix of parry and riposte as Pascal swats away the arguments of his opponents. For the first time in my life, i found myself wising that I read French.

  • Travis Armes
    2019-03-23 22:52

    letters 1-8

  • Kata
    2019-04-07 18:43

    Reading it in Hungarian translation as "Vidéki levelek".

  • Jake McAtee
    2019-04-15 19:35

    In which Pascal trolls Jesuits. FWIW, Voltaire once said this was "the best-written book that has yet appeared in France.”

  • Taka
    2019-04-10 23:35

    Surprisingly good. Contrary to what you might expect from its dull front cover (of a provincial town, supposedly), these polemical letters written by Pascal to satirize the Jesuits are quite amusing and easy to read. He writes really, really well and clearly (a mathematician at work?) with superb rhetoric and the fervor of someone who believes in what he's writing. I actually liked the letters better than his incomplete and fragmented Pensées, though that might also have to do with how pretty knowledgeable I was about the theological points discussed in them (after reading all the books for research). But with a little bit of orientation about grace and human free will, I don't think you have any problem following the letters, especially the first ten—after that, it gets serious, long, and technical, though the same mastery of rhetoric is still there.

  • Francisco Paniagua
    2019-04-03 00:47

    Dieciocho cartas y un fragmento que evidencian, con base en las obras jesuitas en boga en tiempos de Pascal, los excesos cometidos por la Compañía de Jesús y sus casuistas.Si bien a ratos la argumentación teológica anquilosa el contenido mismo de las cartas, la lectura de un Pascal polemista que emplea la ironía más sutil y demoledora es un deleite. Algunos argüirán que sería deseable, para el gran público, una edición que purgue a las cartas justamente de la polémica teosófica; sin embargo, a mi juicio, no podría disfrutarse de aquélla sin ésta.Un libro pesado a ratos, pero gratificante al final.