Pensées - Blaise Pascal, A.J. Krailsheimer There are multiple levels to this book. It works best when he's sharing his wisdom by using aphorisms (short pithy and usually wise statements ). They're so many pearls within this book that it wouldn't be worthwhile to highlight with a highlighter because you would highlight over half of the book. Pascal really has a great way of looking at the world and giving a smart sounding soundbite.

Matter of fact, I would say this is one of the best self help books I've ever came across. He clearly also had parts of a book ready to be published before he died. That's the parts where he proves the truth of the Christian faith by prophecy and its miracles with plenty of bible quotes and those parts flowed more like a book.

From time to time, I dip my toes into apologetic modern writers and not a one has done as well as Pascal does with this book.

In addition, Pascal does a really good job of using reason to show that reason can't give you faith, and, furthermore it will take away the mysteries that he holds so dearly.

I had recently read Hobbes "Leviathan" and the contrast with this book is enlightening. Hobbes sees the world 'deductively' and would starts with axioms, definitions and universals and then argue his points. Pascal does the opposite for the most part, he goes to the particular to the particular and then to the general. Both touch on many of the same themes, but, for example, Hobbes will argue the Papist are flawed and miracles are suspect, while Pascal will argue for the truth of the only true universal church (Catholicism) and miracles are necessary for Christianity. To Pascal tradition, culture and faith rule supremely, Hobbes says the opposite. It's clear which of the two the Enlightenment embraced and which one they ignored.

The book is much more than just about religion (though a lot of it is). His world view and his use of aphorisms cohere much more than Nietzsche's do. These two thinkers, Nietzsche and Pascal are completely antithetical but use a similar approach in edifying.

I have a problem with using aphorisms for making your points. One can read into them something that is not true and almost always there opposite can be just as true. ("A wise man holds his tongue before speaking", oh my, how wise how deep. But wait it can be just as true that "the wise should always speak (after all he is wise)").

He's good at his logic. One of my favorites was something like "the epicureans and stoics conclusions are right but we know they are wrong since if there premises were negated they would still be just as true". That's a really interesting way of demonstrating proof by contradiction, but the same logic could be applied to his core beliefs too I suspect.

I had to reflect on his statement "that we know there is one true religion because there are very many false religions". I realized he is actually right, but it's for an obscure reason and I'll let the reader figure out for himself. (Oh heck, I'll tell ya. For there to be a 'false religion' there must be a true religion otherwise there can be no such thing as religion. Look it's his argument not mine).

Overall his method of argumentation is better than most modern day apologia, there is a large portion of the book that deals with witty sayings that can help one cope with the day-to-day, most modern day apologetic arguments go no further than what's in this book, and it's fun to watch someone using reason to defeat reason.