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PASCAL AND THE THERAPY OF FAITH

ROBBINS, CHRISTOPHER WILLIAM (2015) PASCAL AND THE THERAPY OF FAITH. PhD thesis, University of York.

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Abstract

This study of Pascal’s Pensées focuses on a central aspect of Pascal’s project: the application of philosophical therapy to humanist agnostics to instil and sustain Christian belief in them. I identify four therapeutic phases:  Pascal says we fear suffering after death, so it is in our interest to investigate the Christian message. However his account of the afterlife does not satisfactorily show in what way persons can live on after death and will not infallibly engage our interest in avoiding Hell or enjoying Heaven.  Pascal contends that earthly life is futile and that the Christian doctrine of the Fall is the best explanation of the human predicament, an explanation which points us towards dependence on God for the meaning of life. Yet even if we accept Pascal’s pessimistic estimate of human life, he does not successfully show that Christianity provides the best explanation of it.  Pascal argues that there is no purely human morality because the philosophers’ successive attempts to show how to achieve peace of mind in the moral life have failed to find an objective basis for a truly altruistic ethic: only Christianity can do this. But this risks conflict between Christian and other ideals.  We seek the tranquillity of faith yet Pascal rejects philosophical proofs of God’s existence: God is hidden; thoughtful aspirants to faith must rely on only suggestive evidence for the truth of Christianity. Habituation can reinforce one’s determination to become a Christian but – because faith is God’s gift – we can never be sure we have it: ultimately there is no peace of mind to be had. The Epilogue compares Pascal’s conception of religious belief with that of the Wittgensteinians: while Pascal embraces descriptive religious assertions, the Wittgensteinians discard them to protect Christianity from positivist attack.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: BLAISE PASCAL; seventeenth century apologetics; Jansenism
Academic Units: The University of York > Philosophy (York)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.668313
Depositing User: Mr CHRISTOPHER WILLIAM ROBBINS
Date Deposited: 22 Oct 2015 15:28
Last Modified: 08 Sep 2016 13:33
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/10182

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