chapter
6 Pages

Introduction

Blaise Pascal makes the point repeatedly in the Pensées: Human will is not an icon of freedom, but a mark of our enslavement. This line of reasoning is essential to the apologist’s work and forms the core of his argumentation. Within the 993 fragments of the Pensées, Pascal uses the word “will” (volonté) or one of its cognates (such as volontaire) 53 times.1 That figure may seem modest until one begins to factor in related vocabulary and the other terms that Pascal uses interchangeably with will. Words such as concupiscence, cupidité, charité, cœur, passion, and amour-propre-and verbs that represent the will in action, such as aimer, détester, craindre-bring the number of occurrences to 850, spread throughout the Pensées. Even given repeated uses of certain words in the same fragment, an overwhelming proportion of Pascal’s Pensées makes reference to the motivational component of the reader’s soul. As of now, however, no one has studied in depth the enormous role of the will in Pascal’s writing.