Making allusion to the Congregatio de Auxiliis , the debate concerned the respective role of grace and free will , Molinists i. Jesuits claiming that an " efficacious grace " was not necessary to save man, but only a "sufficient grace" bestowed by God to all men, while Thomists claimed that the "sufficient grace," given to all men, had to be assisted by an "efficacious grace," bestowed only to the select few in accordance also with Augustinism. Pascal thus highlighted, in the Second Letter , that neo-Thomists and Jesuits were using the same term, "sufficient grace", with two different senses, for political reasons. Fourth Letter[ edit ] The Fourth Letter deals with the question of " actual grace ," the Jesuits claiming that sin could only be committed if people had knowledge of the evil inherent to the planned action. On the one hand, God sheds abroad on the soul some measure of love, which gives it a bias toward the thing commanded; and on the other, a rebellious concupiscence solicits it in the opposite direction. God inspires the soul with a knowledge of its own weakness.
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They included a blow against the relaxed morality that the Jesuits were said to teach and that was the weak point in their controversy with Port-Royal; Pascal quotes freely Jesuit dialogues and discrediting quotations from their own works, sometimes in a spirit of derision , sometimes with indignation. The Provinciales were an immediate success, and their popularity has remained undiminished.
This they owe primarily to their form, in which for the first time bombast and tedious rhetoric are replaced by variety, brevity , tautness, and precision of style; as Nicolas Boileau , the founder of French literary criticism , recognized, they marked the beginning of modern French prose. Something of their popularity, moreover, in fashionable, Protestant , or skeptical circles, must be attributed to the violence of their attack on the Jesuits. In England they have been most widely read when Roman Catholicism has seemed a threat to the Church of England.
Yet they have also helped Catholicism to rid itself of laxity; and, in , Pope Innocent XI himself condemned half of the propositions that Pascal had denounced earlier. Further, by rejecting any double standard of morality and the distinction between counsel and precept, Pascal aligned himself with those who believe the ideal of evangelical perfection to be inseparable from the Christian life.
Although there was nothing original in these opinions, Pascal nevertheless stamped them with the passionate conviction of a man in love with the absolute, of a man who saw no salvation apart from a heartfelt desire for the truth, together with a love of God that works continually toward destroying all self-love. For Pascal, morality cannot be separated from spirituality. Moreover, his own spiritual development can be traced in the Provinciales.
The religious sense in them becomes progressively refined after the first letters, in which the tone of ridicule is smart rather than charitable. The work remained unfinished at his death. In the Apologie, Pascal shows the man without grace to be an incomprehensible mixture of greatness and abjectness, incapable of truth or of reaching the supreme good to which his nature nevertheless aspires.
Pascal was not interested in making converts if they were not going to be saints. To convert his libertine friends, he looked for arguments in their favourite authors: in Michel de Montaigne , in the Skeptic Pierre Charron , in the Epicurean Pierre Gassendi , and in Thomas Hobbes , an English political philosopher. For Pascal, Skepticism was but a stage.
In so doing, they sacrifice the second part of the Apologie to the first, keeping the philosophy while losing the exegesis. For Pascal as for St. Paul , Jesus Christ is the second Adam , inconceivable without the first.
He was next again involved in scientific work. Scarcely capable of regular work, he henceforth gave himself over to helping the poor and to the ascetic and devotional life. Finally a difference of opinion with the theologians of Port-Royal led him to withdraw from controversy, though he did not sever his relations with them. Pascal died in after suffering terrible pain, probably from carcinomatous meningitis following a malignant ulcer of the stomach.
He was assisted by a non-Jansenist parish priest. Related Biographies.
"Les Provinciales" de Pascal